Under normal circumstances there are very few times in a person’s life when they’re open to changing brand loyalty: New parents transitioning from life without kids are typically the most open to changing their brand loyalty and shopping habits. But in recent months, demand for certain products (like hand sanitizer and toilet paper) surged, leaving some household name brands missing from the grocery shelves. Things aren’t exactly normal right now. And brands who have made even modest efforts to adapt and communicate during these unprecedented times have a unique opportunity to shift customer shopping habits—building brand loyalty that will likely pay off for years to come.
Forming New Attachments
Most people don't go into their wedding planning process thinking about brand loyalty—and I certainly didn't go into my wedding planning process anticipating a pandemic. But as I worked to adapt our May wedding for these unique times, I started to reflect on brand loyalty.
About two weeks before the wedding, I received a package of makeup products from Arch, a local beauty boutique. I had reached out to them (via their Instagram channel) after realizing all of my wedding day and pre-wedding hair and makeup appointments were cancelled, to see if they'd be willing to help me figure out what makeup I needed for my special day. They did me one (or two) better! They took the time to help me figure out what products would help me achieve the look I was going for; they sent some nice gifts including a handwritten note and "tissues for happy tears;" and they provided a video tutorial for me so that I was all set for my big day.
It should be noted that - prior to my wedding - I had never been to Arch before; but from now on, I'll be going to go to them for all of my makeup needs. And I've stopped considering my current salon for those types of services.
No E-commerce Site? Don’t Despair.
Businesses, large and small, that have made efforts to communicate and adapt to doing at least a small part of their business online are likely to gain new customers and build their loyalty. Small efforts can yield significant results.
Some businesses, like a local gift shop, don't have a full ecommerce site built out, but were able to do live videos or Instagram posts showcasing their products, and invited their customers to do "personal shopping" via Facetime, as well as contactless pickup.
In branding, feelings play a big role in the development of brand equity. Think about how television advertising works: When you're first getting to know a company or product, heart-strings and humor can play a big role in whether a certain product or company first grabs your attention. Positive feelings matter in the attachments that we form, and the loyalty we develop, to brands.
I'd walk through fire for our minster (and our faith community), who promised me we'd figure out a way to get married on time, even if we had to adapt what our ceremony looked like. We drove out of our way to do curbside pickup from a wine shop that helped us, via a quick email exchange, pick out budget-friendly sparkling wine from France, where our honeymoon was supposed to take place.
Communicate, Even When Things Aren’t Perfect
My husband's already-purchased-wedding-day suit is still stuck in a locked down men's suit chain, and communication never happened. Despite the fact that many retail shops have re-opened, we still (in mid-June) don’t know when we’ll see that suit.
And while some customers are always going to be unhappy about external factors that are beyond a business’s control, for many others a sincere apology and basic explanation of the circumstances goes a long way. That suit shop has lost our business for good, and likely the business of our friends and family as well.
My husband's wedding ring, which we found out also wasn't going to be done on time, was another matter. The small business making the ring communicated at each step in the process about what was happening—what stage of production the ring was in, whether there was a chance they could get it to us, and then, as stay-at-home orders were extended, a kind offer to send an in-stock replacement ring in case they couldn’t get it to us on time. (The original ring magically appeared in our mailbox on our way out the door to the church).
For our clients, we invite them to consider the opportunities presented at this unique moment in time to foster relationships with customers that will pay off for many years to come. It's not about being perfect, it's about being present.
'Tis the season for event planning, but how do you plan an event when donors are sheltering in place? Crossroads Fund is a public foundation that supports nonprofits and groups in the Chicagoland area working on social, economic and racial justice.
The transformation of their popular annual "Seeds of Change" spring gala into a vibrant online celebration--complete with DJs and awards--offers a great example of how to pivot from a traditional offering to an online format that is still full of celebration (and still meets fundraising goals).
Here are our 5 top tips for moving events online.
#1: Cross-Promote the Event Across Platforms
Crossroads Fund decided to move their one-night event into a weeklong Zoom celebration with an online silent auction, live DJ sets, and dance party--and were successful in raising $135,000 (and counting).
âTheir online event captured the joy of their annual in-person event, which is both a fundraiser and a social gathering, bringing the feel of a venue-based party to a digital space.
The foundation took advantage of many social media platforms in their communication about the event, including Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, your Facebook and Instagram news feeds, and Facebook event pages.
#2: Elevate People Who Honor Your Mission
Facebook Live gave Crossroads Fund a way to celebrate award-winners in real time. Awardees help attendees get fired up to carry on the fight for social justice, and to open their wallet to support this important work.
Award-winners are often a key driver of connection for the event and can help motivate a decision to give.
#3: Create an Easy-to-Remember Landing Page URL & Use a Virtual Hashtag on Every Post
Crossroads Fund's easy-to-remember landing page URL was a key for driving action off of the social posts related to the gala. By driving all event-related activity to one landing page, they made it simpler for their audience to respond to their main call to action: Donate.
They also created a hashtag for their virtual event, #virtualseeds, which empowered all participants to spread the word. This type of tagging builds brand recognition and creates a ripple effect that can hook new viewers into learning more, or participating.
#4: Deploy Consistent Visual Branding Across Social Media Channels
Crossroads Fund did an excellent job keeping its eye-catching images consistent across the many social media channels it utilized for the event. Their decision to choose bold colors and use consistent fonts, images, and messaging that were clear helped donors quickly and easily identify their event and stay alert to new information.
#5: Tap Into Staff, Board, and Others to Create Compelling Appeals
One of the most compelling opportunities that social media presents us with is the opportunity to speak in a direct and personal way about the causes that are so important to us, and to make personal requests to give.
Crossroads Fund's staff, board, and host committee made compelling, direct appeals through pre-recorded video and participation in the nightly Zoom celebration. Their stories helped attendees feel more engaged and put familiar faces front and center.
What We're Reading
Not sure how to adapt or promote your spring fundraiser? We can provide remote consulting--and help you strategize how to work remotely with staff and volunteers.
Crossroads Fund is offering a Virtual Fundraising Grassroots Webinar, scheduled for May 5, 2020, where they'll share what they learned from their Seeds for Change event.
Here are some of our favorite resources you can peruse for ideas on moving your event online:
Learn more about our services on our website. Nonprofits and faith organizations can also sign up for a free 30-minutes consultation to get help with marketing, Zoom, SEO and more. Nonprofit organizations can sign up here. Faith organizations can sign up here.
Google recently released a new update to search algorithms, which features improved AI with a greater ability to read and understand more content. Having a clear sense of how your customers search (and what they search for) can enable you to use SEO and empathy to connect in a way that meets their needs.
This BERT update, which impacts both Google’s software and hardware, provides greater clarity on two things that are essential for creating useful and effective content: What people are thinking about and how they’re living their lives. In a nutshell, it means Google’s search feature will enable users to find more useful information based on their queries, more quickly and easily:
“In fact, when it comes to ranking results, BERT will help Search better understand one in 10 searches in the U.S. in English, and we’ll bring this to more languages and locales over time.”
As a firm, we’ve been saying for a while that with improvements in artificial intelligence and voice-based search, Google will be able to read more of the internet and to understand more of it. To date, Google has been skimming the internet and looking for keywords in places a human would look to understand an article at a glance - in headlines, in the first paragraph, etc.
For that reason, we’ve always suggested having content that follows SEO best practices, but more importantly that puts the core needs, struggles, and desires of your customers first. To understand those needs, struggles, and desires, we must use empathy in conjunction with data, which helps us understand how customers are searching for our products and services in different scenarios.
Putting Our Customers First In Our Copy
While some of the focus of Google’s update is simply clarifying search intent in basic ways:
“Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like “for” and “to” matter a lot to the meaning, Search will be able to understand the context of the words in your query. You can search in a way that feels natural for you.”
It’s also easy for there to be a mismatch between how you present your products and services, and what customers are actually searching for. A common mistake businesses make is to focus their copywriting on their own business goals and personal passions. Sometimes, we do this at the expense of connecting effectively with our customers and their problems, aspirations, and goals.
For example, looking at the websites for two farms in the New York area, the first example focuses on traits like how big the farm is, and how it is family-owned.
In this second example, this farm focuses on the desires of their customers (for delicious, nutritious, farm-fresh food, for people who want their purchase to make an impact) as well as on things that might be difficult for their customers (emphasis on ease of sign-up and pick-up, and ability to pause CSA subscription at any time.)
Design Tools for Understanding Our Customers
There are a few tools that we regularly use as marketers to help us understand our customers:
A great example of this in action can be seen in our work with Easterseals of DuPage & Fox Valley. With Easterseals, we asked parents of children with disabilities to explain what search terms they'd use in different scenarios, and one of the discoveries we made is that parents were searching for toddlers with [name of condition], rather than for services. This knowledge allowed us to write and implement new condition-focused landing pages—such landing pages for families seeking ADHD therapies or Down syndrome therapies—to reflect how parents were actually searching for services.
Strategies for “Listening” More Closely to Your Audience
So how do we improve our search terms to be better aligned with our customer’s needs? Here are two of our favorite tools for improving our “listening skills” in the digital sphere within a search context:
Here are some examples of businesses who responded to this trending inquiry in a paid advertising context, using offers to drive urgency to sign up:
Photo credit: Acorn TV
Photo credit: Barre3 Madison
Even though these examples are from a paid advertising context, good content, optimized for search queries can fulfill this need as well. Which brings us to….
Identifying Opportunities for Adaptation, Based on Empathy
Listening to your audience “in real time” means you can respond with empathy, provide relevant information, and adapt in ways that can immediately fill a need. In some cases, this may mean using language or emphasizing elements in your content that match how your audience is thinking and making choices.
It may also mean adapting what you offer and how you interact with your audience to fit their needs. That could mean holding events online, building ecommerce platforms, or finding ways to offer services remotely. Adaptation is key—and you won’t know how to adapt if you haven’t first “listened.”
Here are some ways organizations have adapted to the current reality of social distancing, while meeting people’s needs with empathy:
Learn more about our services on our website, and if you’re a nonprofit or faith organization, you can sign up for a free 30-minutes consultation to get help with marketing, Zoom, SEO and more. Nonprofit organizations can sign up here. Faith organizations can sign up here.
We talked to entrepreneur (and client) Derek Notman of Intrepid Wealth Partners about why it's so important to have talking points for your business.
Similar to an elevator pitch, talking points are a set of 3-5 bulletpoint statements that explain what you do, who you do it for, and what the main benefits of what you do are for your customers.
Tell us about what you do.
As a certified financial planner I specialize in working with entrepreneurs, from startup through exit, on their financial planning to help them realize their hopes, dreams & goals.
What did it used to feel like, when you had to introduce yourself and your company, before you had talking points?
I have struggled with this over 11 years. I used to try and avoid talking about what I did for a living. Not having organized talking points resulted in me telling each person I met [what I do in] a slightly different explanation and it always felt like they didn’t quite understand what I was talking about!
How has having talking points changed your experience of introducing yourself and your company?
It has boosted my confidence. I am much more comfortable explaining what I do and who I do it for. It comes across as clear and concise, people understand what I do and who I do it for and will even ask additional questions to learn more.
How do you use your talking points? How have you been using them on your team?
I use them in person and in my digital communications. Regardless of how they are being told, they are telling the same message across all channels. My team is also using them and we have modified them depending on whether we are talking about ourselves or the overall firm.
Do you think that other business owners should have talking points for their business too?
It is a must! If you have a business, then you are selling something, whether it is a service, product, widget, whatever, you much be able to tell your story quickly and concisely to get people’s attention and keep them interested.
If you don’t have talking points then do you really know your own business and what you do? If you can’t clearly explain it, then how could you ever expect your potential customers to ever know what you do or what you sell, and how it may benefit them?
Is there anything else that you took away from our work together to develop talking points?
It was simple and a quick exercise, but absolutely necessary! It has helped me better pitch my business via a multitude of mediums, all while telling a consistent message.