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3 Things Taylor Swift Can Teach Entrepreneurs About Reputation Management

Taylor Swift makes certain not one of her fans feels like a number, which is part of why she has more fans than she could possibly count.

Joey Coleman

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How do you get customers to notice the release of a new product? If you’re Taylor Swift, you delete your social media history and then drop a video of yourself in a $10 million diamond bath. Although it’s a bit unorthodox, her approach worked.

The “Look What You Made Me Do” video racked up more than 43 million views in 24 hours, according to Variety – crushing the record for views of a debut video. By the time it became available through streaming services, Swift’s Reputation album had already spent three weeks in the Billboard 200’s No. 1 spot.

What made Swift’s album release so massive? She knows her fan base well enough to create exactly the type of hype her millions of followers respond to best. Brands can follow suit by looking for opportunities to get the attention of their own fans.

Related: The Importance Of Business Reputation

Swift’s fans follow her religiously on Instagram, but if, say, General Electric deleted its Instagram posts, few people would notice and even fewer would care. Entrepreneurs should first find out where their customers are and what they care about in order to figure out the best way to get them to take notice.

What’s the customer experience ‘end game’?

taylor-swift-end-gameCustomers want to feel like they matter, but all too often, they end up feeling like little more than a number. This feeling isn’t unjustified. What’s the first thing the typical business does when it gets a new customer? It assigns that new customer an account number.

Swift differs from a typical business by looking at her customers as unique individuals, even though her millions of fans far exceed the number of customers of a typical business. Swift broadcasts general information to all her followers, of course, but she also goes out of her way on an almost daily basis to engage at an individual level with at least some of her fans.

In a world where the bar for the customer experience is so low that even the most skilled limbo dancer couldn’t slide beneath it, the way businesses interact with customers is more important than ever. Businesses often use size to justify their lack of a positive customer experience.

While a start-up can offer customers a personalised interaction at the beginning, many businesses find it difficult to keep individualised attention and care a priority as they start to add more customers and hire more employees. There are ways to keep the focus on customers’ experiences, though, and Swift’s success in doing this at scale offers three great lessons:

1. Stay true to the “customer comes first” philosophy

Never forget that a company’s success grows directly from the relationship with its “fans.” Swift is under no false illusions. The second her fans decide to stop listening to her music, her career is over. This is why she goes out of her way to cultivate her relationship with her fans on a daily basis.

Her Tumblr page is a prime example of how she takes fan engagement seriously, and she uses the platform to interact with fans on a regular basis by following their pages, commenting on conversations and even sending flowers to fans who need a pick-me-up.

The same must be true of every employee in a company. If the people who come into contact with customers don’t understand and share the enthusiasm for creating a remarkable customer experience, the “customer comes first” philosophy isn’t being put into practice on the front lines.

Related: Richard Branson on Building a Strong Reputation

Never forget that customers are a brand’s fans, and they keep companies in business. Every employee plays a role in making customers feel special and appreciated.

2. Forget the old way of doing things

ticketmasters-verified-fan-programmeFor her most recent concert tour, Swift announced a change in how ticket purchasing will work. Rather than follow the traditional “first come, first served” model – which invites bots to snatch up tickets before actual people can purchase them – Swift’s fans will be allowed to compete for a ranking through Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan programme.

In this model, if a fan exhibits increased engagement by signing up for Swift’s newsletter and sharing about her on social media, the fan is able to purchase better tickets to the concert.

Like Swift, constantly be on the lookout for fun and engaging ways to let customers know that their business is valuable. This will take creativity and may require extra effort, but the response from customers will be worth it.

3. Reward raving fans

Many entrepreneurs worry that if they can’t create a remarkable experience for every customer, it would be unfair to do so for any customer. This means that no customer ends up having a remarkable experience.

Related: How Not to Commit Reputation Suicide

Swift refuses to get tied up in such limited thinking. In 2014, she undertook a project to study the social media accounts of a few of her “superfans,” learning what they liked, who they were friends with, where they worked and other personal details.

Swift then went shopping for Christmas (or “Swiftmas,” as it came to be called) gifts for those fans. These exceptional personalised gifts, sent to only a few dozen fans, were seen by the rest of her fan base as an incredible act of kindness. That made them love her even more, even though they weren’t direct beneficiaries of this special treatment.

Showering your best customers with extra love isn’t unfair to the rest. Set the bar for customer experience high across the board, but do something extra special for your most loyal fans. They deserve it, after all, and there’s no better way to convince a customer “fan” base that they really are more than just a number.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Joey Coleman is a speaker who helps organizations retain their best customers. His book, “Never Lose a Customer Again,” helps businesses learn how to turn any sale into a lifelong customer.

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Branding

Brush Up On Your Personal Branding To Cement Your Success As An Entrepreneur

Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge.

Richard Mukheibir

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When you run your own business, you are the brand champion and the brand ambassador – in fact, you are the brand. That is why in all the turmoil of start-up or getting a new product launched, you need to spare a moment to step back.

Think about how you are presenting to the world the brand that is so precious to you and that means so much for your future. Your clients certainly want to know and even see evidence that you are deeply committed to your brand. But there is a fine line between living the brand and letting the brand take you over and cloud your better judgement.

This is where personal branding becomes as important as your innovative product solutions or your customer service excellence. Edgy entrepreneur is one thing – but clients might shy away if they think that you have stepped over the edge and are more involved in process than delivery.

Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge:

  1. Time management: Despite traffic problems or transport schedules, getting this right is vital. If you do not make it on time to an initial meeting with a client, this will raise alarm bells. The client’s immediate thought is, “Can I trust this person’s word about delivering on time?” Time is money and not being on time could ultimately cost you money.
  2. Look the part: If you look tired, dishevelled or have poor hygiene, instead of giving you a high five for pulling an all-nighter trying to troubleshoot a new product, clients might simply think that you do not fit with their corporate culture. Ask yourself if you even fit with your own corporate culture? Is this the way you want to present your brand and your business to the world?
  3. Clear the decks: You might just get away with your office or workshop looking like a tip where only you know where to find something. But do not let that attitude spill over into the world outside.

That apparently friendly and innocent courtesy of being escorted to your car by your host when you leave the meeting could cover them checking you out. Many business people judge potential service providers or partners by their car – not the brand but what it looks like.

Is it covered in dust and badly in need of a wash? Is it full of the rubbish of several lunches on the road and a muddle of paperwork? It is likely that they will deduce that this is how you run your business and how you would run your business relationship with them. In other words, the state of your car might get you the thumbs up or put an end to what had been a promising negotiation.

You can be how you like, do what you want when you are off duty. But when you are on your own business’s time, you are your own brand and you need to live up to it if you want to make your mark.

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Branding

5 Things You Can Do To ‘Humanise’ Your Brand

Face it: Consumers don’t automatically trust your brand or anyone else’s. Whaddaya gonna do?

Syed Balkhi

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Let’s face it, consumers don’t trust brands. Most people view companies like faceless enemies; they’re just out to make money; they’re just telling us what we want to hear. So, if your company wants to win over more customers, you’ve got to get them to trust you.

In fact, according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018, more than one in three consumers surveyed ranked “trust in brand” among the top three factors, other than price, influencing their decision to shop at a particular retailer. How do you get consumers to trust your company? You do it by showing them the human side of your brand. That will inspire more trust from consumers and boost your conversions.

To form meaningful relationships with your audience, check out these five ways to humanise your brand.

Show off your funny bone

netflix-tweet

One easy way is to show off your funny bone. According to researchers from the Turku PET Centre, Oxford and Aalto universities, social laughter leads to an endorphin release in the brain and may promote the establishment of social bonds. So, if laughter can make us feel good and encourage connections between people, you should consider using it to get the same results for your business.

Not a comedian yourself? Don’t worry; you can share popular and funny content that already exists. It’s what Netflix does when the media giant shares funny images from its shows.

Showing your more playful side will help consumers see that you’re not just a business focused on selling a product; you’re a human who can put aside your seriousness and have some fun.

Related: Boutique Branding Consultancy Morake Design House

Put your team members in the spotlight

Letting consumers see the people behind the business is a powerful way to humanise your brand. If consumers are looking at just your logo all the time, they might not see your brand as human. So, put your team members in the spotlight.

Shoot some quality photos of your staff members and display them on your website and your social media platforms. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer; iPhones today can take some pretty stunning shots. You might even share your employee of the month and include a story about what makes that staffer so great. Seeing the amazing people “behind the curtain” will help consumers put a face to the brand name.

Share user-generated content

Sharing user-generated content works to humanise your brand in two ways: First, it’s exciting and flattering to the user who gets his or her photo featured on your website or social media feed. Second, it shows other consumers that you have great relationships with their peers and that those people already enjoy your products.

Instead of being asked to blindly trust a company’s claims, consumers will see real-life people falling in love with your products, which will promote trust in your brand. Example? Airbnb does user-generated content well by sharing with its followers the amazing experiences its customers are having around the world.

airbnb-mozambique-holiday

If you don’t have any user-generated content, ask your customers for it. Do this in an email marketing campaign; add it to your branded packages for shipping; or create a post on social media encouraging users to take a photo of/with your product and share it in combination with a unique, branded hashtag.

Related: 5 Ways To Make Your Personal Branding Statement Stand Out

Tell authentic stories

Don’t spend all your time online just talking about how great your company is; humanise your brand by telling authentic stories. Sharing real stories about your failures, hardships and lessons that you’ve learned will help customers better relate and sympathise with you. According to Psychological Science, research suggests that shared pain may have positive social consequences; shared pain acts as a “social glue” to promote solidarity and togetherness between groups.

So, tell your target audience members stories that they can relate to, instead of simply presenting your brand as perfect. You could even share stories of your customers who previously struggled but then achieved success with help from your company/product. This will not only humanise your brand, but boost sales too.

Show appreciation for your customers

Letting your customers know that you care about and appreciate them is one of the best ways to humanise your brand. So, show appreciation for your best customers by sending them company swag or offering special discounts with a personalised message.

Buffer thanked one of its stand-out customers with not only company swag, but a personalised gift. I’m sure that those customers then became lifelong fans.

buffer-value-adds

Not every company can afford to send out swag to all of their best customers, but sending a gift to just a few of your rockstar fans can go a long way. For a less costly strategy, show appreciation to new customers by simply sending a welcome/thank you email. Not only will such appreciation for your customers humanise your brand, it’ll turn those customers into brand ambassadors.

Related: How A Branded Car Can Boost Your Business

Over to you

Be prepared for your business to have a lot more die-hard customers. With these tips for humanising your brand, consumers will be able to connect with your business, relate to you on a deeper level and want to have a relationship with your company for the long term.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Branding

How A Strong Brand Protects Your Business

Brand enthusiasts are welcome to follow Kyle Rolfe’s latest thoughts on brand building in South Africa and his analysis on relevant global trends and issues via Twitter @kylerolfeSA.

Kyle Rolfe

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It is all too easy for small businesses to become victims of intellectual property theft and seeing their products and services copied by unscrupulous competitors. A clear case in point is that of Woolworths, which was recently accused of copying a baby carrier made by Ubuntu Baba, having a cheaper version made in China and selling it as its own in-house product.

Woolworths eventually apologised and withdrew its product, after Cape Town entrepreneur Shannon McLaughlin exposed similarities between the retailer’s baby carrier and that made by her company, Ubuntu Baba.

Small business owners can protect themselves from having their products or services copied by developing a strong and unique brand.

Brand uniqueness and an authentically developed product will give you a level of protection in the market, as it will be more difficult for a competitor to copy your offering.

What small business owners should avoid is the “white label solution”. This is taking any product, even one manufactured overseas, and putting your own branding and packaging on it and reselling it as your own.

There is nothing stopping your competitor from sourcing that same product and putting their branding on it and selling it as their own. In this case, as a small business owner, you would have no recourse.

Ubuntu Baba’s unique brand and authentically developed product, designed and manufactured locally, is what helped the small business successfully take on a giant retailer like Woolworths. They didn’t simply take someone else’s product and rebrand it as their own, they actually designed and built their own product.

A unique brand and product will position you as more than just a reseller and will give you a certain level of strength and protection in the market. It allows clients to differentiate you from your competitors and can also positively affect their purchasing decisions, directly impacting your profitability.

Effective branding, that is well defined and distinct, will not only help build your reputation, but it will also make you stand out from the competition.

Ultimately, your brand is your business identity. It is the image that you show to your client, making it one of your company’s most valuable assets. Effective branding portrays a company’s values and attracts the right client.

A strong brand identity also has the benefit of making your company appear bigger and stronger than your competition and consumers are generally attracted to well-established companies. So, ask yourself whether your branding conveys professionalism, reliability and trust.

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