In this digital age in which we live, there are two things that are in short supply: personalization and trust.
For building product brands, the fact that they’re both in short supply presents an opportunity. These are two important human needs for which consumers are starving, and the brands that can offer them could have a distinct advantage over competitors that don’t.
Consumers are continually bombarded with automated messaging and advertising. Auto-generated emails, cookies, retargeted ads, algorithms. They’re all placing marketing messages in front of consumer eyeballs… with a decreasing amount of human involvement behind them.
These digital tools are simply a reality of today’s marketing world. The irony is that technology is making it easier and easier to engage customers on a personal level. Yet often, companies are too lazy to make those engagements truly personal and engender trust. If you want to stand out — you have to do a little bit extra — to connect with your audience.
Gather Data to Get Personal
The CRM tools available today make it easy to keep in contact with your customers and prospects at just about any scale. You can send them emails and messages with offers. To answer questions. And to keep them moving down the sales funnel.
But an overlooked capability of these tools is that they allow you to engage with customers on a personal level. To wish them a happy birthday or to do something else that lets them know you see them as a human being.
The hard part is gathering that information. It takes time and diligence.
The best way to accomplish this mission is to empower your sales and customer service teams… the people who interact with your customers (or other important audiences, like channel partners), to collect that information.
Consider a quick addition to the “script” those teams are currently using during their daily interactions. While engaging customers in conversation, your team subtly can ask about prospects’ birthdays, hobbies, interests… and even their kids.
Trade show conversations, sales calls, service calls. Think about every interaction with your target audiences as an opportunity to gradually learn more about your customers.
And input it into the database in your CRM.
Now that you have the information, the trick is to use it intimately. Don’t get lazy, as with the LinkedIn auto-generated messages.
Use your marketing automation software to create personal messages that are authentically “yours” to your customers. They might not be totally unique to each customer… but they’ll be unique to you. They’ll carry your voice. And they’ll reflect the nature of your relationship with your customer.
Use a Journalistic Approach to Build Trust
There was a time in this country when evening news was delivered with unassailable credibility, as millions turned to perfectly coiffed anchors to find out what was going on in the world. The ads that ran between the news reports — and those sprinkled throughout the programming — were also similarly trusted at first. But quickly lost their credibility as their claims rang hollow.
The rules are changing.
Today, audiences view the mass media with a skeptical eye and have turned to citizen journalists (bloggers) as well as influencers and their own peers as trusted sources of information.
Brands and advertisers lie somewhere in between. Corporations are still viewed with skepticism — to a very large degree — but knowing how well regulated the advertising industry is, consumers are inclined to trust advertisers at least to some degree (political ads the exception, of course).
The role of informing the public has shifted, at least in part, to brands. This is where the advertisers have an opportunity to gain consumers’ trust.
More and more companies are seeing the benefits of acting like media companies. They are producing content to inform, educate, inspire and even entertain prospective customers, whether they are homeowners or B2B trade customers.
Alternatively, they are working with bloggers, influencers and other independent content producers to help them connect with their customers.
In both cases, trust is the key currency. By focusing on delivering content that offers real value and that’s interesting to their audiences — and by working with influencers who do the same — brands can get and keep the trust of their audiences.
That means minimizing the sales-oriented content that traditionally has been used in advertising. In other words, employing a more journalistic approach.
This runs contrary to a lot of marketers’ thinking, as the desire is still to promote the features and benefits of a product through traditional advertising methods. There is still a time and place for that, yet by and large, people want to be informed. And perhaps even entertained.
But messaging that’s too high-pressure, too sales-oriented, and worst of all, deceptive… will result in the brands losing the trust of their audiences.
Today’s consumers are smarter and more savvy than ever. Given the history of advertising, it seems counter-intuitive that brands today have the opportunity to be more trusted than even the news media.
But that’s where we are, and that’s the opportunity that brands can seize.
To use the digital tools that are at their disposal to engage audiences on a personal level. And to offer high-value, journalistic content free from sales pitches and bias… designed to build trust.
Companies that can do either – or both – successfully, will be rewarded by increased loyalty.