Featured In Forbes: For Agencies, Brand Loyalty Begins With Company Culture
By Kelly Ehlers
Agencies have always been rooted in relationship-building. Today, these connections have become less about three-martini lunches and more about real-time interactions with brand audiences. For employees, that means connecting with entire communities in real time. For agency execs, that means creating a company culture that supports this work.
Brand Loyalty Is Worth The Work
Building a brand’s community builds brand loyalty. By interacting with each user -- from the depths of the comments section to formalized partnerships with influencers -- you’re expanding the brand’s network. Actively connecting with users in real time takes effort, but it pays off. Consumers who are brand loyal are reported to spend 10 times more than new customers, according to an ITA Group report on brand advocacy and emotional connections. ITA Group also reports costs of up to four to six times more for brands to acquire a new customer than to retain their existing audience.
When brands invest in their community, customers take notice. These days, it’s not enough to delegate social media management to a new intern every few months. Engaging your brand’s audience should be part of the job description at agencies. You can start by implementing weekly strategy sessions and build to daily monitoring. If your team manages multiple accounts, remember to set notifications. Real-time responses get real results.
Reach Out And Stay Connected
Social media marketing may put a screen between a brand and its audience, but it also has the potential to take the industry’s reliance on soft skills even further and in new ways. With real-time connectivity across devices and channels, it’s no surprise that social media platforms are a hotbed for fostering relationships.
Meaningful connections are now being publicly prioritized by tech execs like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and top platforms are following suit. This means that as platforms like Facebook adjust algorithms with engaged connections in mind, digital marketers who can facilitate conversations between friends are at a tactical advantage. By forging these connections between brand and audience, you’re opening a dialogue.
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A brand channel that executes this well can become less of a static page and more of a community forum. If your content is engaging enough to reach a personal level, and your brand page is managed in a way that facilitates user interaction, it can bring people together. That can be as simple as asking questions in copy or creating videos people will want to share with friends. Think of it as cultivating a space on the busy, noisy internet where people can come to just be themselves. By making space for your audience to interact, you can transform a brand page into a destination.
Create An Environment For Advocacy
Brand loyalty leads to brand advocacy. In my experience, an engaged and loyal customer can actively help grow a brand’s audience. From user-generated content to influencer reviews, engaged consumers advocate for brands by creating new touch points on their own channels. This increases reach and grows the audience. Growth and retention are valuable to a brand’s community, much as those goals -- retention and growth -- are important to your agency. They can even be achieved using similar practices.
Empowered employees can strengthen a company’s community in the same way satisfied consumers advocate for brands. You wouldn’t want your team to lose their passion or positivity while forging emotional connections on behalf of brands. Cultivating an engaging, empowering environment can help keep employees feeling energized.
At my office, I offer monthly wellness outings and professional development opportunities. (A latte machine and freshly baked cookies don’t hurt either!) If you’re wondering where to start, I have one word: ask. Employee feedback helped me shape my company culture. In an industry with a notoriously high turnover rate, employee retention begins with a strong company culture.
Your Team Is An Extension Of The Brand
Your employees aren’t just representing your company. They’re representing your clients’ brands by engaging in two-way conversations with consumers. This means learning everything from commonly used phrases to your audience’s aspirations.
While your team should always remain positive and professional when communicating on behalf of a brand, they should also have fun. I recommend encouraging your team to put themselves in consumers' shoes. Don’t just memorize the facts; learn the lifestyle. If your team members can find one shared passion that helps them identify with the audience, it will make their jobs easier -- and genuinely interesting.
Lead By Example
I’ve always suspected that a strong company culture leads to productivity. After my agency earned WorldBlu’s Freedom-Centered Workplace certification, I saw their reports on the significant revenue growth and resiliency of companies that put culture first. On a foundational level, maintaining a positive company culture and brand community both require a key skill that has always made for strong marketing: communication.
I’ve adopted a few practices at my agency to decentralize communication, from an open-door policy to 360 performance feedback, and even a weekly companywide coffee hour. Agency execs can lead by example and set the tone for communication across the company.
It’s well worth the work to develop meaningful connections with brand audiences, and it doesn’t hurt to have your in-house team rooted in strong communication, as well. It all starts with a commitment to engaged communication, whether in your office or across your clients’ channels.