A study done by the International Practitioners in Advertising took a close look at 1400 case studies of marketing campaigns. They concluded that campaigns that used emotion performed better than those that took a rational approach. Clearly, customers respond well when they are able to connect emotionally with brands.
The challenge many brands face is successfully creating these emotional connections, and not just in their campaigns. Yes, emotional connections are a powerful thing, but only when they work. When customers detect insincerity, or efforts just miss the mark, things can go badly. When customers sense that a brand is faking it, it’s repelling to them.
The key is forging genuine, lasting emotional connections with your customers. These connections can make a huge difference when it comes to earning repeat business, creating loyal customers, and maintaining your audience even when competition is intense. Here are five tips for ensuring that happens.
1. Show respect and concern for the needs of all customers
How do you connect with all of your audience, when your audience is diverse? What do you do when something that connects with one customer persona is meaningless to another? These divides aren’t just demographic in nature either. Connecting with a potential customer is much different from with an established customer. The same applies when dealing with an unhappy customer vs. one that has had good experiences with your audience. Your focus must be on pleasing customers in all phases of the buyer journey.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure that your efforts work for all of your customers:
- Use customer journey mapping to identify places where you can best make emotional connections. Look for points of friction and frustration as well as places to provide more personalized service.
- Create content that addresses customers in all stages of the sales funnel.
- Don’t pander to one audience group at the expense of another. Avoid generational slams, for example or pandering to divisive issues
- Focus on unifying and positive messages
- Deliver great experiences by communicating with empathy
- Be careful with nostalgia based marketing if you have a diverse customer base
- Respect culture and background. Be inclusive and respectful in your marketing.
- Speak to customers in a conversational tone without pandering.
- Identify common values, goals, and concerns.
2. Get buy-in from customer-facing employees
Making emotional connections goes beyond your content marketing efforts. In order to connect genuinely with your target audience, the brand personality and care you present in your ads and online content must continue through the entire customer experience. There are some additional challenges here if your business crosses cultural or international lines. If you cultivate a warm and caring presence online, but your customers experience something entirely different in store, or when dealing with customer support, that’s a problem.
Creating emotional connections with your customers isn’t just a marketing effort. It cannot only be something that is done online or through your advertising.
Customer facing employees must understand your goals, and they must believe in your goals enough that they carry your messaging sincerely when they interact with your customers. Here are some things to cover:
Reflecting the company’s branding personality
Branding often means developing a personality. One example of this is Southwest Airlines. They offer relatively low airfare, and have special offers quite frequently. As a result, they tend to appeal to a younger demographic. In addition to this, their branding is quite casual, even a bit irreverent.
Southwest Airline flight attendants duplicate this fun and often funny approach in their interactions with customers. They joke with passengers, deliver flight instructions in creative ways, and generally keep things casual and lighthearted.
Does this company care about me? Do they value me as a customer and human being? For many, the answers to these questions are more of a driver behind customer loyalty than price or product selection. By showing sincere empathy and concern, your customer facing employees help to form and solidify important emotional connections. Customer service scripts can help by providing agents with a helpful framework. However, many organizations find that giving agents and employees more autonomy in engaging with customers is actually more effective.
Know the customer
The bank teller who calls you by name the minute you walk inside, the server who knows your order before you place it, the hair stylist who asks after your mother; all of these things remind us that the person serving us cares enough to remember something about us. In those moments, they become more to us than someone who is simply exchanging goods and services for our money. They are pals, confidantes, or just friendly faces.
Empower your customer facing associates to do the same. Yes, a certain level of familiarity may not be as easily obtained in some industries. A customer support agent at an international software company can’t know a customer the way that the server at the local diner can. Still, an effort can be made to note customer service records with that customer’s preferences and interests. This information can then be used to engage the customer and demonstrate an interest in them.
Well-trained employees who are empowered and have the support they need are your best asset in making long-lasting connections with your customer. Even better, they are a great resource of information and understanding when it comes to customer sentiment and values. They are the ones who experience customers in person.
3. Tell stories and listen to them as well
People connect with one another when they know their stories. The same is true with brands, or the people behind the brands. This is why storytelling is so impactful when it comes to making connections. Present something as well-written story, and people will connect with it and with you.
Opportunities to create and share stories exist everywhere. First, tell your story. The journey you took in creating your business, the reasons you are passionate about your products and services, and the things your team has come to value are all stories that you can use to make a connection with your audience. Share these on your website, and in your blog posts. Use great images and videos to bring these stories to life.
In marketing, storytelling isn’t just about things that have already happened. You can also tell stories about the future, making potential customers the main characters. Share stories about your products and services that help them to imagine using them, and benefiting from them. Share scenarios. Use universal experiences to help them relate to your brand and your products an emotional level. Here’s a story on the importance of writing better emails. The piece does a great job of using the customer as the main character. The brand becomes the helpful friend who is there to advise and help the friend achieve their goals.
Finally, people don’t only form emotional connections by consuming stories. They do so by sharing their stories as well. Give them platforms to share their stories and concerns with your brand, and other like-minded people. Here are some effective ways to engage customers, so they can share their stories.
Identify brand advocates and power users
Connect with the people who are familiar with and loyal to your brand. Encourage them to share their insights and advice on your social media pages and community forums. You show them respect for the value and insights they can contribute. In turn, they play an important role in building a community around your brand.
Provide a forum for sharing pictures and videos
Brands like Mod Cloth encourage customers to contribute photographs, stories, even videos of their experiences with their products and services. This makes customers feel like a valued part of a community, and helps to satisfy the urge to share experiences with others. Ask customers to share on your social media pages and website. Use their stories and images in your campaigns.
Brands have been using contests to encourage sharing and making connections since before social media was even a thought. Food makers have recipe contests. Diaper companies encourage people to put their babies in the running for cutest or funniest. A contest is a great way to encourage sharing and engagement.
Ask customers to participate in focus groups and case studies
Customer focus groups have a purpose beyond identifying what your customers want, and how to move forward with your products and services. They provide your audience with a platform to speak their opinions, and share their experiences.
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4. Sponsor events and charities that resonate with your audience
Consumers, millennials especially, want to do business with companies that share their values. Brands that do this communicates that they understand what’s important to their audience, and make a genuine effort to support those things. These are the brands that show up at local events. They sponsor local sports teams. They take action when the community suffers.
Even internet based companies can do this. It’s a matter of taking the time to identify the values your audience has, and then finding ways to show that those are important to you as well. Sometimes, doing this involves taking a risk. In the past year or more, Penzey’s spices has done just that by inserting an inclusive, peaceful, but undoubtedly politically charged message in their marketing efforts.
To identify these shared values and issues, get to know your audience better. Pay attention to the engagement on your social media pages. Use polls and surveys to engage them and get them to share their thoughts and opinions.
5. Work to establish thought leadership and to earn familiarity
The companies that are most successful in making emotional connections are well-established enough to do so. They can bank on name recognition. People are familiar enough with their products and services that they can focus on other things.
Think of some of the biggest brands you know. Mcdonald’s, Coca Cola, IBM, Budweiser, UPS, and Pepsi are just a few that come to mind. Audiences know these brands. They know what they sell. Yes, a good portion of their marketing still focuses on products and services, but they don’t need to remind customers of these. These brands have also established themselves as leaders in their respective industries.
What does this mean? They can focus their marketing outreach on establishing emotional connections without being too salesy. They’ve done the legwork of establishing themselves, and earning name recognition. This is why Anheuser Busch can spend millions of dollars on Superbowl advertising with heart-tugging commercials on baby horses, and not on an ad touting how good their beer is.
Once audiences instantly know who you are and what you sell, and they see you as a brand that is worthy of respect, it becomes easier to make these emotional connections. Still, getting to the point can be intimidating. So many of the brands you see that do this are huge. They’ve been around for years, decades even.
Don’t get discouraged. What a Coca Cola can do on a global scale with a general audience isn’t unreachable for you on a smaller scale with a more tightly targeted audience. The approach is the same. Deliver consistently good UX. Focus on customer service. Make sure your products and services are on point. The reputation you build will make your efforts to build emotional connections seem sincerer, and will give you breathing room to focus on those tasks.
Marketing is an emotional endeavor. If people simply made purchasing decisions based on logic, the field would look entirely different from it does. The most successful companies are often the ones who can create genuine emotional connections with their audience members.
Emotional marketing works, but its success depends on taking the right approach. Brands must understand their customers, address the needs of their customers, employee storytelling, involve customers in those stories, prove that they share values with their audience, and earn trust by showing thought leadership. Finally, everyone in the position to engage with customers must understand how to make these connections and value those connections. This requires appropriate training, resources, and getting buy in from the people who are in contact with customers on a regular basis.
Kristin Savage has graduated from Columbia University where she was majoring in Germanic Languages. Besides English as her mother tongue she also speaks German and Dutch fluently. Currently Kristin is studying Spanish and planning to obtain her PhD in Applied Linguistics since she is interested in how to use her to some extent practical knowledge of language processes in everyday life. She has been a writer at Pick Writers for a few years and is known for her thorough approach to all the tasks and aspiration to fulfill assignments with flying colors.
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