Use Conversations to Spark Customer Engagement: Making Human Connections, vs. Selling on Price, Builds Your Brand
By Jeremy Miller
The five best words you can hear a customer say are, “that’s interesting. Tell me more.”
When you get a customer to say, “that’s interesting. Tell me more,” you’ve caught their attention. They’re listening and responding to you. They’re having a conversation. This is powerful, because a conversation is a two-way dialogue to share ideas and opinions.
Every company has an opportunity to engage its customers in conversation, but few do. They’re too busy marketing and selling to slow down to have a dialogue. But in a world of endless competition, having a conversation is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing toolbox. The simple act of engaging your customers deliberately and authentically in conversation will make your brand stand out.
Dr. Seuss said it best: “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” If you want to drive sales and have a remarkable brand that your customers know, like and trust, spark conversations with them. It’s really simple. Conversations build relationships that drive sales.
Conversations Lead to Relationships
Customers are looking for ways to differentiate one option from the next. As competition increases, human connections are becoming even more valuable. When the buying options all look very similar, customers will default to one of two positions:
They’ll go with what they know, or
They’ll go with what’s cheapest.
Selling on price is no way to grow your brand. Lean on the first option. Build strong relationships with your customers so they know you, like you, and trust you.
A conversation is one of the most human ways to form a relationship. It helps transition your brand from a stranger to a friend to a customer, and that two-way dialogue accelerates the process. It helps you get to know one another, and that makes your brand more likable.
Storylines Spark Conversations
It gets pretty boring if all you talk about is yourself. The same is true for companies. Engage your customers with “brand storylines.” A brand storyline is a communication device to engage your customers in a conversation.
A Storyline Example
Here’s one example of how it can work.
Muldoon’s Coffee argues that going out for coffee is causing a productivity epidemic. According to Shaun Muldoon, CEO of the coffee company, “six percent of an organization’s payroll is spent going out for coffee.”
That’s a startling statistic. Next, Shawn details the issue, stating:
“An average employee spends over 125 hours a year going out for coffee. That’s six percent of the employee’s salary, or three weeks of vacation. Professionals, especially young professionals, want a good cup of coffee. They are not going to drink the stale, vending machine stuff in their office. They’re going to get a good coffee.”
Shaun is making a bold claim by stating six percent of your payroll is spent going out for coffee, but let me ask you. What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree?
Do You Need to Agree? No.
It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with Muldoon’s premise. The point of the statistic he’s presented is to spark a conversation. Shaun’s statements are an example of a brand storyline.
Muldoon’s Coffee is a corporate coffee service. Their brand storyline supports a key competitive advantage, “Muldoon’s Coffee tastes better.” According to customer surveys, Muldoon’s Coffee tastes better than Starbucks and other premium coffee brands. The problem is, taste is subjective.
Instead of spending all its time doing taste tests and cuppings, Muldoon’s looked for a more universal topic of conversation. This lead them to “productivity in the workplace.” Lost productivity due to “coffee runs” strikes a nerve. It catches business owners’ and chief financial officers’ attention – and prompts them to say, “that’s interesting. Tell me more.”
Three Elements to Engage
Brand storylines are unique tactics because they are not just conversations about the weather or sports, and they are not one-sided pitches promoting your brand. They are conversations crafted to engage your marketplace and keep your brand top of mind. They are effective marketing tools because they are crafted to connect conversations to your brand.
A brand storyline has three fundamental elements:
Expertise: It’s a topic you and your team know well and draws from your company’s core expertise.
Strong Opinions: It’s a topic your company is passionate about. You can take a stance and boldly share your opinions.
Point of Sharing: The topic resonates with your target market and encourages others to participate in the conversation.
These three elements function as a three-legged stool. A brand storyline is unsustainable if any one of the elements is missing. For example, strong opinions without expertise is a rant. Expertise without strong opinions is boring. And without a point of sharing, you’re talking to yourself.
Any Company Can Engage
Any company of any size can engage its market with conversations. Conversations are powerful, simple, and sustainable. A great brand storyline with an empowered team can spark a fire. That engagement is so valuable for these reasons:
It can increase brand awareness.
It can generate more sales leads and referrals.
It can accelerate the sales cycle, because your customers know and trust your brand.
Start small. Try engaging your customers deliberately with a few brand storylines, and see which ones resonate. When you find a storyline that sparks a discussion, double down on it. Look to amplify the conversation, and get more people involved. See who else will engage with your company.
Conversations are so simple. It’s just people talking with people. You have the tools to get started. Go find a topic that gets people to say those five magical words, “that’s interesting. Tell me more.”
Jeremy Miller is a brand strategist, keynote speaker and the bestselling author of Sticky Branding. He helps companies develop strategies to market their businesses and grow their brands. As a keynote speaker, his blend of humor, stories, and actionable ideas will inspire you to innovate and grow a Sticky Brand. For more information visit www.stickybranding.com.