Relationships are more important than attention, especially now

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One of the most common mistakes brands make is prioritizing getting customers’ attention over building lasting relationships. As we all know, the social era has added a whole new layer to the relationship that businesses have with their customers. Through their online lifestyle, consumers are posting intimate glimpses into their lives, and they expect that human element from the brands they follow, too. 

People like to feel connected to the brands they buy from. This connection is built from their interactions with you and your platform, be it through your digital advertising, online interactions, or even their experience with your product itself.  Focus your strategy on not just grabbing your followers’ attention, but also inviting them into a relationship with you, that (through your unique offering) provides value, fosters growth, and feels great for your customer to be a part of. 

These days, it’s especially important that brands build sustainable customer relationships. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, pockets are tight, and customers now are prioritizing what they need over what they want. Additionally, studies are showing that the behavior of a brand during this time will affect consumer loyalty in the future. So, fostering that relationship and showing support is even more critical than ever before.

There IS tangible value in relationships

A lot of businesses tremble at the perceived amount of commitment and investment that consumer-brand relationships cost. Of course, fostering a working relationship will take a bit of work, but brands still do it with vendors. They do it because it works. So why not do that with your customers, too?

Others scoff and say “relationships don’t help my bottom line” – but that’s not even remotely true. It’s honestly baffling that most brands pigeonhole customer relationships as a “customer service thing.” Relationship building is a two-way communication that opens the door to a higher customer lifetime value, word of mouth referrals, and so much more

And when businesses say “ads would work better!” – that’s mostly due to the immediacy of ad conversions. Obviously, a well-placed ad may secure you some short-term success. It gets the attention of your target audience and may convert into leads. So you got their attention with a pretty advertisement half-way through their morning scroll on Instagram – now what? What happens when you stop pouring money into ads? Those leads will stop coming in, that’s what. A repeat customer that comes back to you because you’ve built a rapport with them is the definition of a consumer-brand relationship. So, tune into your customer; put yourself in their shoes. They’re used to being fed ads and pitches all day, every day, across every platform. Give them an online experience that transcends that, instead. Whether they were looking for you or not, they’ll remember your brand when you provide them with value, rather than trying to sell them something like an aggressive used car salesman.

It seems straightforward, right? In a way, it is. This movement of prioritizing customer relationships over grabbing their attention has the potential to steer the marketing world in a very positive direction. But it can be a challenge for brands (large or small) to tap into this way of communicating.

Build and maintain relationships genuinely

Of course, in the age of COVID-19, it’s all the more important to work up a sense of community amongst your followers. Even with (at the time of writing) restrictions starting to ease, consumers are only buying from brands they trust and have built a relationship with. Furthermore, forming relationships with customers is sensitive during a pandemic, and at a time like this, it’s vital to set the right tone in all your marketing efforts. Brands should operate at this moment with the understanding that people are experiencing real turmoil and offer messaging that helps people with what they’re worried about most. At the moment, that’s health and money, so if your brand can make your audience feel safer or more secure, that’s the way to go. Some companies are taking steps to ensure the safety of their employees, customers, and even donating resources or financial aid to emergency services.

But (and it’s a big one) be genuine! A global crisis is NOT something to be exploited to shill your product. If you do this, the backlash will be swift and will have lasting effects on your brand. Besides, forming a relationship with customers during COVID-19 is much smoother when the company has a genuine interest in the safety of employees and consumers. Be factual and transparent about the steps your brand has taken to ensure its employees, customers, and everyone across the supply chain is safe. Make instructions for payment processing and product delivery or drop-off crystal clear. 

Of course, there are many ways to foster relationships with your audience. But how your brand acts in a crisis says a lot about you. Brands that communicate a clear, mature, and sensitive response that focuses on the existing relationships they have are likely to enjoy the lifelong company of appreciative customers. 

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