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Duane Bailey is a regular contributor to The Chief Storyteller® online conversation. He has helped organizations of all sizes drive growth in revenues and market share through the development and delivery of key business messages that resonate with target audiences. He holds an MBA in International Business and a BS in Marketing. He brings 28 years of experience in marketing communications and high technology sales.
I dropped my eldest son off at college earlier this week. He is an incoming freshman at Virginia Tech, a nationally ranked university with a main campus that includes more than 125 buildings, 2,600 acres and 31,000 students. As you can imagine, Virginia Tech is a big place. At first glance, this might seem like a place where newcomers might easily feel disconnected and unengaged.
From a branding perspective, one of the things Virginia Tech excels at is welcoming new members to its brand community – in this case, new students and their parents. During Freshman Orientation, my son and every other new student received a maroon t-shirt with the following question and answer exchange printed on it: “What's a Hokie? I am.” With that simple declaration, they joined existing members of the Hokie community and became the newest faces of Virginia Tech.
On move-in day, we were greeted curbside as we pulled our loaded minivan up to my son’s dormitory. We were met by several student volunteers, or Hokie helpers, who we recognized by the blue shirts they were wearing (a Virginia Tech move-in day tradition for incoming freshman). Starting with Eli, they welcomed us to Virginia Tech and introduced themselves by name. They took a few moments to learn more about each member of my family before loading my son’s belongings into a cart and transporting them to his dorm. My youngest son and I waited with the van. Eli returned a few moments later to let us know my son’s belongings had been safely delivered to his room and that my son would be back in a few moments with a parking pass.
To us, Eli and the other Hokie helpers who greeted us that day are the faces we call to mind when we think of Virginia Tech. They are the human side of the Hokie brand. From the moment we arrived, they helped us feel welcome in this new and very large community. As a result, my family and I are proud to say we are all members of the Hokie family now…as parents, a legacy and, of course, a Hokie.
How does your brand welcome new members to its community? Is your brand providing the kind of memorable experience that allows its newest members to easily connect and engage with the people who represent your brand?
Last week, I wrote about the power of social media in brand storytelling. If the power of social media lies in its ability to foster stronger and more personal relationships that lead to higher levels of customer engagement and brand loyalty, how do you measure it? One way might be to consider your brand’s influence and outreach, as measured by Kred.
I’ve been using Kred for the better part of a year now. While I may have my own sense of how my personal brand might be perceived by others, Kred provides me with an outside perspective through a visual activity stream. This stream includes a snapshot of what others see, how they are reacting to the content I share, the topics I am most influential in and why.
Kred measures influence (or the likelihood that someone will trust me enough to take action on the content I post, on a scale from 1 to 1,000) and outreach (or my generosity in online relationships, as determined by my willingness to follow others and share their content, on a scale from 1 to 12). Brands with higher scores enjoy higher levels of trust and generosity – both key elements in storytelling effectiveness.
While much of what my Kred Story tells me is consistent with my expectations, I am occasionally surprised by what I find. For example, my latest report (shown here) includes my influence (685 out of 1,000) and outreach (6 out of 12) scores. It also contains a summary of hash tags that have appeared in online conversations with me (e.g., #branding, #leadership, #socialmedia, #marketing, #storytelling, etc.), a steady growth in followers and a short listing of my top communities (e.g., marketing, social media and music).
No real surprises until I got to the last top community I just listed. Music? Really? Now that is a surprising insight, given that music is not something I would associate with my personal brand. As I thought about it some more, I realized a good number of musicians are storytellers, too. I suppose it's possible my posts may be resonating with people in the music community and this might be a target audience I may have overlooked.
As your brand hones its storytelling effectiveness on social media, be sure to include outside measures of your influence and outreach by tools like Kred. Hopefully, most of what you'll find will reaffirm your sense of how your brand is being perceived online. The things that surprise you might just open new doors and opportunities for your brand.
Is your brand using social media to tell its story? If not, you may be missing out on one of the best opportunities for interacting with your customers and prospects. Unlike traditional media, the conversational nature of social media can help your brand foster stronger and more personal relationships. Relationships that lead to higher levels of customer engagement and brand loyalty.
I recently wrote about the importance of telling your own story on social media vs. letting someone else tell it for you (or not). If that wasn’t enough to convince you to jump on the social media bandwagon, let me offer you a list of 7 more reasons why I believe social media is a powerful platform for business storytelling. Social media:
- Delivers value – through fresh and original content – that helps to differentiate your brand
- Establishes your credibility and authority as a thought leader – through commentary on trending topics and industry issues
- Demonstrates your commitment to corporate citizenship in your local community – through updates on events and invitations to participate
- Invites customer feedback – through the effective use of questions and comments showing genuine concern – that allows you to react quickly to customer dissatisfiers and offbrand experiences
- Creates emotional connections between brands and consumers – through its ability to allow two-way conversations
- Achieves strong SEO results – through a combination of user interaction, keywords and relevant backlinks
- Encourages people to share, engage and even buy your product or service – through informative and interesting content
For more on the power of social media as a channel for brand storytelling and customer engagement, please see:
• Branding Lessons from Social Media
• Brand Building Through Social Media
• 5 Insights on Marketing Your Brand in Social Media
• Social Media Is About Building Relationships
• Are You Embracing Social Media?
When most of us choose one brand over another, we do so with an expectation. An expectation that the product or service will fulfill a promise made by the brand. What happens, though, when the promise isn’t kept?
This is where the resolution portion of your brand’s customer experience can help. Brands that provide disappointed or inconvenienced customers with an overwhelmingly positive resolution experience are able to recover quickly and restore the trust that may have been lost.
As many of you know, I own a Jeep Wrangler. One of the things I have learned about Jeep Wranglers over the years is that the windshields are particularly prone to cracks and chips caused by small rocks and other road debris. When my windshield needs replacing, I turn to Safelite AutoGlass®. Each time, I receive a professionally installed OEM windshield that is every bit as good as the original (i.e., the brand promise).
Recently, however, the rearview mirror that was attached to my windshield fell off (a not-so-uncommon problem, I discovered, in places like Las Vegas, where it is really hot). So I called Safelite AutoGlass® and scheduled a repair. The customer resolution experience was flawless – minimal effort was required on my part (they came to my home), the mobile technician was professional and knowledgeable, the repair was completed promptly and it was covered under warranty (I paid nothing for the repair).
My windshield is once again every bit as good as the original. So, of course, I would trust them again with the replacement of any future windshields...on any of my cars. And, yes, I would recommend them to a friend or colleague.
Think about your customers and the times where your brand may have fallen short on delivering its promise. How would they rate your resolution experience?
For more insights on what makes a great customer experience, please see:
• All Great Customer Experiences Begin with a Smile
• Communication Is the Foundation of a Great Customer Experience
• Anticipating Needs Is the Key to Customer Retention
What if you could gather hundreds of your targeted prospects and customers in one place on a single night? What if you had a shared interest in something that would bring them together? How would you use that to build a loyal community of customers?
On Saturday night, Pacers Running Stores gathered over 1800 runners and volunteers for the Crystal City Twilighter 5K. This annual event is organized by Pacers and is aptly billed the area's favorite summer twilight race. With a flat and fast course, a lively post-race party and a chance for me to meet up with my family at the Good Stuff Eatery afterward, the evening did not disappoint. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience, from start to finish.
Pacers races offer “fabulously fun courses, great swag, and an incredible group of runners.” Every customer touch point – including online registration, packet pickup, bag check, the start, the race itself, the finish and the post-race party – are true to that promise. The paid staff and volunteers go out of their way to make the events fun, the stuff we all get (SWAG) is awesome and the participants are united by their shared passion for running.
It’s also an opportunity for these runners – many of them Pacers customers and prospects – to benefit from the expertise the Pacers staff can provide when purchasing new running gear, apparel and accessories. My own enthusiasm for Pacers running events has spilled over into the brand and I am proud to count myself a member of the loyal community of Pacers customers.
I can hardly wait until next year's Crystal City Twilighter! How about you?
For related posts on my passion for running and its relationship to branding and customer communities, please see:
• Beyond Price…How One Small Business Is Building Strong Community Ties to Differentiate
• Why Personal Relationships Are Important In Personal and Business Life
• A Trail Run and a Harmonious Customer Experience