by Christena Garduno, chief executive officer of Media Culture
Growing customer loyalty is more important than ever these days. Consumers are feeling twice as pessimistic about the economy, and they are being extremely careful when making decisions to spend their money. For this reason, it is vital that brands do everything they can to stand out from the competition. Proving to consumers that they can trust your brand is a solid way to remain a top choice for your target audience, as brand trust is an essential factor in consumer decision-making. If trust is lost, customers are less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt and more likely to be critical — and in our digital world, a critical perspective can be shared wide and far with just a few clicks.
Consumer expectations are also rapidly changing, which means keeping a finger on the pulse of those expectations is vital to building a positive brand reputation, growing customer satisfaction and driving loyalty.
Building a Positive Brand Reputation
A solid brand stays true to its identity. During periods of rapid growth, it can be hard to keep a brand consistent, but even when adapting to change… the main focus should always be on the brand’s core values. Commitment to your brand’s mission and values will help control consumers’ perception of your company across all channels, including product branding. Whether it’s your website, advertisements, marketing materials or social media platforms — all channels should offer a unified look and voice. Brands that stay true to their identity foster stronger customer relationships and ultimately drive consistent long-term sales.
Another way to elevate your brand reputation is through thought leadership. Thought leadership opportunities provide access to educate existing and new customers by sharing information on different outlets that is relevant to their interests and unique to your brand. Thought leadership content can live permanently on your website and can also be leveraged in your email marketing, lead generation campaigns or throughout other parts of your customer’s journey. When considering thought leadership opportunities, remember that your unique insights are not limited to your products or services. Company values, growth strategies and more can all be leveraged to create impactful thought leadership. As an added bonus, off-site thought leadership content that includes backlinks to your website also improves your overall SEO ranking potential.
For a brand to be authentic and effective externally, it must also be authentic and effective internally. Leaders must bring the brand’s promise to life internally through their company values and then create the alignment needed to effectively manage external promises as well. When brands create a culture where living the values is part of the job, employees will become their greatest advocates. Customer experiences will also improve when they witness your employees living your culture, as those customers will become great advocates for your brand as well.
Keys to Earning Trust and Growing Customer Loyalty
To encourage consumers to commit to your product or service, your brand must be worthy of trust. When customers do not trust a brand, they will start looking for other brands that demonstrate the authenticity they are seeking. To gain the trust of consumers brands must be transparent, open and honest with them. Creating ways to engage with your customers is a great way to show full transparency. For example, invite customers and followers along for an exclusive virtual tour via your social media platforms or invite them to shadow your company’s CEO for a “day in the life”.
Consistency is another key to growing customer loyalty. Consumer confidence increases when consistent results are produced, therefore it is critical to ensure that customers recognize the delivery of the promises your brand is making. This requires proactively shaping your key messages and communications throughout the customer journey. Never promise what you can’t deliver.
To grow the trust and loyalty of both new and existing customers, the goal should be to provide the best possible experience from the moment they first land on your website or enter your place of business, to after their purchase has been made. While some capture brand intent in their advertising, many ignore it in delivering customer service — and helping customers step by step along their journey shows them that you truly care about them. Sharing case studies is an effective way to gain consumer trust as they highlight how your brand has helped others succeed or solve a problem.
At the end of the day, building customer trust is relationship building. The same as any relationship, it takes time and effort to first establish trust. Once that trust is established, brands must make an ongoing commitment to invest in their customers. In doing so, brands are sure to see more loyal fans and a boost in sales!
Christena Garduno is chief executive officer of Media Culture, a multichannel brand response media agency that drives growth for global clients with innovative and performance-driven media campaigns. She is a member of Forbes Agency Council and the recipient of an Echo Award for her work with Turbo Tax.