How to build an enthusiastic army of fans.
My father quit the tire business over 30 years ago. But he still sticks to the same brand of tires as he did back then. And he will tell anyone who asks (or doesn’t ask, as the case might be) about the qualities that make “his” brand the best choice. My father is not a modern influencer. You know, the type who will love basically anything as long as they get paid to. No, he is the perfect brand ambassador. He recommends a brand and a product with real, heartfelt enthusiasm.
Because he knows it, and loves it.
The holy grail of good branding
It’s fairly easy to put value on a product in the traditional sense: You look at retail numbers and get a quick idea about how much money you are making. A large amount of products sold equals success. In the short term, this is all you need. Your product sells. Great!
Then there’s the long-term perspective. The one that’s impossible to price, but invaluable to have. We are of course talking about the holy grail of good branding.
There is so much added value in how the customer talks about your product to their friends and family. And it’s a value that lasts much longer than the lifespan of average consumer goods.
There’s an art to good branding. People go to school for years to learn how to do this. There are hundreds of textbooks to read and theories to learn. Basically, it all boils down to the human psyche: Make people like you and chose you.
Make yourself heard
One of the key elements to creating a long-lasting relationship with your consumers is building a credible reputation. How do you, as a brand, do that? By making superduper products, of course. But also by making sure your customers know some special details about what you’re selling. That they know what separates it from the rest.
Brands could try to convey this information through advertising. But to reach the customer when they are ready to buy, you need to be top of mind at that moment — in the store. The easiest way to do that is to make sure the store staff knows your product and brand well. And that they, basically, like you.
If the girl selling you your new sports equipment is enthusiastic and knowledgeable, chances are you are going to listen and learn. By making sure the store staff knows some key details about your excellent product, you increase the probability of them selling more of it.
Let’s say the sales rep tells you the story about how the inventor of the product lived in a cabin in the French Alps for a year testing different materials to find the perfect, isolating ski glove. That’s a piece of information you’ll happily pass on when you’re out skiing with your friends and someone compliments you on your funky, new gloves.
And so the brand builds. Completely out of control, and impossible to track or put a price tag on. But valuable? Definitely!
And what about the girl working in the sports store? Surrounded by state-of-the-art equipment, getting new products every season. Even though she only worked there part-time while studying law, she will remember the stories and information about your brand. Because you made sure she knew everything you wanted her to know.
You gave her the background she needed to keep your brand in her brain for a very long time. Probably long after she quits school and moves to Peru to pursue a new career as a professional mountain climber.
How to make it happen
So the question is: How do you reach her in the first place? Well, my fellow entrepreneurs at Mevo and I think we have found the answer: An app (of course!) that educates and motivates store staff.
The app uses elements of gamification and rewards good efforts — by organizing actual sales contests with great prizes, and also by having a direct channel where you can send the sales rep an instant message to congratulate her with a job well done.
The education part happens through fun quizzes, where you supply the staff with all the useful (and entertaining!) sale-triggering information they need. Easy to remember, and very good to know.
My father didn’t need an app to learn all he needed to know about the products he sold. He spent many years acquiring that knowledge. Today the retail business is changed. Not only does store staff change more frequently, but shoppers are demanding high-quality assistance when they actually bother to visit a store IRL. So we have given brands a tool to make sure the shopping experience is top-notch.
Remember: Good customer service never goes out of style.