Category Archives: Community branding

Customer relationship and marketing

Promote your business by building relationships. Yes, its true, customer relationships drive your business. It’s about finding right people who believe in your products or services. You can spend big bucks but its like rolling boulder up a hill. You want to drive your business into new territory, but every step is hard and expensive. But there are ways to achieve the goal.

Develop an army to help you push that boulder up the hill instead. How do you do that? You develop relationships with people who don’t just understand your particular expertise, product or service, but are equally excited about what you do. You stay connected with them and give them value, and they’ll touch other people who can benefit your business. Powerful relationships don’t just happen from one-time meetings at networking events. You don’t need pocketful of random business cards to clutter your desk. What you need is a plan to make those connections grow and work for you. Here are few pointers you remember while you are out on a mission.

Build your network, it’s your sales lifeline. Your network includes business colleagues, professional acquaintances, prospective and existing customers, partners, suppliers, contractors and association members, as well as family, friends and people you meet in your community. Contacts are potential customers waiting for you to connect with their needs. Ofcourse, you need to understand that networking is a long-term investment. Do it right by adding value to the relationship, and that contact you just made can really pay off. Communicate like your business’s life depends on it.

Communication is a key here, so do it early and often. Relationships have a short shelf life. No matter how charming, enthusiastic or persuasive you are, no one will likely remember you from a business card or a one-time meeting. One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they come home from networking events and fail to follow up. Make the connection immediately. Send a “nice to meet you” e-mail or let these new contacts know you’ve added them to your newsletter list and then send them the latest copy. Immediately reinforce who you are, what you do and the connection you’ve made. Its a fact, you rarely meet people at the exact moment when they need what you offer. If you stay on their minds, it’s easier to keep a connection warm than to warm it up again once the trail goes cold. So take the time to turn your network of connections into educated customers.

E-mail marketing keeps relationships strong on a shoestring budget. It is cost-effective and easy way to stay on customers’ minds, build their confidence in your expertise, and retain them. Build your reputation as an expert by giving away some free insight. You have interesting things to say! An easy way to communicate is with a brief e-mail newsletter that shows prospects why they should buy from you. And it’s viral, contacts who find it interesting or valuable might forward your e-mailer or newsletter to other people, just like word of mouth marketing.

Reward loyal customers, according to Bain and Co., on average, repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers. So your most profitable customers are repeat customers. Now the question is, are you doing enough to encourage them to work with you again? Stay in touch, give them something of value in exchange for their time, attention and business. It doesn’t need to be too much, anything of their use will suffice like notice of a special event, helpful tips, advice or news, can be effective. Remember, if you don’t keep in touch with your customers, you are loosing out because your competitors will.

Customers are best sales agent, so spend time to build your customer relationship and do the follow-ups. Make use of cost effective tools like e-mailers. Send out simple newsletter, an offer or an update message of interest to your pool of networks. If they remember you and your offerings they will deliver value to you with referrals. They are in the market, and are aware of opportunities you’ll never hear about. That is why it is very important to remain in touch with your customers.

Thus, in order to close this we cannot deny the fact that small business is all about relationships, relationships and relationships.

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Community branding has a much more deeper meaning

In today’s world companies are hungry to connect and in troubled economic times, every company needs new ways to do more with what it already has. Although many firms aspire to the customer loyalty, marketing efficiency and brand authenticity that strong communities deliver, only few understand what it takes to achieve such benefits. Many fall into serious misconceptions about what brand communities are and how they actually function.

For companies considering a community strategy, we offer cautionary tales and design principles. For those with existing brand communities, we provide new approaches for increasing their impact. Here the approach is not about whether a community is right for the brand but its about the willingness to do what’s needed to get a brand community right. A brand community is a business strategy, too often companies isolate their community building efforts within the marketing function, not a brilliant idea. For a brand community to maximize benefit, it must be planned on a much higher level involving business goals.

Lets take an example of Harley-Davidson here. Following the 1985 buyback that saved the company, management completely reformulated the competitive strategy and business model around a brand community philosophy. Beyond just changing its marketing programs, Harley-Davidson retooled every aspect of its organization from work culture to operations and governance structure to drive its community strategy. Harley management recognized that the brand had developed as a community-based phenomenon. The “brotherhood” of riders, united by a shared ethos, offered Harley the basis for a strategic repositioning as the one motorcycle manufacturer that understood bikers on their own terms. To reinforce this community-centric positioning and solidify the connection between the company and its customers, Harley staffed all community-outreach events with employees rather than hired hands. Executives were required to spend time in the field with customers and bring their insights. This close-to-the-customer strategy was codified in Harley Davidson’s operating philosophy. Decisions at all levels were directed by community perspective.

Thus, it is very clear that brands need a reason and strategy to interact with people, just like people need a reason to interact with brands. Sociologically, shopping gives people a sense of belonging to a community and allows them to communicate with others. This gives brands an opportunity to build communities of interest with people around their products and so form relationships with their customers and fans after the transaction is complete.

Brands need to understand how to connect with their fans and build relationships. An effective strategy requires brands to carefully consider what their customers are looking for and what role a community should play. The Communities in real terms are representation of the broader interest of members.

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