Modern marketing success hinges upon your company's ability to position itself as not only desirable, but also consistently helpful and useful to prospects and advocates alike. I've done a little looking around to find the brands making the most of their online participation, and boiled their habits down to four actionable tips you can leverage to start putting your brand to work.
To start, let's consider what it truly means to create a "useful" brand.
There's been a lot of buzz lately about shifts taking place in marketing and the role it plays in the sales process. Traditionally, we've thought of marketing as a precisely calculated channel between a prospect and our sales department.
But the times are a-changin, and the same leads of yesterday expect a lot more from the brands they engage with today.
Consequently, marketing has evolved out of the selling era and is now heavily rooted in providing exceptional experiences coupled with added-value content in every step of the buying consideration process.
The most prominent figure in the brand utility movement is Jay Baer, a recognized inbound marketing advocate and author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype. Jay blogs on Convince and Convert and created a great infographic detailing the process of creating a useful brand, which you can see here.
In order to help you apply this concept of utility, I took a look at a diverse pool of brands online and assessed what they're doing to be useful to their audience. Here are the four consistent behaviors I found:
- Do Your Homework
We know by know that context is critical to successful online marketing. The best brands are the ones who invest time and resources into uncovering what makes their leads, prospects, and customers tick - and set about creating content and experiences to satisfy those motivations.
Whole Foods knows the concept of brand utility well, and they prove their value consistently online by providing exceptional content that speaks to their audience's niche lifestyle.
From their Twitter account which routinely shares both proprietary and 3rd party content, to their Pinterest account composed of 55 unique boards, this is a brand dedicated to making each day a little better for their customers:
- Segment Your Profiles By Purpose
One of the most essential steps to take in creating a useful brand is to master the art of giving people what they want, in the appropriate contexts. Just like you wouldn't call up your Podiatrist when you have a headache, you shouldn't bombard your audience with information that's not applicable to their experience with your brand.
To see this exemplified, look to brands like Comcast who separate their standard accounts from their service social hubs.
The media giant is fully aware that social monitoring and participation is a key component of their customer service department - but they also realize that their general audience doesn't care to see routine troubleshooting conversations on their newsfeeds.
As a solution, they've split apart their corporate and service profiles. The key to successfully driving customer participation on the appropriate accounts here is clear communication.
Because Comcast knows the average user will search Twitter for the @Comcast account when they have a problem, they use their bio there as a spring board to the designated service account.
FedEx also does a great job at this, by utilizing a standalone service app on Facebook to meet the specific needs of individuals with service requests:
- Leverage Emotions
For all of the amazing things that mankind has accomplished, at our core we are inherently emotional creatures who's decisions are often based on emotions rather than facts. In addition to playing an enormous role in our personal lives, emnotions are why we often make inexplicable purchase decisions.
Creating a useful brand requires equal parts science and emotion. On one end, there's an absolute need for content and experiences which satisfy the basic purchase desires of our customers. Your marketing should speak to considerations like price, product features, and brand benefits. On the other, there's a necessity for creating interactions for the sheer purpose of building an emotional relationship.
Taco Bell is recognized as a master of the social media marketing space, using their accounts to directly promote products and simultaneously share content for the sheer purpose of generating laughs. The brand truly understands their audience on an intrinsic level and has set out to speak to one of their most powerful emotions: happiness via humor.
Their accounts are rewarded with hoards of engaged followers and an ongoing stream of positive responses to posts:
- Keep it in the Family
If you want to create a brand that is based in customer utility, you have to create a brand culture that emphasizes that mantra in all departments. Whether you're a small business with a handful of harworking team members or a bigger organization with multiple silos, the commitment to creating a useful experience to customers absolutely must be universal.
My favorite example of a company doing this right is Zappos.
Did you know that all Zappos employees, regardless of specialty or rank, must complete a four week training period dedicated entirely to customer service? Regardless of department, Zappos has created a culture hinged on customer satisfaction through an incredible commitment to service that knows no boundaries.
Check out their culture page to learn more about how the brand sets itself apart through incredible service experiences.
So, what will you tackle first? There's a lot to consider in creating a useful brand, and it's certainly not an overnight process. But with dedication and careful attention paid to your personas' motivations, you can create branded utility which drives unfaltering advocacy.
Here's to your success!
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/49889874@N05/5645164344