To win loyalty, you first need to earn trust. This is true for all life’s relationships and this is certainly true for businesses seeking to build brand loyalty with their consumers.
Today’s realities of record unemployment, job insecurity and home foreclosures, make the task of earning consumers’ trust even more challenging. Consumers are paying closer attention to HOW they are spending their money and WHO is receiving it.
Creating a strategy focused on fostering trust can help you find your business on the receiving end of these transactions. There are a number of components that go into a winning trust strategy, including:
1.) Really get to know your consumer
Age, income, geography, education, ethnicity are all great starts, but you can go much deeper than that. Consider where they come from (culture, values), their reality today (priorities and fears) and where they want to be tomorrow (hopes and dreams). These insights enable you to develop branding and promotional strategies that connect with your audience in a more meaningful way – make them feel like you “get them” and then in return, you deserve their business.
2.) Define the consumer experience
Once you’ve defined who your consumer is, you should now set your sights on defining their experience with your business. Your consumer experience is the sum totality of all interactions with your business at every touch point – your visual identity, website, social media strategy, customer service practices, sales, etc. Developing a consistent, positive experience that consumers grow to expect and love from you is the key to earning their trust and loyalty. Borders, who was recently ranked number one on Forbes’ “Best Customer Experience” list, is an example of how good customer experience can lead to higher sales and ultimately brand loyalty. Borders.com, for instance, has linked its online retail sales to a site that gives information on events that incites customers who do not buy online, to visit the store for a poetry reading and purchase items then. Whatever the overall strategy may be it clearly pays to provide great customer service.
3.) Leverage word-of-mouth
When you create a great consumer experience, people take notice and talk about it. We know that the average consumer will share positive brand experiences with approximately ten people. Today, word-of-mouth is more powerful than ever. Consumers are not only talking about their experiences, they are also taking their opinions to Facebook, blogs and Twitter. It’s important for you to be present on these social media channels in an effort to cultivate positive conversations about your brand and mitigate the negative. For instance, monitor your company’s name on Twitter. If you come across a negative comment, apologize and within reason, do what you can to make the situation better. This will certainly impress the individual you’re tweeting with as well as his/her network of followers. A company that utilizes this insight very well is Comcast, or as known in the twitter world, “ComcastCares.” Frank Eliason, Comcast’s ‘Twitter Man’, has successfully created a greater consumer experience thanks to the fact of back and forth discussions regarding Comcast’s services as well as stressing the importance of building customer trust through social networking.
There’s something very powerful about someone we know and trust recommending a brand. There’s also something very powerful about someone we look up to (celebrities, community leaders and other public figures), declaring public support for your product or service. Identifying influencers from your target audience and earning their trust so they will endorse your brand is an effective way to build brand loyalty.
4.) Communicate in-context
Sometimes it makes perfect sense to create a high profile TV spot to promote your business and sometimes it does not. Consider the time and place when consumers will be most receptive to the message, and then determine the most appropriate media channel for disseminating it. There’s a lot of clutter out there in the marketplace and consumers will appreciate your tact in speaking to them when they’re primed to receive the message. If you’re a financial services company targeting small business owners, I may not notice your billboard driving down the highway on my way to work; however, I may take notice of your online banner on a trade website I read every morning at the office. Being more precise in your targeting not only earns the good graces of your audience, but also will save you money in the long run.
Leveraging these insights for a winning trust strategy will help your business be on its way to cultivating trust and retaining loyal customers. The bonus? These will also be essential in piquing the interest of new consumers and expanding your market base.