Sometimes a business product or service can be purchased without much consideration. Often, what’s bought are simple or inexpensive consumables, interchangeable in the mind of the buyer with other products or services in the same category. Business strategists recognize interchangeability as the death knell for a company.
Conversely, being memorable and useful are characteristics of a brand full of promise.
Maybe an emergency situation made the rash purchase of a new department printer – whatever was on sale – necessary. Or an uninformed new intern got his hands on a corporate credit card everyone had forgotten about. Instead of the usual IT requisition, the newbie scored a souped-up monster machine.
Neither of these colorful scenarios are the ideal way to have your product or service chosen. They aren’t the basis for a customer relationship. These and similar impulse or ill-considered circumstances don’t lay a smooth trail to “Customer For Life” utopia. And for your marketing dollar, it’s a given you’ll want to retain paying customers as long as possible.
So how can you ensure your product or service will be thoughtfully, intentionally chosen? What steps can be taken so your brand is the solution buy-ready prospects gravitate to in their time of need?
According to B2B marketer Karen Talavera, the answer to customer relationships lay in this formula:
Talavera believes before you can effectively sell to prospects in a scalable way, you first have to earn their trust by demonstrating a willingness to serve them. The attitude of service can be conveyed in your messaging, general helpfulness (front office, customer service, etc.), and chosen tactics.
Depending on your business, a low-commitment action might include reading a blog post, watching an informational video, registering for a webinar, subscribing to an email list or providing small bits of personal data in exchange for access to exclusive content.
Higher commitment actions obviously include full purchase, but may also include requests for quote, demo, trial, subscription-based purchase, upgrades or add-ons, and requests for referral.
With sufficient low-commitment opportunities in place, you’ll have the means to draw prospects into higher commitment opportunities without sacrificing their comfort or squelching their search for validation.
3 Steps To Build Trust for More Meaningful Customer Relationships
Get to know your prospective customers
Following Talavera’s model, your first efforts should focus on getting to know your prospective customers and ensuring they know how you can be of service to them (note I didn’t say what you sell).
Graphic design software Canva does a great job of engendering trust through its design school. Part blog, part knowledge base, Canva’s design school serves as a go-to resource for people who may need how-to advice to use Canva’s features or tips for making more beautiful graphics. Sure, the info is largely relevant to the Canva platform. But some material is universal, like How to choose fonts, How to choose a color palette, and so on.
Further, the educational content is written in a style that’s easy to understand, encouraging in tone, and doesn’t require a big time commitment. The information is categorized so readers can easily find answers to their specific challenge. The design school also features in-depth workshops perfect for someone in need of boning up their skills or maybe taking on additional responsibilities at the office.
Information-rich and accessible, the Canva design school is one example of how to serve your prospective customers. Can you think of ways your company could take a lesson from Canva’s book?
Be likeable by being helpful
While you can’t force someone to like your brand or enjoy your products, you can remove barriers or perceived barriers that might otherwise deter them from interacting with your brand. Interaction, done well, can be an open doorway leading to favorable impression.
Fort Collins-based Walker Mowers makes it easy to like their brand. Right on the homepage you’ll learn they don’t sell to end users, only through the dealers associated with their distributors. Sound like a hassle? Actually it’s impressive. Walker Mowers wants to build relationships so every mower sold is made by someone trained in advising proper models and add-ons, and committed to servicing the products if needed.
And Walker Mowers offers a number of outlets for interaction. A handy calculator can help someone in the market determine if a Walker is a good match for their situation. The company website also features a request form for on-site demonstration, which is a great way to show a prospect how the machine will perform locally, rather than on an antiseptic lot chosen by a professional photographer. Further, the property study does all the requisite comparison homework for you.
How can you make your company more likeable? Walker Mower’s commitment to educating their earns a “like” in my book.
Be worthy of their trust, in every way
Trust is the final piece to Talavera’s formula. Not easily won yet easily lost, trust is the cornerstone to future brand loyalty and advocacy.
FreshBooks cloud accounting has made some bold moves in the last few years, moves that have done some heavy lifting in the Trust area. Founder Mike McDerment released a very transparent letter in 2012 to announce the companys’ evolution from online invoicing software to cloud accounting, a more comprehensive moniker fitting the breadth of FreshBooks’ services.
The letter was candid, authentic, and told the brand’s story in a relatable way. The genesis of the company wasn’t glamorous, but the manner in which McDerment and his staff have committed themselves to minimizing one very important headache from small business owners, well that’s red carpet treatment.
FreshBooks enmeshes a service-first mentality into every communication I’ve ever received, including this acknowledgement email (when I provided feedback following a downgrade) and this alert my trial was soon ending. The acknowledgement and helpful nudge let me know they’re paying attention.
In what ways can your company be more approachable and trustworthy?