_let your customers help build your brand
How do your customers perceive your business?
Chances are, they associate specific attributes as well as emotions with their experience as your customers.
Those perceptions form a brand identity in the mind of each customer. Without a clear brand message, your customers – and others – make their own assumptions about who you are, what you offer and what your business represents. For your business to thrive, your customers, prospects, employees and the community must associate positive and unique value with your business.
You have the ability to influence how your company is perceived within your target market. And your customers can make the best allies to help build a distinctive brand identity for your business.
Following are five ways your customers can help build your brand:
1. Ask customers what they think about your business.
Customers who have already interacted with you or your employees and used your products or services can provide valuable insight into what your company does best and where it falls short. Survey or interview as many customers as possible and ask them what value you provide and what you do better than your competitors. Analyze both compliments and complaints for indicators of what customers are looking for. This research will point the way to the strongest attributes that your target market considers both unique to your business – and relevant to the need of your target market.
Once you have determined the unique value attributes that you want associated with your business, consistent presentation in words and visuals is key. Ask customers to give feedback on your logo, marketing materials and other aspects of your business. Use the feedback to revamp or create a logo and marketing materials that effectively communicate your brand message.
2. Remind customers about the unique value your business provides.
Every interaction with current or past customers provides an opportunity to reinforce your brand attributes and positive associations.
3. Quote your customers' positive words.
Endorsements are one of the most powerful marketing tools for any business. And words of praise from satisfied customers are yours for the asking. Collect feedback from your customers regularly and intentionally with customer-feedback forms, post-service follow-up surveys and direct requests for testimonials. The key is to ask for specific comments about the value the customer receives from your product, service, business environment and so on.
You can even ask them to comment on the brand attributes you want to reinforce. Use customers' own words as testimonials in your marketing materials whenever possible. Ask for permission if you would like to use their name and other personal information, such as their workplace or business.
4. Enlist customers as your ambassadors.
Happy customers make the best salespersons for any business. Even so, most businesses don't even ask customers for referrals to other potential buyers. Give your company an advantage by enlisting your customers as a source of leads.
Ask for referrals soon after you’ve delivered your product or service and at other opportune times, such as on the anniversary of service or during a special promotion. Contact customers via e-mail or letter with a request for a referral to a friend or colleague they think would appreciate the value your brand provides.
5. Reward customers for their loyalty.
One sure way to reinforce positive feelings for your company is to give your customers special treatment. Your brand marketing plan should include ways to show your customers that you appreciate their business, feedback, testimonials and referrals.
If your customers look to your company to help them get value for their money, give them special saving offers, such as extra discounts or a free service. Find ways to thank your clients face-to-face if possible. Meet with your most important clients for breakfast or dinner or host exclusive customer events.
Or, say thank you with a gift. Flowers, plants, gourmet foods, candies, gift baskets and other unique gifts can be personalized and delivered to customers around the world.
Include your customers as a key part of your brand-building strategy and they can help you establish a strong identity for your business in the market you want to serve. As your business expands, having a defined brand will allow you to move more easily into new markets. Building a brand takes time and commitment, but it’s worth the payoff – more and more satisfied customers.