When you hear the parroted phrase “you must first build a brand,” you most likely focus on all the ways your business makes a difference. Be it via the products and services you offer, the values you stand for, or the contribution to your community, your brand identity revolves around what you can do to make your customers’ lives easier.
And then there’s Coca Cola, whose digital marketing campaigns have repeatedly shattered the brand-centric glass ceiling in customer engagement. Take their “Share a Coke” campaign from 2011, and you get a glimpse of the kind of customer-centric mindset the world needs. Putting first or last names on the bottle is not exactly groundbreaking, but it’s the simplicity and the human touch that has made an effort so effective and lasting.
In the past few years, even decades, there has been a major shift in perspective customers appreciate in the brand presentation. Increasing personalization, customization, and above all, adopting the customer-first mindset have all become steps towards one major goal: putting the customer at the heart of it all.
If we already know that about 74% of customers become more loyal to a brand thanks to online content and understand what kind of highly personalized content those same customers want, this one is a no-brainer. Your digital marketing strategy, website, and brand identity should focus on building a customer journey that puts the customers in the spotlight. Such a mindset also pushes your positioning in the SERPs to help you boost your SEO strategy over time. To successfully achieve that, you need simple but powerful strategies, not unlike the one by Coca Cola, and here are a few ideas you can incorporate into your own approach.
User-generated content based on values
With over 4 billion active internet users, the online realm has become a crowded space for brands to prove themselves. With thousands of other brands competing for the attention of your slice of the demographic, learning about your customers has become crucial to let your website stay relevant on such a densely-populated digital map.
To reach those valuable audience members, you first need to define your target audience, discover where they spend their time online and how they like to engage with brands. Then, you can use your own content output, your website, and your social media presence to earn their trust and inspire them to take part in building your brand through their own content.
To understand the relevance of your customers’ contribution through content, let’s take another famous and loved brand as an example. The world-renowned toy brand, Lego, has built up its worth to over $7 billion, which is a clear reflection of the brand’s position in the market. From its inception, the brand has been built around the idea of what their target audience, kids, and grownups can do with the toys: play. After all, the name itself is derived from the Danish phrase “Leg Godt,” which means “play well.”
From the brand’s name to its every marketing campaign ever, they’ve centered their story around customers. Their poster ads from the 70s are still relevant today, showcasing just how a business can build a legacy and a prominent presence through its impact on the customer. At the heart of those posters? The kids and their artwork with Lego bricks, and the parents who enable this kind of curiosity and creativity, not the bricks themselves.
What Lego does today is inspiring digital marketing equivalents of such a strong customer-centric mindset. Now you have YouTube channels such asNowd the Brick that show what people worldwide have managed to build.
Following this principle, how does your brand fit into your customers’ lives? What problems do you solve? Do you attempt to impress your customers with everything from beautiful logos and visuals, or do you aim for defining your role in their lives?
With so many different online channels of communication, you have the freedom to create entire pages of user-generated content that will exemplify how your brand makes a difference, without talking about your brand at all. Invite your customers to write blog posts, create videos you will publish on social media, or invite them to tag you when they have something to share – every little bit counts. Remember that this is a long-term strategy that takes time to unravel and deliver results.
Focus on refining customer experience
One of your brand’s most valuable qualities is your ability to listen. If you’re a good listener and ask good questions, you have a far greater opportunity to make your customers happy. In turn, their happiness can generate positive word of mouth and create a chain reaction leading to positive brand experiences that produce more awareness and loyalty.
In fact, the ROI of excellent customer experience comes in layers and different forms, including positive reviews, increased sales, better retention, and a 5x greater likelihood of positive word of mouth that will boost customer acquisition, as well. In a way, by investing more time and creativity in improving customer experience, you invariably invest in expanding your customer base and strengthening existing customer bonds.
Wondering how this translates to your customer support crew? Well, building that customer-centric mindset and allowing your audience members to become the stars of your story starts behind the scenes. In addition to your well-advertised digital marketing campaigns, the private interactions you build with your customers through your support team software should be focused on the customer, too.
By making a person feel valued, heard, and appreciated, you weave them into your brand’s story. It doesn’t always have to be for all to witness. The key is to use your support not just to go through the motions of it all but to genuinely listen to your customers and use their feedback to refine your brand story. A single instance of positive interaction with a support agent can inspire a customer to live a sterling review or come back multiple times to your store.
- Every time your agents provide a thought-through response instead of a template, you put your customer first.
- Every time you give them a timely response, you make your customers the center of your business.
- Every time your support team goes out of their way to solve a problem and recognize their contribution, you turn your customer into the hero of your story.
Leverage social media
Many brands use social platforms almost exclusively to promote their products. For some, this approach will lead to solid results, but it won’t do much more than sell to an individual once. Social networks have evolved into storytelling platforms. We even have the feature “stories” on Facebook and Instagram to provide a fleeting insight into a person’s day through a brief experience. However, simply attaching your logos and fun animations to a social media story won’t do much good. It would be best if you put them in a perspective that can resonate with your customers. It’s through trends like these that brands see just how quick to develop these networks are. One of the latest changes in social media dynamics? The preference for video-based content over pure text.
Research shows that 81% of social media users prefer video content over other formats. It’s obvious why the latest video marketing statistics say that YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine, with 1.5 billion users watching more than 1 billion hours of video daily. Add a customer-centric dimension to your video strategy, and you’ll have a winning combination to boost engagement rates on social networks.
However, making videos can be a painstaking process that not too many people are happy to do at a moment’s notice. That said, if you want to inspire your customers to make videos and animations, you should add a purpose and perhaps an incentive. Social media contests are often the most effective tool to inspire user-generated content on these platforms. Finally, give them time to create those videos, so make sure your deadlines are reasonable, as well as other quality requests.
Additionally, you can use original hashtags to build a community around a relevant cause for your brand and target audience. This will put more focus on the cause and your audience rather than your brand, and it will give you a stronger SEO presence, too, since it will naturally saturate your content with relevant keywords and elevate engagement. You can also share their content on your own stories and website instead of always leaving it up to the user to share your content. For this, you can make use of any social media posting tools present in the market.
Feedback and reviews as your brand’s story
You can have the most authentic visual identity in the history of branding and the most exquisite storytellers under your leadership. If your customers think they’re just another order number in your books, you might as well throw in the towel today. Their voice is the lifeblood of your reputation. To let them be heard and let them know their opinions truly matter, you should continuously ask them for reviews and feedback.
These are not just for show because 91% of young customers trust reviews as much as they trust recommendations from their friends and family. Genuine word of mouth published online with their permission is now far more effective than your paid ads. For many customers, reviews are the first thing they research before they keep learning about your brand.
So, instead of touting your own horn online, it’s far more effective if you dig a little deeper to see what your customers think about your brand. Their perspective will give your brand a new voice, and it will help you build a stronger reputation in your industry.
However, reviews come in negative tones, too. There’s no running away from criticism online, and in fact, this is a perfect opportunity to show your audience how reputable businesses handle themselves in the face of that criticism. To fully integrate your customers into the story, you shouldn’t stop at listening to their complaints. It would be best if you went that extra mile to recognize their dissatisfaction, own up to your mistakes, and find creative ways to restore their trust in your brand.
Treat negative reviews as opportunities to better your brand. Finally, make sure that you recognize your customers whenever their suggestions, ideas, and criticism lead to a change in how you operate. That recognition alone shows that you don’t just listen, but that you act on their words.
Share case studies to explore the large-scale impact.
Content is both curated and created all day, every day. Businesses need to keep up with a staggering pace of content output to stay competitive in their industries. Individuals are constantly overwhelmed with information, educational content, and entertainment, finding it increasingly difficult to discern what’s most to their liking. Hashtags let you generate momentary impact, while reviews have a more lasting digital footprint as well as timeless SEO value.
On the other end of the content spectrum, there’s another storytelling format that many brands have neglected in favor of short-form, fast-paced alternatives: case studies. They can be in video formats, transformed into documentaries when the impact is relevant enough, or in the form of infographics and written studies. In any format, they are another example of customer-centric content.
Unlike brief testimonials or social media stories and posts, informative and relatable case studies are a testament to your brand’s impact and relevance. Case studies allow you to detail further the kind of issues your brand’s product or service resolves and how your brand fits into your ideal customer’s lifestyle. More importantly, you can get into the how or the actual strategy your brand uses to make a difference. All the while, the story is told from your satisfied customer or client’s perspective, allowing the story to be more immersive for the reader.
This is possible with the community and charity work you do, as well. Why? Because if your customers get a closer look at how you’re changing the world for the better, they will know precisely how their own values align with yours. Case studies have an overwhelming potential to inspire trust and to make your customers feel like they will contribute, too, by simply associating themselves with your brand.
The gist of it all
Storytelling is far from a one-time effort or a one-way street. It’s a long-term process that cannot treat your customers as entities separate from your business. The sooner you realize that your brand identity is only as valuable as the perception your customers have of you, the simpler it will become for you to make your customers part of that storytelling journey.
Brands evolve, customers advance and refine their preferences, and your stories should reflect this process through your brand voice, content output, as well as the versatile formats you implement. Letting your customers participate will allow you to become a leader in your industry and strengthen your market position for years to come.