There’s a saying that goes something like, “Walk a Mile in His Shoes.” I suppose it could also be converted to “Walk a Kilometre in Her Wellies,” or “Sail a Nautical Mile in His Clipper.” No matter how you say it, it’s a necessary sentiment when building your branding strategy.
However, there is a flaw in this thinking.
To walk one kilometre implies that it’s a once-and-done, get-a-taste kind of proposition; when in fact, you’ll need to slip into those shoes and experience your customers’ journey, every day from now until your brand’s last.
If you want your branding strategy to reach all the right people, to say all the right things, to push all the right buttons…well, then the obligation is serious and the commitment is real.
Your ideal customers are not different from every other consumer, in the sense that they are affected by trends and current events. These things change their opinions—and occasionally their world views. Their needs change as they age and as the world around them shifts. If you only walk with them for one kilometre, you will miss out on all of that. The brand that chooses to stay the course—to “break in” those shoes—will be the one they see walking beside them at all times. Be there, and you will come to be known as the brand that understands them, because it is living alongside them.
Here’s the reality: In order to have staying power, you have to have something in common with your ideal customer. Ideally, that thing should be your brand and what it does; however, there is often a learning curve—an empathy arch—that must be achieved. And whose responsibility should that be?
Without fail, it’s yours. To pretend that your target audience will be interested in getting to know your brand and what it’s about, and then bend to fit the mould it has created for them, will mean certain death for your brand.
You must fill a gap, solve a problem, answer a prayer…swoop into your ideal customer’s life like some kind of superhero. And you can’t do that unless you understand what life looks like from their vantage point.
Let’s get started with the best ways to gain that insight.
First Steps for your Branding Strategy
Because you are building your branding strategy, it can be easy to get all wrapped up in your point of view—forgetting that your point of view isn’t the one that matters.
How can you operate, every day, from a place of understanding? Through the eyes and ears of your ideal customer? Here are some exercises and tips to get you started. Practice these every day, at every opportunity, to keep your branding strategy walking alongside (or one step ahead) of your ideal customer in their journey.
- Connect with ideal clients on a personal basis. For most of us, this means social media. Take note of what they do in their spare time, what they appreciate at work and what kinds of friends they love being with. Draw mental lines between their preferences and yours. Highlight the similarities and exercise them within the parameters of your brand. Take note of the differences and enlist team members who share those things with your ideal client and ask them for suggestions, or to take the helm in those areas. Commit to forging connections, and understanding will come.
- Find out where your ideal customers are spending time and get there. This could be at a neighbourhood hang-out, it could be following a concert tour or it could be in a social media group. Be there. Interact when appropriate (no selling). Be a sponge: absorb the language, the pains and the joys. Open your mind and become your ideal customer. Now, pay special attention to how you react to the world around you. Notice what brings you joy and what bothers you. Visit your ideal customers’ places often, and notice how your world view begins to align with theirs.
- Think of your branding strategy as an expertly crafted novel with a satisfying ending. If you like to read fiction, you probably notice that every plot event contributes to the climax and the resolution of the story. You may not realise this as you’re reading the book; however, after you finish and look back, you see that every detail served a purpose in pushing you toward the end. Your branding strategy should operate in this way, too. Every touchpoint, every advertisement, every free download, every webinar, every blog article, every podcast…should not only move (a.k.a. walk) customers closer to conversion, it should contribute to an enjoyable experience, as defined by your ideal customer. What does your ideal customer find enjoyable? You’re going to have to find out by getting out there and experiencing it (a.k.a. walking) with them, so that you can accomplish your brand’s goals (a.k.a. your destination) whilst fulfilling your clients’ preferences (a.k.a. their destination).
- Remember that everyone needs encouragement. Every journey has stumbling blocks, obstacles and detours. Will you be there to guide your clients through, over and around them? You can walk in your customer’s shoes whilst looking ahead with an expert eye, to predict what they will come upon and to prepare strategies for making those difficulties simpler. This could be your clients’ first time through this; if you’ve been there before, you know how they’re feeling…and you can also offer some valuable wisdom for enduring and you're sure to pick things up along the way.
- Pay close attention to those things that annoy your ideal customers. Automated phone menus. Sales pitches attached to every interaction. Slow responses to urgent enquiries. These may be things that annoy every consumer; and they may be things that especially annoy your customers. It’s always helpful to be a consumer for a while, and to interact particularly with brands similar to your own. What do your ideal clients complain about on social media? What annoys you as you’re interacting with those other brands? Take note and find ways to not only avoid these behaviours, but to counteract them with contrasting practices. If they’re tired of automation, hire a receptionist. If they’re sick of sales, launch an all-serving email campaign. If they’re frustrated by slow responses, hire team members to engage with a live chat function. Don’t just relieve the pain—obliterate it.
Walk with them until the soles on those shoes are worn out – and then “break in” every new pair after that. This is a lifetime commitment, and a principle upon which you can build your brilliant branding strategy.
Today’s consumer is smart and emotionally intelligent. She knows when a brand is inauthentic; she also knows when a brand really “gets it.”
The only way to “get it” is to live it. So strap on those sandals, pull on those boots, slip on those stilettos…and get to ready to keep pace with the people who will keep your brand deep in the black.
Interested in learning more about how to craft a branding strategy that’s not only consistent, but flexible enough to evolve with the markets and your ideal customer’s preferences? Then check out the free guide we’re offering to you here, for engaging clients and keeping them interested in your brand. Looking for more options and help with building your branding strategy? Contact us. We’ve got something for every business.