Episode #064: How to build community around your brand

This is the first episode I’ve done where we talk about retail strategy, but there’s a strong undercurrent of brand communication strategy throughout. And there’s a lot of different facets to building community around your brand, having meaningful conversations with your customers, and integrating your products, service or brand into their lives. There’s literally something here for any company looking to improve any of those aspects. My guest is Alex Barseghian, author of Local Motion, a book that details how brands both small and large can build a real relationship with their customers to turn them from one time buyers to lifelong loyalists.

And If you want to get ta little freaked out about how you’re being tracked? Be sure to listen all the way through to hear what can be done with loyalty programs and how major global brands and small mom and pops can all track basically everything you see, do, and want.

Episode Notebook:

The more you can bring your offer down to the “local” level, the better you’ll do. But what do we mean by “local”?

Phase 1 is the behemoth, and often the first to a category. Phase 2 brands find a way of making it more special and somewhat customized for its particular customers. Phase 3 is the “Hyper Local” which is able to make products for specific users. But let’s be clear, what we mean by “local” is not necessarily geographically based. It could just feel like it’s truly custom for you, regardless of where the brand might be physically located. To do this, the brands really need to know their customers. Not just who they are, but what they want, what their preferences are, and how they use your product or service.

It’s also about creating a sense of community and belonging. Alex uses Peloton and Spin Cycle as examples of building a community around indoor cycling, whether it’s in your home or at a studio. They tailor the classes to who’s doing them, and get people used to working out with each other, which keeps people engaged in the brand and product because it’s become part of their social life, too.

Alex’s example of using ambassador’s modern day equivalent is using influencers. But I’d challenge you to think beyond just social media influencers. Hit example of Lululemon planting their products on the yoga instructors. People saw them, they looked good, and they carried the implied endorsement of being used by someone who’s better at something than you. Why wouldn’t you want that, too? Who can you get your products or service used by that influences others? In particular, who can help influence actual purchase decisions?

Local really means personal. So, can you find a way of making your products feel personal to your customers? If so, it doesn’t matter where you’re located, to your customer it’ll feel like you’re part of their life.

You also need to be having a conversation with your customers, because if you’re not, someone else is. Keep them engaged with what you’re doing. You don’t always have to be selling to them. but you should be talking to them.

From a retail standpoint, local shops have an opportunity to become the expert on a certain subject matter, basically the thought leader, and help people do something, use something or become something.

Two last tips: Leverage other people’s efforts to reach new customers. Sponsorships or charity tie-ins are two examples, but getting involved is just the start. It’s about activation and being a part of the experience so that consumers actually notice you and want to interact with you. It’s very similar to using influencers, or sponsoring a team or athlete. Just giving them money or product isn’t enough, you have to use that association to start a dialog with consumers so they find value in what you’re doing or it benefits their life in some way.

And second, use surprise and delight to make your brand memorable, but be sure to do it in a way that curates the behaviors your want. For example, if you’re going to give away a bonus item, do it in a way that encourages the types of sales that you want. Or maybe you surprise a customer with a discount because they mentioned you on social media. Both are easy ways to subliminally encourage them to do more of the same, if that’s what you want.

Links & Resources

  • Find Alex on LinkedIn here.
  • Get Localmotion on Amazon here.

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