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Relationships go through twists and turns, ups and downs, ebbs and flows. They take work and attention. This is true of every relationship, including those between brands and their consumers.

Marketers can no longer (or at least rarely) depend on their product strengths alone to earn them a loyal following. Brands these days compete on the entire customer experience.

 

Some 68% of marketing leaders say their company is increasingly competing on the basis of customer experience.

- Fourth annual “State of Marketing” report

 

As with any personal relationship, building strong connections with your audience starts with three basic steps:

 

1. Get to know each other.

There are all kinds of advice out there for first dates: Put away your phone, dress smart, avoid oversharing. The most important advice, though, is to listen.

Listening is a way of showing respect, and, as in any new relationship, consumers want to be respected and valued. Find out who they are, what they want, and what is important to them. In our personal lives, this translates into spending time together, asking questions, and trying new activities. When it comes to building customer relationships, it’s not so different.

Jay Baer, President and Founder of Convince & Convert, offered his insight, based on his book Hug Your Haters. He said that “one third of customer complaints are never answered.”

Think about this in the context of a budding romantic relationship: Would you ignore one third of a girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s complaints? If so, we wish you sincere good luck with that approach. For smarter marketers, however, especially ones on social media, this tactic will lead to breakdowns in authentic customer relationships.

Brands should take the time to listen to what consumers are saying about their products and experiences, ask how they can improve, and test how consumers react to new messaging and offers.

When it comes down to it, consumers want you to demonstrate you care about who they are and what is meaningful to them.

 

2. Engage their interests.

Communication is the bedrock of any good relationship. It should be a two-way street. If you’re pelting your audience with messaging or offers without taking the time to find out whether they even want them, you’ll alienate your audience.

This can be the hardest part of your relationship: letting go of what you think is unique or valuable about your product or brand and focusing on what consumers find unique or valuable instead.

Remember, the best relationships grow organically. You can’t force your people to care about something they don’t find meaningful. Pay attention to their interests, and structure your content, conversations, and experiences around what is important to them. In short, you should map the customer journey.

 

 

Earning loyalty requires being loyal yourself. When it’s clear that you put consumers’ interests first, you’ll see better engagement, higher trust, and more loyal customers.  

 

3. Personalize the experience.

In every relationship, there comes a time when you have to take it to the next level. For brands looking to woo consumers, this means personalization.

By providing content specific to their interests and needs, you let people know that they’re cared for. More than any single product, message, or experience, this feeling is what makes people fall in love with a brand.

To make this easier, AI tools like Einstein take the guesswork out of knowing what consumers want and can even predict their actions and favorite channels. AI is like a tiny voice in your ear, making sure you say the right thing at the right time.

In the webinar below, Jay Baer and Tiffany Tooley, Director of Product Marketing at Salesforce, explain how brands can engage consumers with personalized messages across channels using data and AI.

Watch the webinar.