Everyone’s an Influencer: How Brand Loyalty Affects Holiday Shopping

Everyone’s an Influencer: How Brand Loyalty Affects Holiday Shopping

Cultivate the same kind of loyalty as Apple this holiday.

 

(Originally posted in Business2Community)

We all know the stereotype of the Apple fanboy (or girl). It almost doesn’t matter what problems arise with Apple products — or if the competition’s technology is better — Apple fans remain loyal. And, more importantly, they remain rabid defenders and promoters for their favorite brand.

Your company may not be the next Apple, but that’s not to say you can’t cultivate the same kind of loyalty. In fact, it’s crucial that you do, especially during the holidays.

This holiday season, an estimated 66 percent of consumers will shop at their favorite retailers as opposed to branching out to try new stores. Forty-four percent will purchase gifts from brands they’re loyal to, and 42 percent will go even further and use loyalty points to make purchases. With those kinds of numbers, it’s obvious why building brand loyalty is important.

Luckily, it’s not too late — even this far into the holiday season.

How to Build Brand Loyalty Right Now

It may be halfway through December, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on building brand loyalty this season. While tons of people shop at their favorite stores during the holidays, plenty are looking for unique gifts they may not consider buying at other times throughout the year. This is the perfect time to motivate your current customers to start promoting your brand to their friends and family.

Loyal customers can be your holiday brand advocates. In fact, they’re the people who might be the most successful at encouraging others to spend their holiday budgets on your products. So it only makes sense to target these people by adding some influencer marketing strategies to your holiday marketing campaign. By starting the relationships now, you’re encouraging these customers to stay loyal throughout the new year.

Here’s how you can maximize your influencers this holiday season:

1. Know your influencers. Just like you need to know your target customer, you must know your target influencers. Look at the people who are already talking about you on social media or blogs. Who are they? What else do they like, and what influences them? Then, determine what kind of influencers you hope to recruit for your campaign.

Figure out their personalities so you can better understand what would motivate them to advocate for you. One way to achieve this is to monitor their sentiments and personality through persona segmentation, which breaks down influencer characteristics, similar to the sample analysis below. For example, one influencer might value green living, while another is daring and nonconformist. You can then segment your influencer messages based on those unique characteristics.

Monitor your brand influencers' sentiments and personality through persona segmentation.

2. Develop a theme. The holidays are a great time to create fun and exciting themes to help spread your promotions. For example, a common holiday-themed hashtag is #stockingstuffers. If you’re a brand that sells a product that would be a great stocking stuffer, you might consider making this your campaign theme and targeting influencers who use the hashtag regularly.

The everyday influencer below is a good example: a stay-at-home mom with a large social following who loves social media and consistently promotes #stockingstuffers. Companies that sell small, unique gadgets or holiday goodies might look for similar micro influencers to help promote their products as stocking stuffers through the holidays.

This everyday influencer below is a good example of a holiday influencer.

 

Last year, Topshop created a “personalized gift guide” theme during its “Dear Topshop” campaign. Users pinned Topshop products on Pinterest as a way to help others find the perfect holiday gift or party outfit while earning a chance to win a great prize. The retailer’s products ended up all over Pinterest, garnering more followers and regular customers.

3. Think outside your vertical. Anyone can be an influencer. With that in mind, why not reach outside your core vertical and target people you may not normally consider?

For example, if you’re in the food industry, you might target influencers in wine, cooking, recipes, or restaurants. Once again, you might discover some really influential people with loyal audiences who would be more than willing to mention your brand.

4. Make it worthwhile. While some brands already have loyal followers who will buy and promote products without much incentive, this isn’t the time to assume that you fall under that category. Like Topshop did in 2013, you should make the act of promoting your brand fun and intuitive. Women were already pinning beautiful clothes to Pinterest, but Topshop made it valuable to pin their clothes over competitors’ by hosting a fun contest that rewarded the influencers.

When you reward those who promote your brand — through the use of both tangible and intangible rewards — your influencers will provide you more value in return.

5. Create a tracking system for your influencers. Data should drive every decision you make this holiday season. The more you know about your campaigns, the more accurately you can judge your ROI. So figure out who your favorite influencers are or who can offer the most value to your brand based on your objectives, then consistently nurture those relationships and measure your results.

The holidays are one of the most beneficial times to build brand loyalty — whether that’s through a unique shopping experience, good customer service, or loyalty programs. But the best way to differentiate your brand and build a loyal year-round following is through influencer marketing. Believe me, it’s never too late.

Start your Influencer campaign now using the Mattr app.

 

(Photo credit: Cult of Mac)

 

 

3 Tips To Keep Your Brand Healthy in 2015

3 Tips To Keep Your Brand Healthy in 2015

(originally published in Entrepreneur)

Determine who influences your buyer persona.

 

“Sorry. I won’t even consider that brand.”

As I finally figured out what the robin’s egg blue tinge on my fingers came from, I recalled my buying journey earlier that day.

And it was an ambitious journey. Buying jeans isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s especially difficult when you’re shopping for cool-guy jeans with a dad-jeans body.

The brands and style choices are staggering. There’s selvage, raw, distressed, boot-cut, straight leg and skinny varieties. The brands have interesting, americana names like The Flat Head, Sugar Cane Co., and Imogene and Willie. But after a 20-minute Internet search I was bombarded with retargeting ads asking me to buy their jeans before I even knew what my choices were. I immediately discounted those brands in my brain then realized how gargantuan my mission was. I needed some kind of shortcut.

I got it. Soon I was teetering under 210 pounds of slippery, oddly metallic-smelling denim in a trendy men’s store in Austin’s South Congress district. To the astonishment of the sales person, I said I wouldn’t even try on one of their fashion brands – I’ve seen it too many times at discounters – it’s dead to me. Anyway, after a couple hours of hopping, cussing, and crashing into fitting rooms made for skinny-jeans people, I found that perfect pair.

As an entrepreneur with an emerging brand, trying to get your name and content trusted can seem like an art form. In your gut you know it’s not just money – after all, the “Will It Blend – iPhone 6 Plus” video has amassed almost 3 million views. But it’s not voodoo – it just takes knowledge, discipline, and a lot of hard work.

Here are some crucial elements (and that shortcut) that can make placing your company’s product in the hands of consumers a lot easier:

1. Distribute with discipline.

“Content is king, but distribution is queen; and she wears the pants.” There are a lot of ways to poison your brand. But incorrect or inconsistent distribution is near the top of the most wanted list. It’s why I wouldn’t even try on one of the brands during my jeans journey.

Joshua Bingaman, founder of HELM Boots, is fiercely disciplined in his company’s branding strategy. He researched all the possible personas of consumers who buy fashionable boots and came up with the one that’s most aligned with his brand’s values.

He determined that his buyers would trust his artisanal boots only if they were excluded from sales sites.

“We’ve worked hard to develop HELM Boots into a brand that is recognized in Esquire or GQ instead of sale sites like Gilt or Fab.” – Joshua Bingaman, founder of Helm Boots

This is Joshua telling the queen which pants to wear.

Look – you work hard on conceiving and creating your brand’s image, products, and marketing content. You’re rightfully proud of them. But your distribution must fit your buyer perfectly or your jeans may be the only ones left on the rack.

How about that shortcut I took to find my perfect pair of jeans?

2. Determine who influences your buyer persona.

Word-of-mouth is an old and established marketing channel. Nielsen Research found that 84% of consumers trust buying advice from friends. So HELM puts its global tribe of brand advocates to work to spread its message; these people know their reputation will be elevated each time they recommend HELM. And it was a similar web of advocates that proved critical to my buying journey.

After I gave up searching for the perfect jeans, I tossed out a Facebook post to my friends.

 

I received some good advice from a fashionable Dane whose opinions I trust. He gave me the name of the men’s shop on South Congress and a few brands to try.

Cultivate your brand advocates, those people who have bought your product and look for opportunities to recommend it. It’s hard, but rewarding work. Your other influencer channel, bloggers, can have a bigger impact that pays off enormously. Of course, I could talk to you for hours about it.

Number one on the most wanted list of most toxic brand poisons is next.

3. Mind where your consumers are in their buying journey.

Mastering timing is critical for ensuring that you’re providing the right content for a particular phase of a buyer’s journey.

Roughly speaking, buyers go through three phases: awareness (do they know your brand exists?), consideration (how does your brand compare to competitors?), and conversion from prospect to customer (Are they ready for a call to action?).

In my cool-guy jeans experience, I went through the journey in a matter of hours. I wasn’t buying a car or a house or looking to move data centers. Usually consumers need time to make up their minds before a company or its influencers bombard them with “buy now” messaging. Retargeted ads are the most ham-fisted example of a premature call to action. If this happens too soon, it’s bad fugu – poisonous to the brand.

Today, getting your product in front of the right buyers isn’t about broadcasting your message to anyone who will listen. It’s about identifying your ideal buyers, finding the influencers who resonate most with them and serving up the appropriate content at the right time, in the right place.

That way, in the chaos of the holiday-shopping season, your customers hopefully won’t be distracted by an overabundance of choices. If they hear about your company’s brand from someone they trust, making a choice will be as easy and comfortable as donning a good pair of jeans.