Branding, like most would have you believe, is not a one-way street. You can’t simply tell a potential customer what your brand is all about and expect an immediate buy-in. It’s like a stranger asking you to trust him/her. It’s simply not going to work.
It’s in our human instinct to be wary when we meet unknown people. Until you build a relationship, that guard will always be on. This is the underlying reason why you’ve read articles that mention Branding is a relationship between you and the customer. They just didn’t explain the hunter-gatherer past we have.
Branding is a two-way street because you also have to adapt your brand to how your customers interact with it.
Understanding your perception and reality
Is what you perceive, reality? When we look at tangible things, let’s say an apple, you and probably anyone else will also see an apple. How about the intangible like services, or brands? Depending on your own predispositions and experience, each encounter is unique to you. Perception isn’t quite reality when it comes to more complex subjects.
So, what does your perception and reality have to do with branding? Everything. Seeing brands as a unique experience, what you as an employee or owner believes the brand represents is very different than that of a competitor and but most importantly the customer.
“Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you.” – Douglas Adams, Author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”
Since brands are seen differently by each individual, we define a brand as a lexicon of experiences that people have about it. In other words, the reality of your brand is dependent on your customers. If we rely on our customers to shape our brand, it doesn’t mean we leave branding to chance and hope they love our products and eventually our brand. The goal of branding is to help customers experience the brand the way you want them to.” We’re trying to make our perception their reality.
Here’s how you find the sweet spot between you and your customers,
Your starters guide to branding (B2B and B2C):
Let’s make things simple, if you take away one lesson from this article, find out why people like your brand and do more of it.
THE LONGER VESION:
If you’re reading this, chances are you really want to know more the world of branding. We’ve compiled the essentials that’s easy for you to kickstart branding.
1. Know your customer.
I wish it were true, but you should know by now that there’s no “one size fits all” strategy to marketing. You need to find commonalities among your customers, also known as customer segmentation.
Think about your customers as a packet of Skittles. The candies as a whole represent all your customers. The different candy colours are the similarities that your customers have in common. Your job is to discover those colours (similarities), group them, and create a more targeted experience towards the different group.
Look at your clientele and group them by industries. F&B, Engineering, Maritime, and so on. If you only serve one industry, then divide your clients by its industry-segments.
Start with broad segments if you’re new to this.
The petroleum industry can be divided in 5 ways. However, it’s broad segment includes, Crude Oil, Refining segments, and Distribution and Sales.
Depending on your trade, there are numerous ways to segment consumers in B2C. Let’s try to make things easy for you. Depending on the raw data you have, you can choose one of the common methods for consumer segmentation.
1. Demographic (Using age, income, occupation, marital status, and the like)
2. Geographic (Using location to segment)
3. Behavioural (Using user behaviour, like frequency of purchases)
4. Psychographic (Looks at consumer interests, and responsiveness to external influences)
Nowadays, most companies do a hybrid segmentation, such as psycho-demographic, to narrow down their target audiences.
If you don’t have any existing data, we suggest thinking along the lines of branding to gather them. Bring a new experience to them by doing a short survey to find out what they like about your brand, how they found you, and so on. Offer them a discount for their participation. That’s customer retention right there!
Since we know that brand perceptions are unique, most will but not all your customers will be an exact fit in a category. Just keep in mind of these nuances.
2. Find touchpoints that connect.
Touchpoints refer to areas where your brand and customers can interact. This can be brick-and-mortar stores, your website, and social media.
Your website and sales team are critical in branding. The website allows potential clients to get a feel for how your company conducts business. This happens during the first encounter when clients research on your company.
Further, since your brand is an experience. Your sales team needs to be at the top in delivering the best experience for your leads and clientele.
In the digital space, find out where your customers mention your brand, which platforms do they use. Social Monitoring tools are a great way to get insights on this. You can also use Google Analytics to discover how your potential customers found you online.
For physical stores, find out how your walk-ins found your store. Was it online through a search, or a coincidental pass by? Its small information like these that help your business discover your customers habits.
Once you know these touchpoints, you can then draft campaigns on those platforms that relate to your customer segmentation.
Keep in mind that if have customers worldwide, the way each platform is utilized by them can be different. For example, Facebook daily usage in Singapore is 64% while Japan is a low 15%. (Choudhary, 2015)
3. Manage your perceptions.
Lastly, as objectively as you can, are the claims about your product and service really true?
If you claim to have the best customer support, are your customers really happy with their service? You can’t bridge the gap between your brand perception and reality if you’re not even sure if your promises are kept. Don’t fall for confirmation bias, critique your claims. This bias refers to searching for information that confirms your beliefs.
Once you have determined the areas of your brand aren’t delivering, you can make the necessary changes. You’ll be happy you found them and your customers will thank you for it too. If you can manage your perceptions and have an objective evaluation of your services, you are already a huge step ahead of your competitors and towards branding.
Here’s a recap of what we’ve learnt;
- Great brands sell an experience, not a product.
- Your brand is a collection of experiences that your customers have with you.
- Find out why your customers like you and replicate it.
- Segment your customers to understand them better
- Discover touchpoints to feed messages directly to your target audiences
- Evaluate your brand’s performance, are you really delivering on your promises? If not, it’s time to fix them.