Bonding Brands with Customers

Bonding brands with customers has always been about building relationships.

It is about taking someone who knows little or nothing about a company or its products and transitioning them to become a loyal user and even an apostle. Although the tactics might sometimes be different on the Internet, all the  classic marketing principles still apply.

It’s almost impossible to pick up a business publication without seeing some reference to the world of new media, especially Social Media Marketing and its role in marketing a product (goods and services).

Most publications on SMS  ignore one of the most important components — building a brand or corporate reputation to create relationships with customers. When it comes to building a brand on the Internet, never have so many talked so little of what may be SMS’s most stunning capability — strengthening the bond with customers and prospects.

Branding is being redefined online.  We are moving beyond representing a brand to experiencing it.

In the new world of eBranding, SMS is more than a gimmick or a mere line item on the communications budget. It now plays a pivotal role in enhancing brand relationships and corporate reputations.   It can offer a huge advantage over traditional mass media. The speed people can move from awareness to action on the Internet is a true differentiator and challenge for Marketers.

SMS and eBranding requires a new way of thinking about how to go about marketing communications.  However the steps to bond prospects to brands are essentially the same.  What needs to be kept in focus is that Social Media Marketing need to be based on genuine RelationalMarketing.  Transactional marketing will not work well here.

Branding – Relationship-Building

Prospects pass through several stages before embracing a relationship with a company:

* Awareness

* Familiarity

* Trust

* Commitment

These stages are driven primarily by reputation and image elements.

Awareness

The first is the consumer becoming aware of the company or its brands. At this stage the prospective buyer can recall or recognise the name of the company. That does not mean trust in the brand, but simply a sense of the company as a player in some product or category.

 Familiarity

During the second stage, the prospect becomes familiar with the company through acquiring an appreciation of the products or services offered, and various related features.

Trust

The next stage takes the relationship to a deeper level. The potential customer becomes motivated to purchase a product (goods and services) because of the perceived benefits derived from particular features. During this phase, positive imagery about the brand or company encourages a feeling of trust, which in turn, enhances the relationship-building process.

Commitment

The final stage is the most important. At this stage, a transaction occurs that consummates the relationship. The prospect and the company each get something from the other. They are no longer strangers. Both comprehend something about each other, hopefully encouraging many repeated exchanges.

In looking at media choices for creating this desired relationship, the advantage of SMS over mass media should be obvious. Mass media cannot communicate with individual prospects in a customised way.  SMS enables communication based on where each prospect is in the four stages of the relationship-building process.

With traditional media, the messages are sent out to the world no matter what level of trust and interest the company has previously generated. Accordingly, some prospects are told what they already know. Others are not able to learn what they need to know to engage further.

By contrast, a well-executed SMS Branding strategy, expressed in a well-designed and integrated emarketing program, can adapt communications to match the aspiring buyer’s needs and wants at any stage in the relationship-building process.

SMS and Relationships

Don Peppers, co-author of The One-to-One Future, has noted the future of marketing is about having consumers to participate in a dialogue. Not just any dialogue, but one that helps to bond the consumer to the brand.

Rather than simply interrupting a television show with a commercial message or barging into prospect’s lives with unannounced phone calls or letters, innovative marketers will first try to get individuals to voluntarily enroll in the promotional process. A volunteer’s experience will almost always be more likely to result in the embrace of a brand than any forced viewing or consumption experience can ever accomplish.

Interactive technology enables marketers to inexpensively attract consumers into one-to-one relationships fueled by two-way “conversations” — played out via mouse clicks on a computer. Through this process, prospective buyers collaborate with marketers to fashion the product (goods and services) being sold. By inviting each prospect to join in a uniquely responsive and tailored dialogue, marketers are more likely to earn loyalty.

To nurture such a highly targeted and relevant engagement, the communications professional needs to create marketing tactics customised to whatever stage the prospect has reached in the relationship-building process.

Creative material on the Web site needs to do several things:

It must capture the attention of those prospects who know nothing or very little about the company, but are interested in its category. It also must build awareness of what the company does within the context of the industry in which it’s competing.

For those who already know something of the company, but not the advantages of doing business with it, site content should identify and link benefits sought by the consumer to the company’s products and services. This material needs to deepen to a level that triggers a desire to do business with the company.

Clearly, those individuals wishing to become customers need easy site access to satisfy their needs and assure the relationship develops even further. And most importantly, existing customers of the company need to feel their interaction with the site, identifying them as more than just an anonymous browser.

These customers need to be given some sense they have access not available to just anyone. They need to be rewarded for continuing to engage with the company.

There are many design elements that can accomplish the objectives of moving a prospect along the relationship-building continuum. These techniques can start with a simple interaction to begin the relationship-building process.

The relevance of the traditional model should not be overlooked.

People will still need to develop a sense of trust about a brand and its Web presence before they will reveal data about themselves or share their credit card number. Bonding power  relies ondeveloping the ability to bring a customer back for repeated interactions, the degree of permission granted by the customer for ongoing dialogue, and the extent this access is being leveraged.

Once engagement is established, the marketer’s chief goal is to expand the engagement. If done well, this elicits more trust, satisfaction, and loyalty from each customer.

At the turn of the last century, the owner of a general store knew his customers so intimately he could suggest specific products to meet their unique needs. Now, 111 years later, marketers have the opportunity to make that same personalised connection.

 

Dr. Brian

CEO MAANZ International http://www.marketing.org.au

Twitter @smartamarketing https://twitter.com/#!/smartamarketing

Blog 1 www.smartamarketing.blogspot.com

Blog 2:  www.smartamarketing.wordpress.com

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