Recently, I was sitting at my favorite deli watching the news. Running across the bottom of the page was the latest updates of all the corporate layoffs. While I didn’t do the math, within just a few seconds I watched the news of close to fifty thousand people that had just lost their jobs.
That’s when I began to think about this quote, “either you evolve or you get left behind.” Now I don’t know every detail of their financials, or the purpose behind the layoffs. However, I did begin to wonder at what level were they engaging their customers? I also wanted to know if they had a “real-time” pulse on what their customers were saying and what was the loyalty level to their brand?
While my brainstorming session didn’t produce any hard facts about their companies, I did begin think about brands that are engaged with their customers within the social media space. Companies such as Zappo’s, Ford Motor Company, the Phoenix Suns and I can’t forget about my childhood favorite, Little Debbie snacks.
These companies are all great examples of how to humanize their brand. It’s obvious that they have a plan in place that involves interaction with the customer besides just consuming their product or service. These brands have bought into the realization that brand evangelists don’t evolve because of just great products. They evolve when great brands incorporate customers to become a part of a great experience.
Whatever method or approach you choose, the success of customer engagement happens when these three common denominators are present.
Listening to Your Customer
The pathway to humanizing your brand is your willingness to listen. A brand’s ability to listen to their customers and to hold their words as a valuable commodity, will always gain credibility for the brand.
Brands that refuse to listen have really already signed off on their future.
One way I see brands listening to their customers is through the social media community and the tools that it provides. They are investing their time and money to be where their customers are at in the digital space. They are also listening to what they hear being said about their brand.
One thing brands will notice is that listening provides an opportunity to not only hear about the positive things being spoken about your brand, but also the misconceptions that are being spoken.
Engaging Your Customer
Brands that not only listen to what their customers are saying, but engage in conversation elevates their brand above their competitors. Contrary to what you see, social media without engagement is spam.
While the pressure for all brands is to generate conversions, engaged consumers will always produce a level of loyalty that cannot be bought. Using social media as a sales letter is a sure bet to disengage with a community as well as open the possibilities of negative viral effect about your brand.
However, if you’re willing to invest your time, then you have a better chance of changing perceptions and gaining new loyal customers.
Celebrating Your Customer
One common thread that seems to permeate with successful brands using social media is that they really know how to celebrate their customers. Customers no longer feel like they are a number or a dollar amount on an accountant’s spreadsheet, but a living, breathing human being.
Celebrated consumers become brand evangelists and brand evangelists produce more consumers.
Celebration is the final step when a brand is willing to listen and engage. It’s the final strategy to humanizing your brand. Celebrating a consumer can be experienced in many different ways. For some brands they celebrate their customer with special access to clubs and memberships. While others celebrate with gifts and recognition. It’s all part of the strategy in bringing a human side to the brand.
Whatever method you choose, innovative ideas for celebrating customers are really just a few steps away for any creative marketing team. The bottom line is, are you involved with listening, engaging and celebrating your customer?
Those are my thoughts. How would you put a human face to a brand? What outposts would you recommend? How would you want a brand to engage with you? Do you think social media can play a positive role for brands in the midst of economic uncertainties?
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