A recent survey found that 42% of customers who reach out to brands via social media expect a response in less than 60 minutes. And of those customers who had attempted to contact a brand through social media for support, 57% said they expect the same response time at night and on weekends as they do during normal business hours. Welcome to the new world of customer service, brand management, and social marketing.
Social has not only changed the way we do business, it has raised customers’ expectations. It’s broken barriers between companies and their customers, completely changing the way people interact with the brands they choose to do business with. In the process, a new way of “company-customer” interaction has emerged. We call it “open business”.
Spanning multiple platforms and social channels, customers are now immersed and engaged in a constant conversation about the products and brands they love. Becoming a “talkable” brand begins by gaining customer loyalty through the four pillars of open business: Trust, Transparency, Authenticity, and Intent.
Like any relationship, honesty and openness lay the foundation for trust and mutual respect. The brand-consumer relationship is no different.
While baring it all may be a hard pill for many businesses to swallow, customers not only want it, they expect it. Approximately 63% of participants in a 2013 Canadian study reported that they feel more loyalty toward transparent brands. The study also found that younger consumers report higher levels of guilt for “cheating” on favorite brands with a competitor. Influenced by personal brand-consumer connections empowered by social media, younger consumers are shifting away from viewing brands as businesses, and starting to think of them in terms of friends and peers within their social networks.
As Simon Sinek explains, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. In all likelihood there are several other brands that do what you do or make what you make. So why do your customers choose you?
TOMS shoes is a great example of intent. The brand leads with a vision statement (“We’re in business to help change lives”), and follows up with a business model that supports it. For every pair of shoes purchased from TOMS, the brand donates an additional pair of shoes to someone in need. When a customer supports the brand, the brand empowers the customer by making them a hero. TOMS customers could buy shoes from anyone, possibly for a lesser price, but their bond with the brand keeps them coming back. TOMS has grown an incredibly passionate community of fans by simply leading with their “why” instead of their “what.”
Marketers used to define brands. Today, brands are defined by the people who love the brand’s actions, beliefs, and values. With the rise of social, marketing is no longer a matter of brands telling customers what they want people to hear, think, and believe. Gone are the days when Steve Jobs stood on stage telling people what they want next. Today, customers are telling businesses – directly and indirectly – what they want and expect from them. In this way, it’s the customers who are helping to build brands, not the marketers. They’re setting the terms of the transaction, and their collective voice is driving innovation.
A 2009 study found that when people trust a brand they are not only willing to buy more from the company, they are also willing pay more for their products and services. Trust also inspires customers to recommend a product or brand more frequently.
To establish a level of trust between a brand and their customers, companies must first establish the initial three pillars of the open business model: Transparency invites customers in, laying the foundation for a brand-consumer relationship. Intent gives people a reason to not only buy a product, but to also buy into the brand. Authenticity empowers customers to define the brand, carry the torch and amplify the message. Only when these three pillars are in place will a true bond of trust be established.
More than ever before, marketing is a relationship-based business. If you’re not opening your business by opening the lines of communication, you’re missing valuable opportunities to build a stronger brand and stronger relationships with customers. Establish a bond with the customers who celebrate who you are, what you do and why you do it. Then, be prepared to reap the rewards of living in an “open business” world.