Cultivating a Brand that ClicksFeatured

Hi Elphas, it's nice to meet you; I'm Julia, a brand marketer (and mom!). A topic that sparks joy for me is helping entrepreneurs derive significant meaning from their business and convey it to those they care about most via a purpose-built brand. Today’s customers have higher-than-ever-expectations from the brands they interact with. The best way to ladder up to their expectations is by getting to know them and then forging connections with them on their terms. After all, human connection is what we all crave most, and your brand has the chance to become a powerful, positive conduit of it. Spoiler alert: a great brand and marketing strategy makes your customer “feel seen.”Think about the people you’ve met and liked. Chances are you’ve felt inherently understood by them. When someone truly gets you and shows it, of course you're going to support them–and you'll likely go out of your way to do it. An effective brand must center around the customer, so you should prioritize getting to know them well. Let’s start here. Step 1: Get to know your audience, then learn more.Entrepreneur and best-selling author, Seth Godin, says, "Everyone is not your customer." With this in mind, it's important to focus on the subset that loves your business so much that they'll tell their friends about it. This should be a small, obsessed, discerning segment of your overall audience called the High Expectation Customer (or HXC). By becoming a good student of your HXC, you'll learn how to: - Solve their problems. - Relate and find out what they care about.- Speak their language.- Create an experience with you that they'll love. Luckily, you can define this group with data that you can easily mine. A good start is to survey a broader audience to unearth perceptions of the current business they're using (good, bad, or indifferent) vs. yours. Take advantage of open-ended questions with online tools like Google Consumer Surveys to understand the words your audience uses when thinking about your business. By adopting these words as part of your own brand's vernacular, you can ensure they'll be easily understood. You can also talk to your audience with a series of quick interviews to find out who is most amped about your business and why. Listening to these folks directly is an underutilized goldmine as it will help you realize their motivations, behaviors, and feelings. It can help shape your marketing plan and, likely, your business while you're at it. Now that you’ve learned as much as you can about the real humans that care about your business, you'll be well equipped to create your brand positioning and messaging hierarchy. Tons of excellent guides and books focus on doing this well, so let’s leave it to the experts and move on to generating the marketing engine surrounding your audience: https://www.amazon.com/Obviously-Awesome-Product-Positioning-Customers/dp/1999023005 and https://userlist.com/blog/positioning-overhaul/ Step 2: Be where they are and do what they do.The Defined Dish, a food blogger I love to follow, posts visual step-by-step recipes in Instagram Stories many weeknights. Her Stories typically pop up in my feed around 4pm PST when I'm beginning to ask myself, "what's for dinner!?" The combination of timing and taking the guesswork out of meal planning contributes to many Defined Dish dinners on our table. It's not what you say; it's what they hear (and–importantly–when they hear it). It's essential to orchestrate moments like this when and where your audience is most receptive to hearing from you. You can start to spark intent in the hearts and minds of your audience by following these steps: Step 2A: Grab attention on their terms.What moments matter most to your audience during the year? A few points of inspiration:Time of day: Robinhood shares their daily "Snacks" newsletter in the mornings surrounding the most popular times to buy/sell stocks. https://snacks.robinhood.com/Tentpole moments: Warby Parker aligns with Fashion Week in the Fall (and coincidentally, in time for back-to-school frames). https://www.vogue.com/article/warby-parker-takes-over-the-new-york-public-librarySeasonal trends: COVID causes a need for parents to entertain kids indoors, enter the Nugget Couch via mom groups on Facebook. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/katienotopoulos/nugget-couch Step 2B: Move them along a path that leads to purchase.Moments of transaction are also important to plan for. By mapping out the below answers into a framework, you will be able to better understand the best ways to inject your ideal buyer journey with smart messaging that effectively drives to purchase. If someone wants to purchase your product or service, what steps do they take?...and for each step of the process:What is the mindset they're in?Where are they, and what are they doing? In the Robinhood Snacks example above…Robinhood aims to drive users to their app to buy and sell stocks. Users are in a ‘lean-in’ mindset as they consume top news when the Robinhood Snacks newsletter hits their inboxes. By leading with quick-hitting, educational, and newsworthy tips, Robinhood creates a ‘fast-track’ into their app to get users taking and actioning on the information of the newsletter via stock transactions. Step 3: Bring your audience together. They tend to like that, and it can be fun for you, too. Loneliness “can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” researchers warned in a study published before the social isolation of the pandemic set in. Turns out, humans not only crave connection above everything, but are better off for it, healthwise. Like Elpha, your business can also become powerful conduits for connection, as community building is an excellent way to:- Amplify the work you're doing in steps 1 and 2 above. - Learn more about your audience to shape messaging on other channels (like your website).- Drive loyalty by making your audience feel welcomed and supported.- Create a 'marketing channel' for your brands' news and a testbed for future marketing initiatives. - Make your audience feel welcomed and supported (and maybe they’ll tell their friends about you!). Sweetgreen, the healthy salad bar chain, has invented the formula for attaining cult-like status by combining ideology (for them, it’s healthy living or what they call the 'Sweetlife') and their community. Everything they do, whether it's their loyalty program, events geared towards music or exercise, and even their restaurant workers' cheery attitudes all roll up to the 'Sweetlife.’ They’re so committed to bringing it to their community that they’ve launched a ‘fresh food’ truck, a farmers market in one of LA’s food deserts, and plan to “reimagine school cafeterias,'' as detailed here: https://impact.sweetgreen.com/. The Sweetlife is not a squishy campaign motif, but rather bringing people together and having real impact beyond the business. This may feel like a daunting task, so my best advice is to start small. You don't need to invest in fancy software to get your audience connected, getting up and running on a platform they’re familiar with like a Slack channel or Facebook Group is effective and free of cost. The power of the Facebook network itself can help to drive visibility and subscribers to your group if your goal is to grow your audience. Here are a few recommendations on how to best engage your community off the bat:Greet everyone who joins by name Enlist a handful of friends who can ask the right questions and provide the smart responses you want to see from your group (people will begin to model this behavior going forward)Publish a clear, short list of community guidelines, delete any posts that don’t follow them, and let the original poster know why their post was taken down OnwardsI'm excited to get to know you and what you're building; if you want to chat more, please reach me here on Elpha: @bejules
ThereseLCanares's profile thumbnail
This is SO good! Will DM you to chat more
maryqueen's profile thumbnail
Great! :) looking forward to chat!
DallasB's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much for sharing this! I love "make your audience feel seen". Sounds so obvious but often forgotten!
bejules's profile thumbnail
I so agree!
MariaHuang's profile thumbnail
Hi Julia, thank you for sharing this! Reading through your post made me think of Glossier and how the skincare brand was born from the things that Emily Weiss learned consumers wanted after launching her blog. This post was so good; I really enjoyed reading it.
bejules's profile thumbnail
Thank you, @MariaHuang! Emily Weiss wrote a lot of the rules on modern brand building with Glossier, so I'm glad to hear this! If you're ever interested in learning more about surrounding/related topics, let me know!