Moreover, people want to connect with other humans. Not faceless brands.
The problem with traditional marketing is that to date, it has been predominantly one-directional. Not surprising then, that customers, and audiences in general, have been labelled ‘consumers’ – constantly on the receiving end of a brand’s message. But we are now in a new age of marketing and customer communication that relies heavily on the experience and relationship brands cultivate with people.
The way forward for brands is to join the conversation by listening and responding to customers in a way that’s inherently human. Being a conversational brand produces insights that are far more meaningful than any click, like, share or impression can articulate.
So how do brands develop a human side, enter the conversation and improve the customer experience? Here are five keys to success:
1. Determine Your Brand Voice
Not paying enough attention to your brand voice is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Establishing a voice that stands out is about getting back to what makes you, you. Refer back to your brand positioning statement or mission for this. Ask yourself what separates you from the field and makes you special, what’s your company culture like, what’s different about your product or service?
Translate those answers into a style, write it down and be meticulous about applying it to every piece of content and customer interaction. Your unique voice should be ubiquitous across the omnichannel customer service experience – from your website to your call center
2. Find the Conversation
If you want to join the conversation as a brand you first must know where the conversation is happening. And by this I mean looking at how your customers are talking to each other.
Chances are you’re a few steps behind.
Analyze current trends and assess how your communication strategies match-up. If they’re not aligned (eg. if you’re relying on email when your customers are on messaging apps) then it’s time to change your approach.
This shift in communication is already evident. Over the past 6 months there’s been much discussion around brands entering the mobile chat space. This is largely because messaging apps recently surpassed social apps with the most monthly active users. The message for brands is clear: your customers are on mobile chat apps, so you need to be, too.
3. Don’t Fear the Emoji
Emotion is twice as powerful than promotion as a marketing driver. This is hardly surprising; who likes doing business with a robot? Or being sold to for that matter? People yearn for that connection and emotion plays a huge role in that. So in order to be relatable as a brand, it’s important to convey emotion whenever possible.
This may be as simple and subtle as using casual language on social media, or referencing pop culture trends to interact with new audiences. Alternatively, the emotional side of your brand may boil down to using emojis in your external marketing.
Don’t shy away from emojis for fear of being unprofessional. A conversational brand boils down to being acutely aware of how your audience is talking to each other. If you’re not convinced emojis are now a standardized form of expression, then consider the fact that the use of the word ‘emoji’ more than tripled in 2015. Emojis effectively convey emotion on digital platforms in a way that words cannot and can be a powerful tool to build meaningful relationships with customers.
4. Mobile-first, above all else
Points two and three won’t amount to much unless your conversational approach begins with a mobile-first strategy. Smartphone use is ubiquitous. These devices connect us to nearly everything we do in life and enable ongoing, continuous communication. Any marketing involved in a conversational strategy must support mobile first. Afterall, that’s how your customers are talking.
5. Be bold, own your faults
Being conversational means changing more than just what you say and how you say it. Ultimately, you must strive to becoming relatable, approachable, and ‘human’. One way to do this is to really own your mistakes and pitfalls. As humans we all have bad days, however, a true testament to a brand’s ability to connect with customers is to take responsibility and move forward. Showing this vulnerability as a brand is scary, but it will open you up to more opportunities to connect with people because you reveal a sense of honesty that is compelling.
A recent example of this in action was in November last year when messaging app Slack, was having technical difficulties. A relentless tirade of memes and complaints ensued on social media and it didn’t look good for the billion-dollar startup known as the ‘email killer’. But instead of shying away from their problems, Slack took responsibility, repeatedly apologized to 1000s of individuals for any inconvenience and came out on top at the end of the day. Slack users recognized that there were actual people behind the company’s communication channels. This allowed Slack to show a truly human element of their brand that helped them relate to their customers. By using this technical glitch as an opportunity to engage fans in conversation, Slack effectively kept its reputation in tact, and potentially improved it.
To build meaningful relationships with customers you first have to communicate on their level. Being a conversational brand takes time to develop and is even harder to maintain as you must meaningfully interact with customers on a daily basis. However, free-flowing conversation is your best bet to enjoy quality customer relationships and deliver delightful customer experiences for longer periods of time.
Originally published in Business2Community.