The single most important way to grow a brand in the 21st century is through building connections – building both quantity as well as quality. Period.
Brands used to be created in sterile laboratories known as Advertising Agencies where all the conversations were controlled through complex media buys and strategic Public Relations.
But brands today are more representative of the way we communicate and connect. They are opinions formed as summaries of countless connections and interactions we have with members and representatives of the brand. Yes, it is significantly more complex to describe.
Now that we can easily follow the twitter feed of any number of CEO’s and leaders and interact directly with them in numerous forms of digital media, we quickly form our own complex opinions. It helps to keep in mind that connections are dynamic relationships between two intelligent, emotional, creative beings (not a static infrastructure allowing transference).
Connections serve benefits to both parties and ALWAYS begin between two people. It might be a sales representative, distributor/retailer, public figurehead, team of writers at an outsourced agency, official spokesperson, celebrity endorsement, or CEO/leader.
21st Century brands realize they are not stores, vendors, warehouses, and suppliers. They are active parts of the livelihood and daily experiences of people. To the extent that we serve and improve these experiences, people will find new ways to share and support our brand.
Brands today are both build and suffocated by millions of tiny connections.
How can I build my brand today?
Engage with people
Provide some form of tangible value – a way for people to interact. Smartbots, automation, computer learning, artificial intelligence, social listening, and countless other tools can help us with aspects or functionality of this, but it all comes down to building a connection and being of interest.
Note that very little interest is generated by new features, technological advances, and products. Most interest is generated by how these things might improve or enhance my life experience.
Service at the forefront
My favorite definition of service is, ‘the action of helping or doing work for someone’. Service is the point of the connection, not just the beginning, or reserved for after the connection is made. Find clever ways to offer service to people in ways relevant to your brand.
Thanks to our imagination, anything is possible – share inspiring stories from customers, offer training sessions (free or fee) before making large commitment, virtually design to meet individual specs, distribute top-level information for free, tour a market with series of seminars, host ice cream socials thursday afternoons in the summer, etc.
Few things seem worse than feeling important during the sales process only to be ignored or unimportant after the purchase is made. Commit to making and keeping connections.
Understand the needs of different audiences and when people shift from one audience group to another (interested non-customer, active advocate/supporter, current positive customer, past positive customer, current negative customer, past negative customer, etc.). The point is to treat each of these audiences in respect to the brand and their situation, not to merely treat them the same.
Keep building better connections and you’ll soon notice the exponential growth in your brand.