Great brands don’t compete on price. Whether or not they are more expensive than their competition, people buy their products and services. Better yet, consumers make subsequent purchases of products and services from the brands they love and trust. If they can’t immediately afford them, they’ll save up or put it on credit. It’s really an amazing phenomena.
I help my clients shift from a reliance on price shoppers to a place where they acquire more loyal followers and brand champions. There are a few strategies of these brand transformations that I would like to share with you.
1. Be the Best
This is the hardest thing to do, so let’s get it out of the way. You’ll see as we progress that having the best product or service matters but it’s not a game breaker if you can accomplish the others on this list.
Apple was the best when they released the iPhone. They had no competition because they created something more spectacular than anything currently on the market. It had a real internet browser, GPS mapping, a music player and phone all rolled into one. No other cellular device boasted such a tool set. They literally cornered the market and could charge pretty much whatever they pleased. That’s a great place to be.
As copycats and further innovations from competitors came along their leg up diminished considerably, which is why relying solely on being the best is a dangerous game to play. You have to have a number of the intangibles that come next on this list.
2. Add Value
My car dealership gives free car washes. Yes, free. I couldn’t believe it when the salesperson mentioned it to me after I had purchased the car. My skepticism turned to endearment when the first time I pulled up to the dealership with a muddy, bug-ridden sedan fresh from a road trip from central Florida and found it was true. I handed the keys to their valet and 15 minutes later had a sparkling automobile pull back up.
This told me a couple things. Firstly, it wasn’t part of the pitch, it was simply a value added service which showed me they cared. Secondly, their brand association was so important to them that they would prefer to have their cars looking as good as the day you pulled them off the lot.
When my wife was ready for a new vehicle, where do you think we went to purchase it? Brands that add value retain customers and generate repeat sales.
I would be remiss to not mention that when I looked back at what I just wrote above I realized I said “my” when referring to that dealership. That’s how profound an impact something so thoughtful can make.
3. Give Something Away with Purchase
The make-up counters at Macy’s and the world’s department stores fill up on one or two special weekends each year. The ladies reading this already know I’m referring to the penultimate shopping event of the year: Gift. “We’re on gift,”those in the cosmetic industry say with a grin as they rake in the commissions.
If you’ve ever spoken to me about branding, you’ll know I’m strongly against coupons and discounts. I am, however, a big fan of “gift with purchase”.
It amazes me that a two-dollar lipstick and a couple other nickel and dime items stuffed in a nylon bag would create such a buzz, but it never fails. Consumers will buy that $40 skin cream they could have bought elsewhere for $20.
4. Share what you know
Consider sharing your knowledge in the form of a white paper, e-book or newsletter. You could also provide a seminar or workshop live or online. You have tips, tricks and ideas that will solve potential and existing client’s problems. When you solve someone’s problem, you create a life-long champion.
I know a CPA that hosted a seminar on the Affordable Healthcare Act for her clients. It’s a seemingly unrelated subject to what she does as a bookkeeper and accounting firm, but it worked incredibly. She brought in an expert who educated the audience on how this new system would work and how it would translate to their finances. After the seminar she received dozens of referrals from her clients that were eager to tell their colleagues and friends what a wonderful accountant they had who knew everything there was to know about this new frontier. She became someone they trusted even more. When people trust a brand, they convince their friends for you.
5. Follow Up
I’m a part of a business networking group here in Tampa that is a for-profit company. Each month they ask for my goals. Each month I get a postcard in the mail from them that re-iterate my goals. The first time I received that card I was floored. It showed that they were truly invested in my success, and that follow up made all the difference when it came time for me to consider which professional associations and groups I would invest my money (and more importantly, my time) the next year. Of course, they made the list. No, they weren’t the least expensive association in which to belong, but their follow up was unmatched and it made an impact in the way I viewed them. I also refer other business owners to this group and have become a champion for their brand.
6. Don’t Wait to Hear From them Reach Out
This tip will not only build brand champions, it will also alleviate a great number of customer service issues. Sales will come from this naturally if done sincerely, but will suffer if your messages are used solely as a sales tactic.
I switched to a new CRM for my business recently. A few days after registering my account, the software company emailed me some tutorials on how to better use the system. A few days after that, they emailed asking if I had any questions and where I should direct them. Every once in a while I’ll get emails on ways to better use their system, more tutorials that might be of help and new product offerings. Those initiatives let me know they are dedicated to my success and they also get me more plugged in. The better I know how to use the system, the more I use it and it becomes part of my routine. When I outgrow my level of subscription, I’ll be a lot less likely to shop around. I, like most, will stick with something I know how and/or have the support to use.
Reaching out can also prevent problems down the road. I have a client who regularly follows up with customer satisfaction surveys. On more than one occasion, they learned their customer was unhappy with the service. The customers had never made them aware, but had sworn to never buy from them again and to file a complaint. That all changed when they followed up. They were able to rectify the problems of the angry customers. They avoided a few BBB complaints that would have severely damaged the wonderful reputation they had built in the community. They turned those angry customers into happy ones because they took the time to reach out.
7. Provide a Useful Tool
This year we gave our clients a calendar of all the major events and holidays in 2014. We received a barrage of emails thanking us for it. Not only does it help our clients plan their events and marketing efforts, they think of us when they do!
Ikea provides a paper measuring tape when you shop at their store. I’ve seen realtors provide a mortgage calculator on their site. These are all great tools that customers appreciate and return to use, and it keeps you at the top of mind.
8. Give thoughtful presents to your best clients
My financial advisor gave me a nice pen one Christmas. Naturally, I started thinking of him every time I used it. Consequently, I made a lot of stock purchases that earned him commissions. I used him, even though I could have used a service like E-Trade for about a quarter of the price. That pen just endeared him to me. I wasn’t shopping on price anymore, I was doing business with someone who cared.
9. Anticipate their needs
Great brands create desire by anticipating a need in the marketplace or in the eyes of their client. Most things we consider innovations started as anticipations. Tablets, remote ignitions, magic erasers and most every innovative product we use today started as an anticipation.
An insurance rep I know reached out to me when he learned I was going to have a child. He anticipated I would have health insurance needs, life insurance needs, and more. Months after my son was born, he again rightly anticipated I would be thinking of beginning a college savings fund and presented me a unique insurance product I could use as a tax free savings fund. He got my business, and my respect because he simply anticipated my needs.
10. Offer a Rewards System
This is something nearly every major retailer practices. Simply put, if I buy 5 ice cream cones from you and get my 6th free, I’ll probably get my ice cream fix from your shop rather than the guy down the street, regardless if his ice cream is cheaper. There’s a reason they are called customer loyalty programs.
11. Help Them and They’ll Turn To You
I knew a manager of a business who was laid off. I knew they were great at what they did and it was an unfair decision. When I heard what happened I called their personal cell to express my sympathy and vowed to keep my eyes open for any positions that would be a good fit for them. About six months later an opportunity came available that I knew they would be perfect for. I put that person in touch and they were hired a couple weeks later. I built a brand champion for life that day, and won a large new account where they are now employed. I didn’t do it for that reason, but it exemplifies my point.
12. Connect them
You’ve got a contact sphere, use it to your advantage. Last year one of my Golf & Country Club clients was in need. They were doing a fundraising tournament but lacked a good way to promote the event in the community. They were also frustrated with the charity they had donated the proceeds to the prior year because they never showed up to support the event or even receive the check! I told them I would help, but I didn’t have an answer at that moment.
When I got back to my office I was brainstorming ways to promote the event when I realized I was sitting on it the whole time. I had recently begun doing some design work for a non-profit who had some high profile celebrity connections. They could use the money, and the club could use the exposure. It was a perfect match, and I was able to endear myself to both companies because I simply put them in touch.
When you can connect your client to something they need or find them more business, you are much more than a vendor, you’re a partner. Vendors come and go, but partners are life-long relationships.