One of the most exciting opportunities for business is to inspire your customers to build your business with you. Here are eight steps to ensure your customers are sufficiently engaged, loyal, and motivated to share your brand with their networks in 2014.
1. As social business evolves, so should you: In a fast changing business landscape where consumers constantly adopt new experiences through digital, social and mobile technologies, the speed of what is driving sales can be constantly elusive. Keeping up with tech blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable, or experimenting with relatively new channels like Instagram, Pinterest or Vine, enables you to keep up with your customers and ask them how they’d like to interact with your company.
2. Deliver what your audience wants: Companies will be distinguished by the quality of their listening. For example, 73% of global consumers say they would switch brands if a different brand of similar quality supported a good cause. That means you must identify your brand’s core values, ask your customers what they care about, and make authentic and meaningful contributions to those issues if you want to build engagement.
3. Balance your story and its telling: Story will always transcend technology because human beings relate on emotional terms. This means the success of your business will be in direct proportion to the emotional impact you have on your customers. Yet too many companies rush past communicating what they stand for and focus only on marketing tactics (such as PPC, Facebook ads, email blasts, etc). A balance of both is required as you see with Coke’s Open Happiness and Starbuck’s Shared Planet, both of which are powerful stories brought to life in creative tactical ways.
4. Differentiating your brand: What’s your company’s purpose, what are its core values, what are you the only one of – why does your organization even exist? If you can’t articulate your company’s vision for the world, it’s very hard for consumers to connect with your brand or share that story with others. That’s why you need to clearly define your purpose and frame it in the interests of the customer to position your brand as the celebrant, not celebrity, of your customer community.
5. Aligned contribution: Make a contribution in alignment with your company’s core values to meet new demands for transparency, accountability and authenticity. A good example of aligned contribution is United by Blue where the company removes 1 pound of trash from the ocean for every product sold. By doing so, United by Blue made themselves a movement rather than another beachwear company and a badge of honor that customers want to wear and share.
6. Consistent engagement: With smart phones and tablets as constants in our daily lives, brands must learn to engage with customers anytime, anywhere. Real-time, personalized engagement will allow you to understand your customer expectations and meet them faster so you capture your customer’s attention and sales. Without this, customers can assume you are either not interested or less interested than a competitor that can be costly to your business.
7. Community architecture: As soon as you have engaged your audience you need to upgrade that engagement and reward them for doing so. That way you avoid community attrition and the frustration of watching your customers evaporate at the end of one successful campaign. Start by identifying brand ambassadors or fans, create the opportunity to co-create marketing with them, and then reward them when they promote your brand to their networks.
8. New horizon: Your customers now look to you for more than products and services. They expect you to play a positive and meaningful role in their lives. As such your horizon is now larger than the four walls of your business or sales projections. Every company has the opportunity to share culture at a local, national or global level. Millennial and Gen Z customers reward such commitments and it will empower you brand to transcend its category and become a mainstay of popular culture.
Each one of these points requires focused attention and work and getting them all right is a challenging blend of emotion and technology. Done correctly, however, you unlock the true power of social media to inspire customers to build your business with you in 2014.
Reading Time: 1 minutesSimon Mainwaring is the founder of We First, a leading brand consultancy that provides purpose-driven strategy, content, and training that empowers companies to lead business, shape culture, and better our world.