Founder, CEO of Vesta, an all-in-one community platform to nurture consumer relationships, mobilize advocates, and drive emotional loyalty.
Almost every brand manager I meet faces the same dilemma: balancing the need for bold investments that impact a brand’s long-term trajectory with the need for short-term strategies that deliver wins today. This is prevalent today more than ever.
Ongoing digital advancements in today’s world have made our need for instant gratification even worse. In the past two years, marketers have had to pivot, adjust constantly and address challenges never before faced. Yet, as we head into a post-Covid world, the pressure to deliver long-term brand-building plans and conversion-obsessed acquisition tactics has increased.
With the onslaught of technology available to brands today, a marketer’s north star should be to achieve an integrated marketing stack that doesn’t force them into a corner. Marketers shouldn’t choose between short-term acquisition and long-term growth and brand equity.
One of the linchpins to achieving this is investing in solid consumer relationships and retention strategies. If every marketer is on a hero’s journey, you are Luke Skywalker and your consumers are The Force. The relationship with your consumers is the energy that binds all your marketing together.
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Here are three reasons why it’s important to invest in consumer relationships, and how doing so can deliver for your brand.
Strong consumer relationships can spark social advocacy and new customer acquisition.
With cookie depreciation, walled-garden social media sites and a heightened focus on privacy and data collection, overall acquisition costs have steadily increased for B2C and B2B brands. Word-of-mouth promotion is still the most trusted of all marketing: According to BrightLocal survey, “77% of consumers ‘always’ or ‘regularly’ read online reviews when browsing for local businesses.”
Marketers must have a dedicated pipeline that delivers recent reviews and user-generated content. While soliciting social media influencers has been a go-to tactic for several years, in the end, consumers still crave the authentic content of their fellow digital neighbors. Now is the time to use your best customers to find your next customers. And in some cases, the groundswell created by consumer relationships is the foundation of a brand’s origin story.
For example, when you look at a company like Glossier, its community of passionate followers was a crucial part of the development of the entire business. Emily Weiss, the founder of the brand, started a blog about beauty and skin care tips with no intention of building a business. However, once her blog gained more than 15,000 followers, she leveraged the opportunity to launch a product line and become a thriving retailer. Glossier has been widely trumpeted as one of the biggest breakthrough successes of the direct-to-consumer model. The brand’s latest series of funding included a $1.8 billion valuation.
Investing in consumer relationships can increase customer lifetime value (CLV) with emotional loyalty.
Research consistently shows that emotional connection is one of the most significant factors in retaining customers long-term when it comes to brand loyalty. On a lifetime value basis, Harvard Business Review found that emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers.
But how does a brand create an emotional connection when it’s hard enough to get an existing customer to open an email or participate in a loyalty program? Investing in consumer relationships in 2022 and beyond requires more than transactional offerings. It requires personalized, value-based engagement and offers a sense of belonging and community.
A brand’s digital presence comes alive when it can connect data to the larger picture and entice consumers to be a part of something they believe in. Marketers who invigorate loyal customer communities and encourage social interaction will drive emotional loyalty.
Dove’s Self-Esteem Project serves as a great example of delivering value-based marketing on topics beyond the baseline product. In 2021, Dove released its “The Selfie Talk” campaign (including reverse selfie videos like this one) to highlight how self-esteem is affected by editing apps. Research revealed that “85% of girls were using retouching apps and image ‘filters’ by the age of 13.” As a result, Dove created free Confidence Kits and has a goal of boosting the self-esteem of 250 million young people worldwide.
When you invest in building consumer relationships, you can find out what is essential to your audience, and it can be a powerful trigger for larger connections.
Valuable consumer relationships can drive new innovation for long-term brand resilience.
Your existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and services from your company, and 75% say if a brand asked them for feedback on future products or ideas, they’d be more inclined to purchase from that brand.
Building a channel for always-on feedback protects your brand from getting left behind among rapidly changing trends and shifting customer expectations. It is also a place to gather new ideas and anticipate trends before they become mainstream.
At the height of the pandemic, eyewear brand Zenni Optical turned to customer feedback to drive brand innovation and capture market needs at the moment. When they discovered the challenges of fogged eyeglasses and obstructed vision induced by face coverings, they could speed the launch of anti-fog lenses. Additionally, they could release their blue-light-blocking eyeglasses to combat the increased screen time. These customer-inspired innovation ideas helped Zenni surpass its sales projections by 45%.
One of the best ways to build a strong consumer relationship strategy is to cultivate a dedicated home for consumers in your brand’s digital ecosystem. This can be through your brand website, an online brand community or even a loyalty program. There are advantages and disadvantages to each channel, but combined with the right technology, developing a mutually beneficial relationship with consumers can serve both short-term problems of today and long-term plans for tomorrow.
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Author: Susan Frech, Forbes Councils Member