Don’t you hate it when friends pester you on a social network? Social Selling is a phrase that seems to be catching on, but it sounds too much like a hustle. As if there is no deeper relationship. I prefer a friends-buy-from-friends world. In this paradigm, a prospect is merely a friend you are yet to meet.
What makes a Best Friend Brand? And can technology help you be a better friend? (Like the topic? Join me for a webinar with Rhett Thompson, Director Alliances, IBM on Best Friend Brands by registering at //paulwriter.com/ibm-webinar/)
1. Pride of Association: Years ago a colleague struggled to get a testimonial from a multi-million dollar, multi-year client. In frustration, he yelled “I want to be your missus, not your mistress. I want you to give me your name.” Your brand has to be respected and respectable for people to acknowledge you. While reputation is a combination of online and offline, Technology can be used to disemminate your brand, and your digital presence can convey solidity, class and respectability.
2. Reliable: Is the brand there for you? Can you find it when you need it? Does it come through in your hour of need – career progression, snowstorm, loss of baggage? These cut across all brand categories – what matters is only whether your brand’s USP survives a stress test. For example, what’s the point of a luxury pen if it doesn’t help you stand out in a formal job interview. Or a mobile service provider that leaves you stranded on a lonely road with a flat tyre. Or a performance car that fails to start in a storm. I’m not big on luxury brands, but I am happy to pay a bit more for brands that you can count on – Victorinox, Eureka Forbes, BMW, Volvo, Samsonite, Dettol, Taj etc Technology can play a role in ensuring reliability, more so with the rise of the internet of things. In addition, technology can ensure 24×7 accessibility. Remote, real-time repairs could further enhance trust.
3. Helpful: True engagement is when you understand the customer needs and then offer a relevant solution. And that may include the courage to say that no, we’re not made for other but here’s this other brand that may be a perfect match. Or the leadership and innovation to put together a multi-brand solution. Cognitive science, predictive analytics, neural marketing are all fields that are now accessible to marketers who can apply them to better match customer expectations.
4. Gracious in failure: We all remember the one occasion we were bumped up to first class along with the fluffy bathrobes because the airline double booked our seat. We forgive the inefficiency because of the recovery. How a brand behaves when it is at fault is a big contributor to friendship. How easy is it to get your money back? Did the brand say sorry without the threat of a law suit? Did the brand offer a remedy? Friends say sorry to each other and move on. Brands need to do the same. This is broadly a process decision though technology can enable a rule based standardised response once the process has been set. Loyalty programs have evolved to be ever more sophisticated and real-time so that the commercial aspect of the apology can also be judged to a nicety.
5. Best Friends Forever: I bought two expensive lamps at a specialty light shop in our locality. They both conked in a year, and when I sought the shop’s help in getting them fixed, they refused to acknowledge ever selling them once they discovered I had lost the receipt. Contrast this with my favourite antique shop. I can’t and don’t buy a lot of vintage furniture but they’re always happy to arrange for reupholstering the pieces I have. Or Tupperware offering replacement lids – so that you can continue using the bottle even after you’ve lost the cap. A customer shouldn’t have to keep buying in order to stay friends with a brand. A single transaction should result in a lifelong relationship. Unlike the past where ‘customer memory’ was limited by either data storage space or the individual salesperson’s memory, sophisticated CRM systems can keep the relationship going on auto-pilot for years, and recognise the customer appropriately when they return.
Like the topic? Join me for a webinar with Rhett Thompson, Director Alliances, IBM on Best Friend Brands by registering at //paulwriter.com/ibm-webinar/
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net