Companies are in a bit of a crisis in the modern era. Even though consumer-brand trust is as important as ever, the sad fact is, people, don’t trust brands. Therefore companies must pay attention to brand management and humanize the brand to build trust. Let’s explore how to do this.
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Consumers see corporations as faceless profiteers, a sentiment brought on by tales of corruption in big business, the 2008 financial crisis, and the constant bombardment of advertising over the past several decades.
Your audience wants to see you, hear you and understand you. They want you to inspire them to connect and engage with you. They want you to help them achieve their goals and objectives. They want relevant content and conversation that makes them think. They want inspired to do different, do better and be better.
To humanize the brand to build trust is a requirement, not an option if you want to survive in business today. Yes, you can put brand humanization on hold.
However, every day you lose is a day you could be building relationships, nurturing friendships, establishing and earning the respect of powerful brand evangelists who will shout from a mountain top how wonderful you and your brand are.
Before I give you tips on humanizing your brand, let me tell you a short story as an example.
This example comes from Fred Reichheld, a Fellow at the management consultancy firm Bain & Company:
One of his favorite examples happened at Rackspace, the managed hosting and cloud computing company. An employee on the phone with a customer during a marathon troubleshooting session heard the customer tell someone in the background that they were getting hungry.
As the employee tells it:
“So I put them on hold, and I ordered them a pizza. About 30 minutes later, we were still on the phone, and there was a knock on their door. I told them to answer it because it was pizza! They were so excited.”
It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?
So don’t wait. The time is now.
Here are 12 tips to help you humanize your brand starting today. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or brain surgeon to do these things. Start now and start somewhere. Perfection is the enemy of the good. Embrace imperfect perfection.
Create an interactive avatar
Your brand needs a human voice, and a personality, but it’s hard to assign those qualities to a logo or a corporate name. Instead, try assigning them to an actual personal framework.
Come up with a fictional character who represents your brand, and flesh out all the details. Who is this person? What’s their name? How do they dress? What’s their favorite food? What are their likes and dislikes? Are they excitable or calm? Formal or casual?
These questions will help you imagine a real personality to serve as your brand’s avatar, and from there it’s easy to slip into that mentality. This is the best way to have to almost literally humanize your brand.
Engage in conversations
Don’t just post ads to your users; engage them in conversation. Ask them what they like and what they want to see. If they tell you they like one of your posts, thank them for their readership. If you see your audience members commenting on an external thread, jump into the discussion.
This shows that you’re paying attention and that you care about more than just one side of the conversation. The more you engage with your users, the more likely they’ll be to see you as a trustworthy, personal entity.
Again, this requires more work; it’s easier to sit back and throw out an extended monolog. But when you engage with individuals, you’ll instantly cement those individuals’ loyalties, and you’ll look good to everyone else looking on.
Show a sense of humor
Humor has a primal way of connecting us. When we laugh together, we tear down walls and bond with each other—it’s why we’re more likely to laugh when we’re surrounded by people we care about than we are when we’re by ourselves.
When you make your users laugh, you show them that you don’t take yourself too seriously. You show them that you enjoy humor just like the rest of us and that you aren’t afraid to set aside the formal professionalism of your brand for just a moment to experience a human moment.
Obviously, the type and appropriateness of humor you use will be dependent on your brand, but self-deprecating humor and tongue-in-cheek references both work especially well for audiences. You don’t have to be a consistent comedian, but you have to throw out enough references and asides to keep your audience feeling good about you.
Brand management … focus on relationships
You must get out of the old school thinking of only email blasts and traditional advertising. Think about the conversations, the content and the way you can build relationships with real human beings.
If you think like a corporate engine or cog in the wheel, you are going to have a hard time connecting as a human being.
Relationships are the life raft of the never ending social network technology changes. If you focus on the relationships, your audience will follow you wherever you go, despite how the social landscape changes.
This is because they are not connecting with you as a Twitter handle or brand name, but instead as a human being or group of human beings.
In his book Permission Marketing, Seth Godin pioneered the idea of content marketing. Create something of value that will motivate people to provide you with an email address. The problem is, we’re competing for attention with so much noise, so earning that conversion has become increasingly difficult.
There are over 80 billion business emails sent every week and over 200 million hours spent on YouTube. Consumers have access to a lot of content and are weary of another brand sending more emails into their already cluttered lives.
Conversions are a by-product of great relationships. Relationships built on empathy, transparency, and honesty are the ones that last and drive a lifetime of conversions.
The key to creating content that will convert is to optimize for the relationship with the consumer, not the conversion.
Show your personality
Knowing who you are is obviously key to having a brand personality. If you don’t know what your brand personality is then you better figure it out. Who are you? What are you? Are you serious? Are you funny? Are you a combination of both? What is the tone of your conversations? The tone of your educational material?
Social media is going to open everything up for everyone to see. If you have one personality online and another when a customer calls your support center, it is going to become quite apparent. Nail this in the early stages, and it will become an asset to you forever.
Be visible and responsive
Regardless if you are communicating with your customers, partners, and audience online or offline simply be available. Don’t setup the latest social network profile unless you plan actually to show up. Show up more than once a week or once a day.
Don’t show up to just brag about your latest reward won, promotion or blog post. Instead, show up with a goal to inspire and connect with your audience with an underlying goal of helping them achieve their objectives. Be proactive and responsive to the interest of your audience and fans at the heart of all.
It’s one thing to provide the opportunity for your customers and community to give their feedback and voice their desires. It’s entirely another to show them you’ve listened by responding through action.
When you truly listen to someone, you gain their trust, and more importantly, their respect.
Communicate with your customers
Delete the corporate mumbo jumbo speak. Social media is not a billboard for your 1995 corporate collateral. Speak to a tone, words and rhythm your customers, partners and social community can understand. Use language that inspires them and connects them to you and your brand.
Encourage your audience to engage
If you only speak in corporate speak your audience will either turn you off or will begin to speak the same way to you. How many times have you seen a brand only speak corporate? When you look at their Twitter or Facebook conversations, they are far from human.
Because the brand isn’t sharing their human side, their community isn’t either. Encourage your audience to engage, laugh, be funny. Let them share opinions even if they differ from yours.
Emotional brands are the brands that are building real relationships in the social ecosystem. Make me laugh. Make me cry or make me mad. Do something that makes me think different, be different. Inspire me to do more, be more and leverage you, your team or your products and services to do such.
The more you can connect with your audience, the better you will be at understanding what emotional chords will work best with them.
Being authentic and genuine isn’t something that companies can fake. Consumers are smart, and they expect a lot from the brands they choose to support. More than a great product or service, it’s the passion and cause at the core of the company that builds this much deeper emotional connection between the brand and the customer.
All of which can be fostered through personal, meaningful, and relevant content.
Do what you say
If you preach quality over quantity all day, then, by all means, don’t tweet 24 / seven via automation. If you tweet and talk about relationships, then don’t let your Twitter feed be filled with only automation and then “thank you’s” thanking people for tweeting you.
Take the time to look at people’s profiles and have a real conversation. Be who you say you are. Do what you say you are going to do.
There are undercurrents to every digital interaction you have with your customers. Every promotion, everything you say about your brand, everything you convey about your brand is a promise.
Every conversion, every time they choose to buy, download or subscribe is an agreement. You promise to provide something of value or to care about certain things or to work toward certain goals; they promise to engage with you as a result.
But here’s the twist: each of these promise-and-deliver interactions is a negotiation for further, richer engagement. How you deliver on your promise dictates what happens next: do you build a relationship or do you lose a fan?
There are over 150 million blogs online and 500 million tweets per day. The content choices a person has are endless, so you have to give them a reason to engage with you – to deliver the value you promised, the value that attracted them to you in the first place.
You can’t afford to take the consumers for granted and forget that it’s a negotiation because they certainly won’t. They are constantly bombarded by ads, by links, and by reminders that they have many, many options.
Share photos and videos behind the scenes
This is one of the best ways to become a human brand. Share the moments that you are human. If you have a company party or picnic, take some photos and share them. If your team goes on a team building mission or hike, let your audience know ahead of time they are going.
Ask them who they think will win the contest. Share the fun and serious moments your team has offline working to help your clients meet their goals. If you have a team meeting, share a couple of photos of the team brainstorming at the whiteboard or enjoying themselves with a bag of candy or popcorn.
You’ll be amazed at how these simple little shares of your personal side will help build a relationship with the people in your community. Try it, it works!
Humanize the brand to build trust … be prepared
I can’t stress enough how important this is. Many business leaders think a social media policy is too restrictive. Or they may think they will never have a problem. Your social media policy is more than rules or governance. It is your risk mitigator.
It is your life raft should you have a social media or marketing crisis. Any business crisis is going to go straight online and possibly viral within minutes these days regardless if you are on the social networks or not.
The bottom line
Did this post motivate you to better humanize your business? Does your business truly connect with people? Or are you guilty of corporate speak? If you have already been thru this process and have made strides toward becoming a social business with humanization at the core, what tips can you provide for others?
The good news is that all of this stuff is pretty simple. We’re all human beings. We all work with other human beings. We all know that we need to treat our customers how we would like to be treated.
The bad news is that simple is not the same thing as easy. Humanizing your brand, building trust, fostering an authentic and lasting connection with your customers is hard work. It doesn’t necessarily scale. And unless you can tap into some genuine, authentic passion of your own, the connection is going to be a whole lot harder to ignite.
Need some help in building better customer trust from your customer experiences? Creative ideas to help grow your customer relationships?
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
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