Conventional wisdom says that if you put your customers front and center, they’ll stick with you no matter what. But it’s not as simple as that. You have to give them a reason to stay. The best way to accomplish this is by building brand affinity with your customers.
Brand loyalty is something many companies strive to cultivate with customers. But what if you could take the concept of brand loyalty one step further?
Connecting deeply with your customers on an emotional level can build a long and healthy relationship that’s not only essential to growing sales, but also influences how people speak about your business to others.
Brand affinity involves looking at the customer as an individual, determining how closely connected you are to them, and figuring out how to further cement that connection to secure their steadfast allegiance.
Customers become advocates for a business when they feel connected to its purpose and personality. Defining what you stand for as a company can help cultivate a long-lasting affinity for your brand.
WHAT IS BRAND AFFINITY?
Brand affinity is the most enduring and valuable level of a relationship between a business and its customers. It’s based on the mutual belief that the customer and the company share common values. When businesses are able to form this kind of deep emotional connection with their customers, there’s nothing better than that!
Every buying decision a customer makes is based on a mixture of emotional, rational, and behavioral factors. When a customer feels an affinity toward a brand, the emotional aspect is likely to play the dominant role in their decision.
Consumers demonstrate their affinity in a number of ways, including: the likelihood that they’ll stick with the brand over time; the high probability that they’ll purchase the brand when free to choose among others; the good chance they’ll refer others to the brand; and the tendency to describe high levels of overall satisfaction with regard to the brand.
BRANDING TERMINOLOGY: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
You may hear marketers like us kicking around a number of different words to describe the brand-building process. Between brand awareness, brand loyalty, brand equity, and now brand affinity, it can be difficult to determine the difference. Let’s take a closer look at each.
This is, quite simply, the extent to which consumers are aware of your existence; or, more specifically, how familiar they are with your brand. Being the first brand name that pops into someone’s head when they’re asked about a particular product is a clear indicator of strong brand awareness. When a consumer is aware of your brand, they may buy it or they may not – but at least they know it exists.
A customer might be loyal to a brand for any number of reasons. It’s possible that they appreciate the quality of the product or the value it adds to their lives. Perhaps they’re motivated by compelling, or maybe they just buy it out of habit because they always have before. With brand loyalty, a customer may prefer your brand and generally choose it over others; but this a purely rational decision on the part of the buyer and doesn’t necessarily indicate a strong personal connection between the customer and the brand.
Brand equity is the overall added value that a brand bestows upon a product or service. Based on awareness, perceived quality, associations, and loyalty, brand equity is how a brand justifies the value it’s seeking to get in the market. Companies with a high level of brand equity can set higher price points for their products, knowing that most consumers will be willing to pay.
This factor is measured at the individual customer level. Customers with brand affinity don’t just like your brand – they love it! They don’t just buy your products – they tell others about your brand and encourage them to buy your products as well. Creating brand affinity with consumers is the pinnacle of any brand-customer relationship.
THE BENEFITS OF BRAND AFFINITY
From promoting trust to building stronger relationships, brand affinity comes with a variety of unbeatable benefits:
- Minimizes the Competition: Customers who are emotionally connected to your brand are far less likely to run to your competitors the first chance they get. In fact, customers with a high level of affinity tend to buy more in general, shop with you more often, and complain less about inevitable price increases.
- Helps Build Relationships: People would much rather do business with a brand that’s not afraid to get personal with customers. Humanizing your business can go a long way toward building relationships with your customers.
- Develops Brand Personality: If your brand was a person, what would they be like? What would their goals be? Once you’ve nailed down your brand’s personality, you can use it to better target your ideal audience.
- Creates Trust: In business, as in life, trust is the foundation of any solid relationship. Customers are more willing to trust a brand if they know it treats its customers and employees well. Communicate the things that you do well, as a brand, to take care of your clients and your workers. Being open and straightforward with customers – especially when something goes wrong – can also improve a client’s impression of your company.
- Improves Satisfaction Levels: When people like what you do, they’ll want to shout about it. If they also have a strong emotional connection to your brand, they’ll want to shout about it even louder. The more that potential customers hear about how satisfied your clients are, the more they’ll come to realize that you’re a brand worth doing business with.
- Boosts Your Bottom Line: Perhaps the biggest benefit of brand affinity is that it can convert “regular” customers into brand ambassadors for your business. When these brand advocates share their positive opinions about you to others in their social networks, it’s likely that you’ll receive an increase in word-of-mouth referrals – which can turn into more leads, which can translate into greater sales.
HOW TO BUILD BRAND AFFINITY WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS
Brand affinity isn’t something that you can force or manufacture – it must evolve naturally between you and your customers. However, if you are willing to invest some time and resources into cultivating this level of connection with your customers, the payoff can be huge.
Here are 11 tips to get you started:
1) Improve Your Customer Service
Determine what your customer base values in terms of customer service, then do everything you can to meet and exceed their expectations. Once customers have come to identify your brand with excellent and responsive service, you’ve created a way to set yourself apart from your competitors. Ongoing positive customer experiences help build strong, rewarding relationships with your customer base.
2) Encourage Customer Engagement
Give customers motivation to keep coming back to your brand and interacting with it. Encourage comment engagement on all of your social media posts. This gives your audience a forum to interact with each other as well as with your brand. Try to determine the ideal platform for reaching your specific customers and consistently post content that followers will be excited to engage with. Photos, images, and videos get a higher number of likes and comments as compared to text-only posts, so keep this in mind.
3) Keep Your Customers in the Loop
Be sure to keep your audience up to date with new announcements and features. Whether you’re launching a new product, going through organizational changes, or giving your website a facelift, make sure you let customers know what’s going on. Being transparent with your objectives and taking the time to communicate with customers can help build trust and organically boost affinity for your brand.
4) Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Engage with your followers on social media by replying to messages, commenting on posts, and participating in groups and communities. Interacting with customers on a personal level increases brand awareness and develops trust in your company. Establishing strong connections with your audience boosts the likelihood that they’ll share your content and spread the word about your brand in a positive way.
Monitor and listen to online communities to find out what people are saying about your brand. Spend some time talking to people and reading comments online. Try to figure out what motivates consumers to buy or not buy from certain brands.
5) Connect with Your Audience Using Targeted Messages
Remind your customers on a regular basis that you’re there for them, to alleviate their pain points and address any specific concerns they might have. Reinforcement helps customers continually associate you with the value they originally experienced with your brand.
Track and study how your customers interact with your products, services, and website in order to figure out what interests them. This will allow you to build messages that are customized just for them, which demonstrates that you’re more genuinely interested in your customers as people, not just as potential sales.
Email marketing is a great way to stay in constant contact with your audiences. Whether you’re sending out promotional emails about upcoming sales or conveying important information, keeping an open line of communication with customers is key. This will help keep your business at the forefront of their minds, while reminding them why they chose you in the first place.
6) Create a Seamless Customer Experience
Customers don’t like it when you make them work in order to contact you or to purchase from your store. A previous stressful experience with your business will linger in the back of customers’ minds and make them hesitant about doing business with you again.
Whether you set up a 1-800 number that connects customers to a live service rep or design a website that’s easy to navigate – if buyers can purchase what they need without any issues or significant delays, they’re likely to think more highly of your company when considering your products and services in the future. Make it a point to regularly review your customer’s journey so you can continue to find ways to make their interactions with your business smoother and simpler.
7) Use Affinity Tools to Analyze Your Customers
You can’t be everything to everyone, so don’t waste your time trying. When companies try to appeal to everyone, they often lose the unique, emotional connection upon which brand affinity is built. A number of online tools are available which you can use to help home in on your target audience.
Google Analytics offers a wide range of audience demographics including age, gender, location, and browsing behaviors. Its “Affinity” category helps inform you what type of lifestyle choices your website’s visitors make. For each “Affinity” category, you’ll also be able to see data related to website visits, new visits, bounce rates, pages per visit, and visit duration. For websites that are set up for ecommerce, Google Analytics displays data detailing transaction, revenue, and conversion rate information for each “Affinity” category.
8) Offer a Personalized Experience for Customers
Personalizing their experience makes each of your customers feel that they’re valued. One way to do this by allowing customers to create a profile on your company’s website. Set up form fields that specifically focus on which aspects of a user’s profile will help create the most personalized shopping experience. Offer customers some type of reward around their birthdays. Consider offering a one-time discount that customers can use on their birthday month – instead of just on their actual birthday – to make this reward experience easier to redeem.
9) Implement a Loyalty Program
Setting up a points-based reward program allows your customers to earn points by making purchases with your business. After earning a predetermined number of points or spending a certain amount of money, members receive a reward. In many cases, these types of rewards come in the form of discounts toward future purchases.
Tier-based rewards, by comparison, are based on how much a customer spends with your company within a set amount of time, typically within a year. Higher tiers unlock greater rewards – these might come in the form of deeper discounts or access to exclusive sales.
10) Understand Your Brand Associations
Social intelligence will provide you with knowledge on how consumers currently view your brand personality and the brand associations they make. Create a search for all “mentions” of your brand. Take a look at topic clouds in order to identify common themes when people talk about your brand. If there are specific qualities that you wish to be associated with your brand, search for those words within all the mentions of your brand. Conduct a comparative study to see how you stack up against your competitors.
11) Be “On-Message”
When you have identified your targeted audience and come to an understanding of how customers associate your brand, you can better determine how closely your perceived image aligns with the reality of your audience. Work on highlighting the areas that fit the message you wish to convey.
Make sure your brand stands for something, and that it’s a well-defined “something.” If you communicate that message effectively, you’ll soon have customers buying into your brand values.
Building brand affinity is one of the most effective ways to nurture both short-term and long-term growth. But it isn’t something that happens overnight. Like any other relationship, one between a customer and a company takes time to grow, mature, and strengthen. But by integrating these approaches into your business, you can secure a more successful relationship with your customers today – and enhance and expand that partnership tomorrow.
At HighClick Media, our marketing experts are ready, willing, and able to assist you with all of your branding needs. We dive deep with you to answer the questions that matter most to your audience. What makes your company different? What competitive edge makes you worth someone’s time, energy, and money?
A strong brand identity will stick with your customers. We help you create a corporate identity that will build trust and resonate with people. From your tagline to your brand persona, we’ll help you find your brand voice.
Call us today at 252.814.2150 to find out how we can help your business connect with your target audience like never before!