Watch commercials. Do you ever wonder what so many of them get wrong or why don’t we like so many of the brands we come across on television? I do. I believe that most brands are focused way too much on trying to make you know that they exist and sort of like something about them; without thinking enough about how to make you like and trust them. Mass media is often considered a numbers game – get enough people to see my ad and enough will perhaps like it and a few of those might actually consider my product or service.
In my opinion there are several levels your brand goes though on its way to market trust and customer loyalty and advocacy: A-L-T or Awareness, Likability, and Trust. You need to build through each of these levels to create a brand that speaks to your specific target market and later becomes a trusted partner with your customer. Let’s dive a little deeper into each one.
You have to start by making your target market know that you are out there and that you can solve a problem they are having. But how do you do that if you really don’t have a good idea of who that target market is? You don’t. No brand has become successful by not knowing their target market in depth. As I have argued in this blog several times, defining your target market with detailed clarity as a critical element to success.
Begin by developing a persona for you target market. Imagine a person who needs you product or service. Think about their characteristics – age, gender, income level, education level, family status, etc. Consider how they live their lives; what they do each day. And last, but not least, name the problem that you can fix. Describe it in detail. Why does that problem exist? How big is the problem – in financial, time, and/or emotional terms? When or how does that problem occur? How significant is that problem to the person. (Hint: If it’s not a very significant problem, then they may not be willing to spend much on the solution.) Understand and describe the problem in as concrete and detailed terms are you can. Try to imagine that person (persona) – and then them living through that problem. Picture their lives with that problem solved.
This is the nature of how you will help them get to know your brand. You have to communicate to them that you understand them and their problem – and that you have a solution to fix that problem. That will get their attention.
Think about the commercials and ads you see all around you every day. Which ones stick with you? Which ones are truly engaging? Which ones make you want to buy from or visit or do business with that brand? Awareness is just the first step. That awareness has to be coupled with likeability.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of companies and brands you know of that you just aren’t interested in – or even dislike. No, it’s not enough for you target market to just know you exist. Once you’ve gotten your brand in front of your target market, you have to show them that you are someone they will want to get to know and interact with.
To start with, your staff must be the right ones that demonstrate personality and really interact with customers and prospects in a positive, friendly, engaging way. Hire the people that you think your customers will enjoy interacting with. Hire people with the right personalities for your business. And then let them show that personality – in person, on the phone, through email, and on social media.
Yes, social media is definitely another way to engage the people in your market. You hear a lot about finding your brand’s “voice” on social media. Begin with the knowledge that it’s okay (and desirable) for your company’s brand to have a voice in the first place. Some people feel that a brand has to stay serious an disengaged. I disagree. Brands are like people. They are best when they show their personality, when they have an opinion and a point-of-view. Don’t be afraid for your brand to have one and to show it. Social media can be a great place to share your ideas, your opinions, and exchange ideas.
At this stage you focus way more of developing repoire. You are not selling. It’s too early. You’re developing a relationship. Later, as the relationship grows and deepens your ability to start (in a very limited way) sharing info about your products and services will also. But a word of caution. Truly remain focused on building a friendship – one that does not take advantage of the positive feelings you have developed. It can take a long time to build become likable; but a very, very short time to lose those gains.
Trust is the ultimate goal for your company and your customers. Once people know your brand and enjoy interacting with you, you can build on that. Developing a trusted relationship with your customers is a critical (and often overlooked or taken for granted) step. Trust is critical to turning customers into advocates.
Trust can be formal like a certification or a degree. Trust can be gained by being authoritative. Articles can be published. Speeches can be given. This level of trust is conferred upon you by another party – the newspaper, magazine, or website that publishes your article. The seminar or conference that asks you to speak. As long as they are trusted, it confers upon you a level of authority.
But there’s another type of trust that is developed over time. It’s the trust of a friend, a confidant. That’s where you want your company to be. You want to be that company that your target market views as someone they can be open and honest with. You want to be that company that someone knows will tell them the truth. You want to be that company that someone will feel comfortable recommending to others.
And once you’ve earned their trust you have to remain ever-vigilant so as not to lose it. One of my favorite podcasters/bloggers is Pat Flynn (SmartPassiveIncome.com). One thing that I have noticed by listening to tons of his podcasts is that he has not only developed a huge audience for his content but that he also makes sure that he knows and respects his audience and makes sure to not do anything to mess up that relationship. He doesn’t allow cursing on his podcast, doesn’t share products he hasn’t used himself, and sometimes interjects during interviews to suggest ideas that would be of interest to his audience. He does all that (and more) to maintain the trust of his audience. You should oversee your customer relationship this way too.
As much as you’d like to you can’t rush this step. Trust is built over time. It’s earned by being a resource for others WITHOUT trying to always sell them. Respect them, show that you are trustworthy, and eventually they will learn to respect and trust you.
Make sure you build your brand completely. You have to have all three pieces to the puzzle – Awareness, Likability, and Trust. They build on each other and together develop a brand with long-lasting value.
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