As parts of the companies and teams we work in, there will always have been the minute when we think about the brand itself – if our efforts, as marketers, support reps, developers, salespeople, is in any way contributing to the brand itself, and if it is, how are we shaping what our brand will stand for? What will it be its lasting impression?
The brand is what the customer thinks it is. It isn’t the million dollar super-bowl advertisement, or endorsements by that gorgeous model. In fact, a brand is only what the customer says it stands for, nothing more and nothing less. And that is why every customer-company interaction, every point of contact, is a chance for the brand to iterate what it wants to mean, and communicate what it doesn’t.
Think about that a minute. Did I just say ‘every customer-company interaction’? Surely your brand equity can’t depend on such minute trivialities. Can it?
The Cost of Every Single Interaction
An engaged customer who is happy with your brand will tell three of her buddies. An enraged customer with a bad experience will convince her six buddies, her beautician, four others in the super market trotting their cart in the next aisle, and three very angry young men at the bar never to do business with you. Ever. That’s a difference between winning 4 customers who are madly in love with you, and losing 15, who are never coming back. And that’s where brands are built and demolished.
But even if every single customer interaction is important, is it really possible to get a perfect 10 consistently across all communications?
The truth is.. No. Not if you want to do it all by yourself, instead of calling on your greatest marketers and salesmen for help – your loyal customers!
This is where the community steps in. As you build your brand and keep delivering great support, you create a group of customers who actually become more like a part of your business. They trust you, and you deliver.
But what if they knew each other well? What if you could give them a platform to come together to share a drink, play a game of darts and talk about how you’ve changed each of their lives in a unique way?
Well, this community is where your brand equity resides. These customers hold the key to what your brand will mean to everyone else, even the world. And this is why you should be focussing not just on building the community, but letting the community build itself too. Facilitate conversations, give them the platform to engage and show them that you’d love to participate.
What you should do right now
1. If you don’t have one, set up a community forum for your customers
2. Tell them, and if necessary, tell them repeatedly, that there’s this forum for them
3. Ask some of your influential customers to start posting and encourage conversations
4. Always engage in the dialogue & answer questions directed at the company
Better late than never, right? Get started on your community building initiative right now.