The year 2020 is proving to be a unique year. Not only has it challenged humanity with a variety of historic events, the pandemic included, but it also has seen a sudden shift in customer behaviour. Just one example; we’ve seen a drastic increase in the volume and value of online shopping, especially as regards people purchasing their groceries and personal hygiene items via the web.
But what we have also seen is an outpouring of support for small businesses, where the community have come together to support their local businesses, and similarly, we have seen the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses who have transitioned from what they were doing to a brand new model of operation.
Now, as we move deeper into Q4, 2020, we may think the year is done, but truth is, the trends that have sprung up, are likely to push through the Christmas period and into 2021 and become future branding reality.
Any business and entrepreneur worth their salt realises that building a brand character requires a solid comprehension of who they are, the market around them and what others are doing. This enables a business to set itself up and its products or services to stand out from the crowd so to speak.
To do our part to help you as a business, here are some of the things we encourage you to consider so that you not only maintain your relevancy next year, but improve your business, consider these some simple Branding Opportunities.
Technological disruption in online presence
It is projected that there will be 3.02 billion social media users worldwide by 2021.This, represents almost half the world population and by inference means there is a massive market out there looking for the right business to solve their needs. Whilst not every business can leverage the worldwide market (we know that a local restaurant is not targeting women in Nairobi for example) the point we are trying to make is that there are platforms and solutions which you should be leveraging to boost your profile. And just because you are not targeting that lady in Nairobi I mentioned, does not mean that if you are a restaurant in Sale (Victoria), that once your COVID restrictions lift, you should not look to market yourself to someone in St Kilda – because let’s face it, once those restrictions lift, Victorians are going to be ready to explore near and far.
. Social media represents a chance to interface with customers who meet your target profiles. However, we are not just talking targeted advertising or social posting, but rather, value-adding via engagement.
In fact, businesses can build genuine, lasting connections and relationships when they leverage technology like chatbots and other software applications that allow you to effectively communicate with an audience in real time – a solution which can amplify campaigns and enhance online branding efforts.
Best of all, however, these platforms offer the opportunity to do more than just try and boost sales. In fact, they can be used at different points of the customer life cycle for the purposes of deepening connection.
Makeup brand Sephora, for instance, resolved its customer experience and service issues by engaging chatbots to keep up with the demands of their thousands of customers who wanted personalised attention simultaneously in real-time. It created an AI-run personal assistant that provides shopping recommendations to customers through product reviews and ratings.
Another notable brand leveraging technology to ensure their customers’ experience with them is easy and convenient is Pizza Hut. Whether they’re using Twitter or Facebook, customers can order their favourite pizza via personal messaging and even pay and have the food delivered to their homes without leaving the social media platform.
TIP: Take the time to identify where your customer engagement piece could most benefit and be improved, then determine what interaction you need to provide to make it worthwhile to your market. Once you identify this, you can work out which platforms to use, and how to write the content that automates the process.
Build more authentic and genuine engagements
Brand leadership is attained by brands that are authentic—not the ones with carefully created corporate wording. What you say about your business doesn’t matter, as ‘public perception is more of a reality’ for your customers and prospects.
It is important to create a carefully-cultivated brand grounded in reality. The Internet is too powerful, with infinite amounts of information at our fingertips, people have become too savvy and sharp. People are also worn out on being taken in and misled by brands who say one thing, yet do another, to permit masquerading brands to survive for long.
Today’s customers reward transparency and authenticity in brands and give their loyalty to companies that have these values.
Businesses exist to make money but, more and more now it matters to customers how you make that money and what you do with it. People also want to know that your business has values and, want those values to align with theirs. Marketing expert Mark Ritson has written extensively about this space before and took a new angle on why successful brands should build brand which is mirrored not just in what they say, but what they do operationally. It is worth a read.
The market value brands actually conducting business according to those values. Consumers have an increased consciousness of the types of companies they deal with, and want to engage with the faces behind those companies, safe in the knowledge that all that work in the company embody what they say they do. At this point, the human element is very important as people want to do business with real people and are increasingly wanting that on social media, especially in lieu of being able to get into bricks-and-mortar shops.
Tip: You can’t truly understand your market just through assumption, history and luck. Nor can you fake what you don’t believe.
What you should be doing is identifying through reasearch what your market want, what they do and where their pain points are, and then and only then identifying what brand values you have which address (some of) these aspects. Then you can craft your strategy and communications. The key lies in research.
Research your audience and competition
Thanks to insights and analytics tools embedded in social media networks as well as in Google Analytics, Bing, and the like, businesses can gather consumer data and leverage these to help understand their audiences better. Businesses should be harnessing this insight to delve further into their market to learn who their audience are. Who you think your audience are, may then in fact be different to reality, but this in itself gives you an insight which can be leveraged. Similarly, knowing your audience allows you to ensure that your values align with theirs.
A recent video by insight pioneer Les Binet, is definitely worth a watch, as it sheds new light on the role of search as a predictor for human action and beliefs.
Analysing your competitors, which you can also do via comparative data tools, and additionally focusing on the things that make your business unique lets you know what branding strategy will work. You should also consider and focus on what you can give your clients that others can’t, especially during these turbulent times.
Connect people to your brand story
Simply put: Brands contend for individuality and recognition within a crowded market. This is what helps them attract (and retain) customers.
Customer consciousness and awareness has peaked this year for the story behind the brand, not just simply the item advertised. Businesses need to give the shopper what they need: an association that goes further than the transaction.
Tip: Properly deployed stories are very strong marketing tool and provide excellent branding opportunities. This is mainly because stories are all about the emotional connection they build inside a consumer. Good stories bypass the head and pull directly at the heartstrings of the customer. But this story (see above point) needs to be rooted in authenticity, and be consistent to the brand’s core values. In other words, your brand identity is key here.
If you are looking to foray into social engagement and are looking to leverage chatbots or other automation tools, take the time to think like your customers. Not just at the point of sale, but at the point of confusion, the point of dismay, anger, post purchase and after sales. As many points as you can. Then build out questions, and corresponding answers which will help a customer with a particular pain point, to get to a solution which not only helps them, but endears them to your brand.
A brand that exceeds expectations requires a strong social media response strategy. In the previous years, advertising/branding and client support groups operated in silos and often without any data insight overlay. However, with social media, there is a greater overlap between these functions. Today, brand building requires collaboration and coordination between these functions to build and convey phenomenal brand experiences and customer care through social media channels.
So, it should go without saying, you should keep an eye on your accounts always and, endeavour to respond when people reach out to you on social media. Active conversations grow into authentic relationships and are a great driver for brand identity.
It is important to manage and respond to social media comments and organic posts regardless of the comment type. Generally public responses via social media are adequate (replies to replies), but there are circumstances where the discussion ought to be moved to private channels.
Tip: Social listening tools (Social Bakers, Mention, Sprout Social and Awario are just some of the options you may want to consider) will be a huge asset for you. If you can set up these tools to monitor your brand and brand-related terms and topics on both your channels as well as others you interact with, you will be going a long way to improving the way your customer base perceives you.
As with all marketing, there is no simple fix, no silver bullet. Good marketing takes ongoing perseverance, solid strategy and authentic consistency. It starts with your brand identity and encompasses your creative execution, your digital marketing and your customer service. Leaving just one part out can be catastrophic to your brand. But getting it right can set you on a path to success. If you are looking for a partner to help build your brand, or if you feel a little confused or are unsure how to implement an appropriate strategy, get started with the help of expert marketing strategists here at Three Piece Marketing. We are here to help.