It might be strange to think about, but brand marketing has changed so much in the previous decade that the entire relationship between customers and brands has shifted. Due to the rise of the Internet and social media, customers\clients now have closer contact to their business partners than ever before - and customers want to make use of that contact!
This can truly be a two-way street. Fully-engaged customers who are fans of a brand won't only use it loyally, they'll actively evangelize for it. Word-of-mouth is still the strongest marketing that exists, and those same communication systems allow your customers to become an active part of your outreach.
Showing that you value your customers' contributions will inspire them to tell their friends that you're worth doing business with.
Better Brand Marketing: Making Customers Part Of The Team
1 - Respond to any communications.
Few things are more demoralizing to a customer today than to send feedback to a company, without hearing anything back. Even if you do nothing else, at least send them a thank-you note that acknowledges their contribution. This can be automated, although it's still better to have a personal touch in your communications.
Ignoring their comments entirely can quickly drive customers towards businesses which are more responsive.
2 - Ask for suggestions and feedback.
Are you contemplating a change to your business plan or a new product focus that will affect your customers? Talk to them about it beforehand! A post on Facebook, for example, outlining the changes and asking for suggestions will almost always garner a lot of highly valuable market feedback.
You might even get some legitimately good ideas!
The customers who take the time to follow your online materials are almost always going to be among your most valuable clients, so it's worthwhile to take their opinions into consideration before committing to new courses of action.
3 - Don't be afraid to backpedal.
Sometimes a business needs to go in a new direction that will unavoidably shed existing customers. However, this should not be done lightly, and a change of plans that is widely disliked probably deserves at least a second thought.
If customers are vocal about disliking a change, don't assume it will simply "blow over," especially if you're in a market with multiple alternatives. In many cases, it's better to roll back the changes -or at least talk compromises- rather than roll the dice on a new change of direction.
4 - Listen to legitimate complaints.
Buyers today strongly dislike companies who refuse to take responsibility for problems. Businesses which become known for never saying "I'm sorry" can wreck their reputation quickly.
Alternatively, just admitting to a mistake and taking action to correct it can often enhance brand marketing and overall image. People respect a company that actively tries to fix things they've broken. So, when someone has a valid complaint, address it!
5 - Make customers part of your advertising - UGC.
If customers are fans of a brand, they love seeing their work become part of official marketing materials. There are plenty of ways to do this:
- Pulling positive comments from social media.
- Asking for pictures of customer + product.
- Holding contests, such as photography or videos.
- Having them build collages on Pinterest.
- "Remix" projects, if you're in visual or audio media.
A customer who truly becomes part of a brand's identity will almost certainly be a customer for a long time to come.
In short, strong brand marketing today is very customer-focused. Showing you value them and their contributions can greatly enhance your public image, and at a much lower cost than most marketing and PR.