By Taylor Smithfield
To become successful in a changing competitive landscape, you must provide consumers with experiences that form deep emotional connections and champion brand love. People are no longer satisfied with being viewed as mere customers. They crave real relationships, especially with those they entrust their hard-earned money to. Personally knowing the people who farm their food or manufacture their cars matters to them.
They also want to be seen and heard by companies, rather than merely being on the receiving end of the relationship. This is why businesses have begun thinking about their customers as an extension of their team — partners to shape and create their brand alongside them.
Naturally, one of the best ways to connect with a large following is through social media. Today’s consumer can tweet Taco Bell or comment on one of PayPal’s Instagram photos and actually receive a speedy, thoughtful reply. Customers not only want personal communications, they now expect them. They’re interested in real relationships — in the people behind your logo and storefront.
Making Genuine, Meaningful Connections
Due to this demand, brands are parting ways with traditional B2B and B2C approaches in favor of a more timely, relevant trend: H2H or a human-to-human approach. In a nutshell, H2H is how businesses creatively form these meaningful relationships. The more conversational, empathetic, inspirational, humorous and story-driven a brand is — essentially, the more they become human — the more likely a genuine, meaningful connection is made with their audience.
When you open a dialogue with customers and make them feel heard, they’ll be more likely to spread your brand message on your behalf. Brands able to leverage the collaborative power of their communities can benefit from major increases in customer loyalty. Not only will customers be more likely to spend their dollars on your products, they’ll feel as if they have a meaningful stake in your brand’s evolution and success.
ROI: Return On Innovation
Another way to challenge your business mindset is to think beyond the traditional definition of ROI and additionally start measuring your return on innovation. Investments made in brand perception are invaluable because loyalty and brand love cannot be bought.
Businesses with the most passionate customers are also the ones who’ve built the most social equity. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram aren’t seen as distractions to the main event. They don’t fight progress but they’re on the front lines championing it.
Now, all of this sounds well and good but how are you supposed to adopt an H2H approach on a practical level? We’ve established people long to have real relationships with the businesses they support. However, how do you accomplish this connection and also maintain a united, professional front?
Although humanized marketing might be different and more involved than you’re used to, it can also be very enjoyable. After all, you, too, are human and crave real, human connections.
This means customers will better relate if marketing sounds more conversational or down-to-earth. Actively think about the way brands speak to you through advertisements. I guarantee you’ll notice they employ a more personable tone of voice, like the speaker already knows you intimately. This is a way to establish trust and make people feel like you have their best interest in mind.
Another way brands can be more human is with the use of humor. A great example of this is MailChimp, the popular email marketing service. When a payment is being processed, a simple “loading” or “processing” message isn’t displayed. Instead, customers are assured, “We’re crunching the numbers. We can only move so fast, but until then, check this out.” This simple (yet fun) message makes the waiting process less annoying and more enjoyable.
Shaping The Way People Feel
It’s also important to remember good brands have their own definable personalities. A brand personality is a set of human characteristics you assign to your business, something to which customers can relate. It’s a framework that helps shape the way people feel about you. In turn, the positive emotions customers experience will result in positive actions (making purchases, telling others about your gun store, etc.).
By treating your brand as its own person, you’ll begin to think more in terms of how it can relate to customers on a human level. It will affect the way you talk about your store, the way its website and retail space look and customer interaction on social media.
The Power Of Personality
The most obvious choice for brand personality within the firearms industry is a rugged, competitive outdoorsy type. However, this obviously wouldn’t distinguish you from the competition very much. Many companies run into this same problem; there are only so many ways to differentiate yourself from stores selling the same products.
Nevertheless, this challenge pushes you to think deeply about the brand and what makes it truly unique. Is there a specific customer segment you’d like to focus on? Do you and your team have a particular skill set or unique history? Brainstorm the ways you can set yourselves apart.
Wireless provider T-Mobile has a rebel personality. Unorthodox colors like bold pink and black are used in their marketing. They’re all about challenging the status quo and making a ruckus. Check out a few headlines from previous ad campaigns: “The only thing unlimited about Verizon is their B.S.” and “If AT&T thought our network wasn’t great, why did they try to buy it?” These brazen ads serve a purpose. They tap the inner rebel within us all, and have us nodding along in agreement, “Yeah! What’s up with that?” T-Mobile not only challenges their industry, they push the boundaries on expected brand persona. In comparison, every other mobile network appears too polished, boring, or worse yet, deceptive. This is the power of personality!
It’s an exciting time for small businesses, who are more agile than big-box stores, to invest in an H2H strategy. After all, human interactions create relationships, partnerships, trust and community — all facets of a relatable, ownable brand. So, remember: don’t forget to be human.