Smart Marketing: 6 Ways Brands Can Better Connect with their Customers in 2018

There is a lot of digital chatter about the GDPR changes coming in May and Facebook’s announcement earlier this month that it will overhaul the way it ranks content on its news feed. Both of these things make me feel better about marketing because true marketing work is about building relationships.

Building relationships is no easy task.

You have to look at every customer touch point and focus on the fact that the end user is a real person. That person is busy, they have families and friends to spend time with, grocery shopping to do, bathroom sinks to clean and time to rest at night.

These changes mean that brands and companies who treat their end customers like breathing humans with limited time will be winning. And that makes me happy because the hard work that smart digital marketers are doing every day will be paying off.

Digital Marketing in 2018 is NOT About:

  1. Pushing out content
  2. Buy, buy, buy
  3. Unboxing (ugh!)
  4. Impersonal marketing (Hello customer xyz!)
  5. Black Friday specials
  6. Faceless emails

Digital Marketing in 2018 IS About:

  1. Being useful
  2. Exposing me to new ideas
  3. Resonating with my values
  4. Brands not taking themselves too seriously
  5. Respecting my time
  6. Being genuine

 

Build Real Relationships

If you’re a marketer who cares about building real relationships with your customers, try a few of these:

1. Be Useful

Nobody likes a friend who only talks about themselves: “me..me…me!” We’ve all had one of those friends!  If we don’t like people who behave that way, why would we like a brand that behaves that way? A “me-me-me!” brand is one that always talks about itself and its problems and successes. If you’re building a brand and doing that, stop it right now!  Be a brand that comes from a place of service and share stories your customers can use.

Leslie Ziegler interviewed for First Round on branding.
Image courtesy of First Round

First Round Review — Getting Useful
A startup fund that produces amazing content for founders. 

This article on brand strategy gives you a great taste.

“The branding choices you make now are building your company as much as the programming language or CRM software you select.”

— Leslie Ziegler, Rock Health (interviewed by First Round)

2. Show Me New Things

Doing the same old thing is comforting. I love walking to work the same way every day because it feels nice. But science shows us that doing things differently — even changing your route to work — changes your brain. It helps you retain more information and be more successful. The same thing happens when we’re exposed to new ideas.

Be a brand that brings new ideas, challenges your customers, and helps them master their world. Open up those neural pathways and offer something new and valuable.

The Story of Microfibers video by The Story of Stuff.
A screenshot from The Story of Microfibers

The Story of Stuff — Bringing New Ideas

A movie kicked off a movement focused on how we buy and use our stuff. 

This video about microfibers is a wealth of new information.

Every time we wash synthetic fabrics, whether they’re made from recycled bottles or brand new materials, super tiny pieces of plastic called microfibers wash off and flow down the drain — up to hundreds of thousands each wash.” — “The Story of Microfibers”

 

3. Resonate With My Values

We naturally surround ourselves with people who feel like members of our tribe. Most likely this means that we have similar core values. Values are important because they are guideposts that help us make decisions in our lives and remind us what we stand for.

Just as we all have our own personal values, brands also have values. When these values are clearly posted, you quickly get a feel about what the brand stands for. Today values are having a resurgence. It’s becoming clear that not only do you have to state your values, but you have to follow through with actions. Be a brand that takes a stand and lives up to that.

Some zany art for Lyft's Round Up & Donate initiative.
Image courtesy of Lyft

Lyft — Sharing Values 

Their values couldn’t be more clear and different from Uber. I love them and what they stand for.

Lyft’s Round Up & Donate initiative is a perfect example.

“The more we ride, the more we raise. Support the causes that you believe will make the world a better place.” — Lyft

4. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Let’s be honest, most companies we interact with everyday are not saving lives. They want to be successful, make money and return money to their shareholders. If you’re not a successful business, you can’t survive. But being a successful business doesn’t mean you have to be uptight.

I love a brand that reflects humor, spontaneity and positive messaging in kooky ways. It’s an important part of our daily lives to step back, reflect and inject humor where we can. I like to think of humor as the connective tissue that holds our relationship together. Be a brand that isn’t a stuffed shirt.

MailChimp made this graph showing the top emojis used by their clients over the holidays.
Image courtesy of MailChimp’s blog

MailChimp — Being Lighthearted
An email platform that m
akes everything fun. How can you not love that monkey!

This fun article is a great example of MailChimp showing its playful side!

“There was a 34% increase from 2016 to 2017 in total emoji used by MailChimp customers during the holiday season. 🎄 was the top emoji used in subject lines, followed by 🎁, 🎅, 🎉, and 😍.” — Kasia, MailChimp writer

5. Respect My Time

Don’t make me jump through digital hoops to get on your mailing list. Don’t tease me with content and then not provide it when I visit your website. Don’t send me an email newsletter every week just because you should (no you shouldn’t – see Be Useful).  Don’t send out a Black Friday coupon because everyone else is doing it. Be a brand that delivers something meaningful to your customer.

An example of a newsletter from Note to Self.
Image courtesy of Note to Self

Note to Self — Delivering Meaningful Content

One of my favorite podcasts, Note to Self, gently prods me when a new podcast is online and always includes other content that’s valuable. They curate for me and save me time.

In this episode of the podcast, Note to Self talks to Anya Kamenetz to provide meaningful content.

“How do we know if we’re doing screen time right? Even if we don’t have kids, just for ourselves. Well, that is the answer that we’re looking for today — with help from my friend, NPR’s Education Correspondent Anya Kamenetz.” — Manoush Zomorodi, Note to Self host

6. Be Genuine

Stop doing what everyone else is doing. You don’t have the same customers as your competitors. Those customers don’t have the same problems. Everyone’s customers care about different things, so why on earth would you be trying to communicate with them in the same way.  Be a brand that respects the time I take to read your newsletter and click on your links. And most of all, make it personal so I care.

The team at Sago Mini being genuine.
Image courtesy of Sago Mini

Sago Mini — Being Genuine 

This brand for kids’ apps and toys is always about being themselves. In this blog post, a team member gives a candid account of how she came up with an idea for a new game.

“I started thinking about the brutal but beautiful winters in my hometown of Edmonton, and all of the fun activities we used to do in the snow.” — Teena Saur, Sago Mini Director of Brand & Marketing

*****

How do you form connections with people as a marketer? We want to hear about all your smart marketing ideas! Tell us in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Annabel Youens

About Annabel Youens

I'm a co-founder and CMO at AE. I believe that truly successful internet businesses have to connect people. {wave} When I'm not online I'm exploring beautiful Vancouver Island. Things I love: everything scifi, literary fiction, coffee, Google Music, my workhorse sewing machine and board games.