One of the things that I like most about our business is that it’s never stagnant. Change is part of the “norm.” It makes the environment both challenging and exciting. Our goal, as marketers, is to understand and provide solutions to those dynamic shifts in our industry, so our clients remain relevant and front of mind with their customers.
A current hot topic being discussed among marketers today is the question of whether branding is still relevant in the digital world we live in. The answer, I believe, is that brands and branding continues to be extremely important, but the expectations for brands and how we engage with them have indeed changed.
Customers today want to connect with trusted brands that align with shared values and goals. Customers are looking for extras in the form of personal experiences, social causes and more. So brands that wish to compete need to respond to those trends.
In the business-to-business space, branding can feel “soft.” But the truth is, the digital world has made us all more consumer-like, regardless of the business we are in. We have expectations that have been set by digital experiences, and we anticipate those expectations will be met whether it’s on the retail side or the B2B side of the equation.
I recently read an article by Sammy Blindell and particularly liked a couple of her key points that lead to good brand health and positive return on the marketing investment:
Maintain a conversation with your customer:
Remember the days when consumers received branding and marketing messages, then made their purchasing decisions without ever interacting with brands? Those days are gone. Don't just sell; serve first. Don't just speak; listen, too. Don't just publish messages; receive them, as well.
Customers are relating to your product as a “tribe”:
In particular, those built on social media. Social media is growing more and more interactive every day, and its users want to be heard and to participate, rather than simply receive messages. These types of scenarios work best when everyone has significant influence and the opinions of all members matter.
Purpose – Why you exist beyond making money:
The people of your target audience don’t simply want to find the best product or service for their needs. They want to know why you're offering that product, what cause(s) you're supporting and how the funds they spend with you will be spent or invested. This trend is a hybrid, born of a genuine concern for the state of the world, as well as a need for new criteria in the decision-making process.
Due in large part to technology, today's consumer has come to expect an experience with every purchase—not just a product. That experience can be anything from a Live Facebook video where interactions happen in real time to an exciting, one-of-a-kind personal encounter with something adventurous, unique or unexpected that is tied to the brand.
I would add a couple more to the list that I believe are critically important to attracting and keeping customers in 2018.
An attitude of helpfulness:
The world has become more complicated, not less. As customers navigate all the resources at their disposal, making it quick and easy for them to get the answers they need will help build affinity and repeat business.
True transparency and efficacy:
There’s a lot of mistrust in the world right now, so being transparent and true to your world will go a long way with customers.
In the classic sales cycle model, what still holds true is that you have to create awareness and some affinity before you can hook someone into the consideration and buying funnel.
However, where and how you get them there has a new set of rules. Which is why establishing customer engagement through branding is more important than ever.