From your physical spaces, to your website, to the way you engage with your followers on social media - the authenticity of your brand experiences is critical. Let’s explore the benefits of investing time and energy in building authentic connections, as well as some practical tips to get started.
Take a successful mega-brand like Apple, Nike or Airbnb. Their customers aren't just a random group of people who interact with the organisation once and move on. They’re a community of people who are always ready to listen and respond - they’re emotionally invested in the brand, whether they realise it or not!
Authentic engagement is all about emotional connection, and it’s rarely a single experience. If you can engage with someone on an authentic and emotional level, they're more likely to come back time and time again, advocate on your behalf, and tell their friends and family about you.
If your audience really believes in your mission, word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire. You can’t pay for this sort of marketing, right?
People want a deeper connection with the brands they interact with. Sure, they want a great product or service that fulfils their needs, but they also want a brand to share their values and understand their pains, desires, and goals. They want the brand to ‘get’ them.
If you want to get inside your customers’ heads and tailor your services accordingly, you have to really get to know them. This requires more than a brainstorm session with your team - you need to start interacting with your audience in a more human way.
How? By going straight to the source (where you’ll find the most valuable information). Speak to your audience using their language.
The best, most genuine way to kickstart open dialogue and to build connections with your customers will be different for every brand.
For some organisations, their target audience spends a lot of time online - so social media, email communication and surveys will be key. For others, heading onto the streets and talking with people face-to-face is the way to go.
This should always be your starting point. What do they need? Where are they physically located? Is face-to-face or online interaction better suited to them? Sit down with your team and brainstorm different avenues of communication (you want to make it as easy as possible for your audience to be involved).
If you have a physical space, start people watching! Sit down, have a coffee, immerse yourself in the environment and watch how people use it. What makes them smile? What makes them confused? Where are they congregating? What could be done to make the experience more positive? If you have an online space, join Facebook and LinkedIn groups and watch the conversation unfold. There are always ways to observe. Empathy can also be built by doing site visits, walkthroughs onsite and observing people at work which will help to put you in the shoes of the people your service exists to serve.
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind, but if you don’t actively start listening to what people are telling you, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with people and improve your service. Start having conversations with people about your organisation - whether customers, members of the public, friends, family, or random people at a BBQ. Different perspectives and insights are always helpful.
Regardless of how you choose to communicate with your audience (whether a survey, casual conversation, focus group or something else), you need to speak with your audience on their level. This means dropping the jargon and corporate lingo, because people don't want to feel confused or inadequate. By speaking with them in a conversational, relatable manner, you’re more likely to connect on a personal level and help them feel comfortable enough to share their precious thoughts with you. Always seek to empower.
If you’ve recognised your organisation isn't as accessible as it could be, think of ways to improve. Perhaps you run your workshop online so people don’t need to travel, or you integrate an accessible menu on your website. Small changes can make a big difference. Accessibility is especially important for galleries, libraries, museums, and spaces that are for ‘everyone’.