Most of us have brands that we will always buy. Sometimes we do this simply because we are “creatures of habit” but that’s not always the case. There are a number of brands who inspire loyalty and amazingly, even have brand advocates who have never used their product or service.
A few years ago at a conference a relationship marketing expert, Professor Adrian Payne asked the audience to put up their hand if they considered themselves to be an advocate of Virgin Atlantic. About 50 of the 300 people in the room put their hand up. He then asked those who had flown with the airline to put their hands down again. Amazingly, 10 people still had their hands in the air. So how have businesses like Virgin Atlantic managed to attract advocates who have never even had first hand experience of the service they offer?
Some people would put it down to the service or product being offered but the age old battle between rival cola brands Coca Cola and Pepsi proves that it is not as simple as this.
Coca Cola are the leading cola brand with the top 2 best selling products, original Coca Cola and Diet Coke despite only do a third of the amount of advertising that Pepsi do.
However, a couple of years ago the Huffington Post carried out a blind taste test using 9 different colas including Coca Cola and Pepsi. The surprising results showed Coca Cola in 5th place with a score of 53 out of a possible 90 while Pepsi were miles ahead in 1st with 72 out of 90.
What this proves is that whilst you do have to have a good quality product or service to succeed, you don’t necessarily have to be the best to attract loyal customers. So what can small businesses learn from the likes of Coca Cola and Virgin Atlantic? Here’s how:
1) Have a clear Brand – Many people think that creating your brand is just about choosing a name, logo and colour palette but it is much more than that. The aspect of branding that is often forgotten are the experiential aspects, the feelings, perceptions and experiences you want your customer to have. By carefully thinking through all aspects of your brand you will create a brand your customers can relate to.
2) Put yourself in your customer’s shoes – In order to build a brand that your customers will be able to identify with you need to understand what your customers are looking for. What is important to them? How do they shop? Where do they hang out? What would make the experience a memorable one?
3) Align your processes, systems and training – Once you’ve designed your customer experience you need to ensure that the processes and systems are in place to support delivery, and where you have staff, that they are the right fit for your business and are properly trained to deliver the planned experience.
4) Add value for your customers – Instead of just trying to sell to your customers spend a bit of time finding out what they are looking for, offer them advise and match the solution/product to their needs. Even if you don’t have what they are looking for recommend an alternative or somewhere that they can find it. You may not get the immediate sale but they are bound to remember you in future and talk about you to friends and family.
5) Remember that there is no such thing as ‘bad’ feedback – Many people’s natural instinct is to get defensive when they receive a complaint or criticism. What you need to realise though is that 1 in 5 unhappy customers won’t say anything they’ll just walk away and tell all their friends. Complaints are actually a ‘gift’! If someone complains they want to remain a customer enough that they are prepared to say something and give you the chance to put it right. They might be highlighting a problem that has already caused many customers to go elsewhere or could do so in future if not resolved.
6) Keep your finger on the pulse – Your Customer Experience needs to be actively managed in order to make sure that you are getting the results you envisaged. Regularly monitoring the experience through customer surveys and feedback will enable you to get a feel for how happy your customer’s are, whether they would buy from you again, how likely they are to recommend you to others, changing expectations, any areas where you need to make improvements and whether those improvements were effective.
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