New Year, new sales strategy! Right? Well, not exactly. Small businesses are notorious for getting caught up in their short-term ROI, because long-term planning tends to be a nice to have, not a need to have. However, if you want your business to last longer than a few nasty winters in Calgary, you’re going to have to plan and execute with long-term ROI in mind. And, that may come at the expense of the short-term game.
Building a community around your company is what we call an authentic brand following. Why authentic? Because instead of putting the focus on sales, you’re putting the focus on building relationships with your customers and solving their problems.
The value? Here’s an example, Sephora built its Beauty Talk community as a way for customers to connect with one another and share their beauty tips and tricks. As an added benefit of being a Beauty Talk member, Sephora offers members exclusive gifts based on the feedback it receives from the Beauty Talk community. As a result, Sephora reported that its Beauty Talk community members spend twice as much on products than non-members, while Beauty Talk Super Fans spend 10 times as much.
Considering that it costs 80% more to gain a new customer than to retain one, it’s worth your while to build an authentic brand following that starts with your current customers. Forming a following that is based on building relationships with your customers through two-way communication gives them a reason to be your company’s greatest super fans.
How do you build an authentic brand following around your company?
Here’s where a lot of you may decide that this type of community building is not for you. Why? Because it takes time. This is not a get rich quick scheme, nor is it a blueprint for creating viral content. What it is, however, a way for you to improve your customers’ life time value, attract brand advocates, reduce customer acquisition costs and rack in sustainable revenue.
If you’re serious about creating an authentic brand following around your company, you’re going to need the following three ingredients to get started:
1. Learn to Listen
The term “Build it and they will come” is utterly useless in a world full of noise. If you’re not going to make an effort to listen, your customers are not going to make an effort to seek you out, interact with you or keep you around.
A good listener can pick out patterns in feedback and identify real problems as opposed to pushing their own agenda. Listening to your customers is the first step towards increasing their customer lifetime value.
2. Give a Sh*t
It’s one thing to listen to your customers and it’s another thing entirely to genuinely care about what they have to say.
For instance, makeup artist and YouTuber Kandee Johnson has grown her community to include well over 3 million people because she cares. Sure, she may have had a few video tutorial ideas of her own when she first started in 2009, but she quickly realized that her community had no trouble telling her what tutorials they wanted to see next. Caring that her content reflected the needs of her viewers and pocketing her ego so that her audience could shape her content, is the reason why she has grown a community of people who are personally invested in her success.
3. Embrace your Weaknesses
Vulnerability in business has always been looked down upon — even more so if you’re a woman — and that’s total nonsense. No one knows everything, which means everyone has vulnerabilities. Chances are other people have weaknesses similar to yours. In other words, the best way to engage your audience in the first stages of building an authentic brand following is to embrace your weaknesses and ask for help.
Authenticity gives you the ability to build a brand following without having to be perfect. Brands try to humanize themselves in the same way that interviewees use a reverse positive to answer the question “what is your biggest weakness”. It’s contrived. Being human is being vulnerable. And, an authentic brand following derives from people being vulnerable together.
If you’ve come this far, you’re in luck. The final and probably most important part of building an authentic brand following around your company is understanding that not everyone wants to talk to you. Go figure, right? Well it’s a little more structured than a sassy remark. We believe communities are structured based on the 1-9-90 rule. That is to say, 90% of community members observe, 9% participate and 1% contribute. By applying the three ingredients above to the 1%, you can optimize how you spend your marketing budget engaging the other 99%.
Numbered are the days where selling first and caring last reap a reward.