Tips on how to improve your small business with out an promoting funds
Since the social media explosion at the beginning of this century, brands have increasingly relied on digital advertising strategies to drive growth. This inevitably has resulted in larger brands with a larger advertising budget having an unfair advantage over smaller companies that have less money to burn.
But the tide is turning.
According to a report by Internet trend expert Mary Meeker, the cost per acquisition has risen 50 percent in the last three years alone and will surely exceed a customer’s lifetime value for many brands in the years to come. In addition, a new generation of customers is emerging who are far more skeptical than their predecessors and therefore less receptive to traditional methods of customer acquisition (think social advertising and influencer promotions). Instead, they are looking for more purpose in the brands they buy from – trust and authenticity have overtaken the need for price cuts and convenience.
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And the last year has only accelerated that shift. Companies that have relied too heavily on a large advertising budget to drive their growth have inevitably suffered as a result. That’s because the pandemic cut budgets and sales effectively fell off a cliff. However, the brands that have built a loyal community of fans have survived the pandemic and in some cases thrive.
Lululemon is a great example of this. The billion dollar sportswear company grew with a zero advertising budget and instead trusted its customers and a wider network of advocates (e.g., fitness trainers, employees, business partners, etc.) to drive the growth for them. As a community-focused brand, their customers believe in the company’s vision, share its purpose and share stories very quickly, convince their friends and family to buy their products, and stand up to defend the brand when necessary. It’s no surprise that Lululemon not only survived 2020, but also showed significant year-over-year growth.
The most successful brands of today (and tomorrow) are those who can use their own communities to drive growth in the same way that Lululemon could. The best way to grow your business this year and beyond is to build a high performing community around your brand, creating the perfect environment for oral growth.
For companies that want to create strong communities and thus grow organically, the following three basic principles apply:
# 1 – stand up for something
Today’s consumers are much more motivated by what a brand stands for than by the price of their products. According to research by Forrester, millennials, and Gen Z in particular, are looking for more meaning and purpose for the brands they buy from. Because of this, many companies are now intentionally building the core of their brand.
For example, the sustainable diaper brand Kit & Kin is based entirely on the principle of conserving the planet’s natural resources. It is committed to using only environmentally friendly materials in all of its products and has partnered with the World Land Trust to raise awareness about protecting the rainforest and saving and protecting endangered habitats around the world. Because of its ethos, Kit & Kin has built an extremely loyal following of customers, which in turn results in impressive growth. Most importantly, growth was never the only purpose.
Many brands like Kit & Kin succeed by committing to a purpose and then communicating that with their customers. And you don’t have to be a household name to do this. By creating an emotional connection between your customer and your product or service, you increase customer loyalty.
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# 2 – Be authentic and educate
Once you’ve committed to a cause, you need to live up to it in everything you do and help your customers understand it.
Humans are natural storytellers. If you equip them with a strong, powerful story to leave behind, the chances are they’ll tell their friends, family, and networks about it. You can design your brand so that your customers get a purpose-built story that they are proud of and that will ultimately drive word of mouth growth.
However, this is only possible if you are authentic and transparent in your communication and build real trust with your customers. Today’s consumers are quick to trust brands that are honest with them and prove that they remain true to their values and purpose. Just as quickly, they drop a brand that falls short.
Brands like Patagonia and Tesla understand this and have achieved long-term success because of their ability to express their values and communicate authentically while acting in ways that have a positive impact on the world. However, this is not just limited to large companies. Each of them started small and have grown largely due to their ability to strengthen a community around them.
# 3 – Focus on driving brand promotion forward
According to research by Nielsen, 84 percent of us are likely to trust a recommendation or brand recommendation if it comes from a friend. Because of this, the concept of branding where a customer endorses or recommends a brand they love is more important today than ever. And while trademark attorneys have always existed under different guises – superfans, ambassadors, enthusiasts, evangelists, etc. – the concept of developing a strategy that nurtures relationships with each attorney and celebrates their endorsement in order to drive the company’s growth is new.
Identify who these advocates are, then develop a strategy to reward their loyalty. This could be creating an exclusive loyalty club for top customers or certain perks, benefits, and exclusive sales to complete certain activities that support your brand. The most important thing is that you reward your most loyal fans while promoting your community’s growth. Only when you really drive branding at the core of your business can you expect organic, long-term growth.
If you are looking to launch or grow your brand this year, don’t be fooled that you will have to invest heavily in advertising to do so.
The most successful brands of this decade and those to come in the future are those that do not rely on short-term marketing practices and an advertising budget that requires a large injection of cash, but instead focus on building and nurturing a community of representatives who they represent, promote and shout about their brand. This approach can be applied to any brand, large or small, in any industry, and is fundamental to your success in the long run.
Jaclyn Crocker is Lead Brand and Community Consultant at duel
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