We’re a few weeks into a new year, which means you’re likely back into your usual schedule at work and eager to make big changes. You’re reinvigorated by some time off, ready to apply all the insights from 2019 to your business and invest more time into its success. I applaud your enthusiasm and positivity, and I want to help you achieve even more this year.
One such area I’d encourage you to focus on is inspiring brand affinity among their target audiences.
What’s Brand Affinity?
According to social intelligence company, Brandwatch, brand affinity is a relationship between a brand and its customers “who believe a particular brand shares common values with them.” That said, some people mistakenly use this term interchangeably with “brand loyalty,” which is different in the following ways:
- Loyalty implies a rational decision to stick with one brand over another because of perceived value given to the consumer
- Affinity implies an emotional connection with a brand and what it represents.
Real-life example: I decide to buy Target brand toilet paper over the other available options in a store because it’s consistently cheaper.
Real-life example: I buy a lot of my workout and cycling gear from REI because I support their environmental advocacy and social activism. I also encourage friends and family who share similar values to shop there.
The unfortunate reality of the current consumer space is increasing competition for people’s attention and subsequent content over-saturation. That said, there’s plenty of room for creativity and injecting your brand’s authenticity and uniqueness back into marketing so your business standouts. Also, the present state of marketing presents an opportunity to diversify your efforts by leveraging a mixture of on- and offline tactics – many of which you probably have access to right now.
To help get you started, I’ve outlined three methods that can inspire brand affinity in 2020, no matter your business’s maturity.
What It Takes to Inspire Brand Affinity in 2020: A Mix of New and Old School Methods
1) Define Your Brand Personality
It might seem obvious, but an excellent place to start is having a clear understanding of what your business stands for. Questions you’ll want to produce answers for include:
- What values do I want my business to project to consumers?
- How do I believe my business is different from my competitors’?
- Why does my business do what it does?
- How do I want to communicate across mediums with customers (tone, vocabulary, emoji use, branding)?
- What are my strengths and limitations when it comes to marketing?
After you’ve answered the above, you’ll next want to distill these insights into 1-2 sentences that you can leverage in networking situations and when someone asks what makes you unique. This information will also be beneficial in the two remaining steps: identifying who you want to attract and how to build a lasting relationship with them.
2) Find the Right People
You’ve taken the time to understand your business’s purpose better; now it’s time to find the right people for your product or service. Thanks to platforms, such as social media and niche forums, you’re given access to lots of potentially valuable information, notably their public comments, shares, and likes. All of these forms of engagement can reveal what gets people to act and what information they’re seeking. Likewise, online engagement shows how strongly individuals react, with comments being one of the harder online actions to inspire in my experience.
To best understand your audience and their needs, I’d encourage a diversified approach to research. For example, and if relevant to your business, you could learn about your target audiences by conducting in-person surveys or simply asking existing customers things like, “How did you initially find us? What makes you keep coming back to us?” The face-to-face interaction that happens naturally with offline research also has an added benefit. It encourages people to share better quality information since they’re in front of another human, mainly if it’s someone they know already.
Lastly, and applying the same mix of on- and offline research approaches, take a look at what your competition is doing. Learn about what they are doing to attract customers. After that, allow your intuition to guide you to a way of doing something different for customers and hopefully avoids the shortcomings of others.
3) Build Lasting Relationships
Develop the Right Content for Your Audience
Building upon your self-reflection and market research, it’s time to develop content that delivers value to your audience. One way of doing this is through recurring content that addresses topics relevant to your business and makes sense for your audience. A few examples that I have worked on are:
- Sending a monthly email newsletter with sections divided between special promotions, general news, and answering a customer’s question
- Sourcing customer testimonials from Facebook and Google My Business profiles to place on a website
- Using a cellphone’s video camera, develop how-to and FAQ-style videos to use in a blog and a social media post
- Creating infographics bringing compelling quantitative data to life and reusing parts for social media and blog content
Example of leveraging customer testimonials from industrial adhesive manufactuter Glue Machinery Corporation’s website.
Show Your Website Some Love
Another opportunity for attracting and retaining enthused customers may require some outside help, but it is vital. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and helps people complete your desired action (buy a product, submit a request for a quote). These improvements vary according to your particular goals and industry, but general places to look into for optimization are:
- On-Site Navigation: Can customers find what they want readily and without needing to click around?
- Page Layout: Are your pages laid out so that the most important information or action is prioritized? Do my pages facilitate people shopping, requesting information, or whatever else quickly?
- Form Submission or Checkout Process: How much information do customers need to provide before submitting a form? How many steps go into checking out? Can I streamline any parts?
- Variety of Content: How am I conveying information to my audience currently? What other forms of content could I develop for my site?
Commit time and energy to connecting with your audience regularly through community involvement, such as volunteering, donating time/money/product, in-store events, and partnering with causes relevant to your business. Two companies that I think do this last part well are LA-based jean manufacturer Hudson and men’s athletic wear company Bearbottom Clothing. Each brand gives back through sustained efforts involving mentorship and donating products to the communities that make their businesses possible.
Be authentic in how you communicate with customers, especially when stuff goes wrong: stay humble, yet celebrate successes and admit to mess-ups. Your customers will appreciate it, be more willing to forgive, and may even end up loving you more than before a crisis.
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