Gaining Brand Loyalty on a Shoestring Budget

06.07.2016

At first glance, branding is a pricey endeavor for companies that are looking to express their values and gain a loyal customer base. You have to invest in a quality designer who can forge a logo and website that genuinely represent the brand.

You have to hire writers and social media managers who can speak in the voice of your company and provide regular and relevant content. However, not having the funds for these investments doesn’t have to entirely stunt your brand’s success. In fact, much of what branding entails is not expensive at all, requiring far more time, research, and collaboration than cash. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that about 75% of businesses had just one owner and no employees. So how on earth can small businesses be expected to build brand loyalty with so few resources?

Choose a Star Marketing Tactic

Successful brands don’t climb to the top of their industry by chance. Rather, they choose one primary tactic and excel with it. This may be a more direct technique, like creating effective ads online, or a more subtle one, like churning out informative blog posts on a regular basis. Regardless of the tactic a brand chooses, the most important thing is that they do it well. The chosen tactic has to resonate with the audience repeatedly -- otherwise it won’t help you with brand loyalty.

The first question brands must ask is, “What is an offer that customers would find nearly impossible to pass up?”, otherwise known as your irresistible offer. A good example of this is instant rewards. Inspiria Media uses Del Taco to demonstrate a smart campaign. This fast food chain created a simple Taco Night twice weekly, where customers can eat certain dishes at a lower price. For online brands, these kinds of campaigns can be entirely digital -- such as offering a coupon code for certain products on a relevant holiday. Targeted marketing campaigns can help boost business on slower days or times of the year, while attracting new and old customers alike.

Don’t Rely on Pricing Alone

If the only feature a company stands out for is its low prices, their brand identity is tied to pricing and not value. Never market based on price alone. Trumpeting affordable prices may get you some quick one-time sales, but it does little to nurture brand loyalty over time. Too much emphasis on having the lowest prices in the industry can give a brand a weak reputation, and can also get you labelled as lazy with your marketing efforts.

So if a company is in the position to tout its low prices, the key is to have other strengths in the limelight as well. Alder and Alder uses Primark as a perfect example of this strategy. Primark is a discount clothing retailer operating primarily in the UK and US. While their low prices are an obvious draw, they also make sure to follow the latest trends and rapidly import new styles. This way, customers know they never have to settle for outdated clothing simply because it is more affordable. This positions Primark as a strong competitor against pricier brands that offer modern fashion trends.

Choose 3 Base Notes

One of the most common places companies fall short with their branding is in getting specific. Branding itself is a vague term, and one that is still largely misunderstood in many professional settings. Most marketing teams are well aware of their need to synthesize a strategy and cultivate a cohesive brand -- but after the first few steps, things tend to get vague. Brand managers may find themselves thinking, “What now?”

Doug Kessler’s talk on mastering tone of voice at Content Marketing World 2014 addresses this problem of vagueness in the branding process. Simply put: audiences can’t be loyal to a brand that they are unable to clearly define. Thus the adoption of what Kessler calls “base notes” helps you to get specific with your brand consistency. He uses Innocent Juice as an example of a beverage brand whose base notes are: simple, friendly, and silly. Once companies choose three base notes that fully sum up their intended tone of voice, brand managers can track consistency and train employees to adopt the brand voice without confusion.

Listen and Respond

Another surprisingly overlooked aspect of maintaining brand loyalty is customer feedback and quality service. It’s easy to forget to assess customer experiences and opinions, especially when business is going well. However, brands can easily monitor their customers by reading reviews, conducting brief surveys to recent customers, or simply providing an email address for feedback. By finding weak spots in a customer’s experience, brands can tweak problematic steps in the buying process and beyond. Providing exceptional service may cost you little or nothing depending on your current setup, and gives customers a great reason to talk about your business and the consistency of your brand. At Frontify, we use Intercom for customer success.

Foster Transparency and Trust

This is a tip that you may not know how to immediately implement, but when we talk about brand loyalty, trust is of paramount importance. Customers tend to trust and respect brands that exhibit transparency, even in the face of mistakes. Mishaps will occur and will never be entirely avoidable. However, a brand’s response to these mishaps can instantly solidify or break trust with a customer base.

FedEx’s timely response to an employee throwing a fragile package over a fence exhibits this point flawlessly. The company could have chosen to remain silent or address the issue after weeks of consideration. But instead, FedEx promptly fired the employee and issued a public statement video just two days after the incident went viral. The company handled the problem and made a transparent apology instead of attempting to sweep it under the rug. Social Media Marketer, Mack Collier calculated that a majority of comments on the apology video were positive or neutral, while just 18% were negative. FedEx taught us that when a brand’s reputation is at stake, this is the most critical time to speak up and be honest with customers.

There are a variety of reasons why a company may not have a large budget to invest in marketing and building brand loyalty. Marketers sometimes have a tough time convincing executives of the importance of funding a marketing strategy. In other cases, failed marketing attempts may have dried up the budget, causing management to become skeptical of another uncertain campaign. But by incorporating just one or two of the actionable tips above, brands can climb out of obscurity and begin to make a unique name for themselves -- even in saturated industries.

Still uncertain on what to do first? If your head is spinning, start by developing a style guide for your brand. Style guides are a valuable tool for developing brand consistency. With a style guide, you’ll be able to decide on appropriate logos, color schemes, fonts, icons, and more to create a customized and recognizable brand.

Roger Dudler
Roger Dudler CTO at Frontify
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