You work hard. Really hard! Your dedication to your fledgling business is beyond the doubt of even the most jaded cynic. Your employees, shareholders, friends and family are in awe of how effortless you make it look. You show up every morning bursting with enthusiasm and energy, an effervescent presence which cannot help but inspire those around you. You’ve gone to great efforts and some considerable expense to assemble one of the most talented and dedicated teams on the planet. You choose the best candidates and ensure that you pull out all the stops to give them the very best training. You’re great at what you do, but they’re great at what they do. They are not just mindless slave drones, they take your ideas and run with them; operating with autonomy, imagination and improvisation while still staying within the procedural parameters of your brand. Your products, forget about it! You’re supremely confident that your closest competitors cannot match you on quality or value for money. You may be small now, but you’re primed for growth, with a business plan that cannot fail to skyrocket you toward success.

But… and you may not want to hear this…

So what?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how amazing your product is, how hardworking and motivated your workforce or what a paragon of inspiration you yourself may be if the right customers don’t even know that you exist. Many nascent entrepreneurs assume that being the best there is at what they do is enough to engender loyalty from their target market, but in an era where customers know that they can afford to be fickle, loyalty is getting harder and harder to come by. In order to find success in a market where your competitors grow more and more legion by the day, it’s up to you to take steps to ensure that your brand resonates with your target market.

While there’s no right or wrong way to do this, your success will lie in the potency of your market research and your ability to gauge their needs and respond to them appropriately. While this will vary somewhat depending on who you want to reach, here are some ideas that can be incorporated into any marketing or branding strategy…

Remember, market research is not a one and done

It’s more than likely that market research was a huge part of formulating your business plan. It was your market research that demonstrated a quantifiable demand in the products and services that you were offering. Your market research was an enormously important part of establishing what would make your brand stand out amongst the competition. It gave you a flavor for who your target market was, what they wanted and how you could appeal to them… And while this is all well and good, market research is not something that should be abandoned as soon as your enterprise is up and running. It should be an ongoing process that helps you keep track of the changing needs and attitudes of your target market.

Your customers are not a fixed point, neither is your chosen industry. Your business shouldn’t be either. As technology and innovation change the nature of your business, so too will it come to redefine what your customers expect of you. As such, market research should inform the strategic decisions that you make as your entreprise grows and evolves. Neglect this and you’re just another Blockbuster Video waiting to happen.

Offer to make their lives easier

Let’s face it, modern living is pretty complicated. You know it, your employees know it and you’d better believe your customers know it. As such, when a brand makes it clear that they’ve invested in making our lives a little easier this counts for a lot. How you do this is entirely up to you. Making sure that you offer easy payment processing via BlueSnap to ensure a secure and seamless transaction is a great way to start. Offering recorded delivery as standard is also a great way to offer mail order customers peace of mind. Even a website that’s responsive and easy to navigate offering great UX on desktop and mobile devices can go a long way towards ensuring that your target market associates your brand with easy and stress free transactions.

Give them something they aren’t getting from your competitors

Let’s face it, your business exists because you’ve identified a gap in your chosen market. An itch that your competitors have proven themselves unable to scratch. Why not put this front and centre in your marketing? In a competitive and cutthroat market, there’s nothing to be gained from modesty. Make it clear to customers and new prospects alike what you can offer them that your competitors can’t.

It’s in your best interests to be classy about it. Disparaging your competitors is generally regarded as bad form and can actually do your brand more harm than good. After all, you’re trying to coax customers loyal to your competitors over to your brand, and launching an attack on your competitors could be perceived as an attack on them by extension. Be polite and civil towards your competitors, furnish prospects withe the facts and trust them to make an informed decision of their own.

Meeting at laptop

Give them something for nothing with content marketing

Speaking of competitors, what’s the one thing that you’ve got that they will never have, no matter how much money they spend or how much market research they carry out? It’s your voice! Many entrepreneurs are hard working but shy and unassuming folks who can be modest to a fault when it comes to their successes and achievements. They can forget that their voice is a valuable commodity that people would be willing to make an investment in. Your thoughts, reflections, stories and insights are of value and can make a huge contribution to adding value to your brand.

This is why many brands invest significantly in content marketing. It gives their customers something truly unique and an insight that cannot be replicated by your competitors. It also allows them to build a sense of personal investment in your brand which can also ensure their loyalty. It can establish you as an expert in your chosen field and a voice worth listening to in your industry.

Moreover, it also gives your target market that much sought after something for nothing… And who doesn’t love that? If you aren’t already creating blog posts, podcasts, videos, white papers and ebooks for your faithful customers and new prospects alike you could be missing out on a huge avenue of opportunity.

Build incentives schemes that give them more of what they want!

An incentive scheme is more than just a box checking exercise. It’s not enough merely to have one, you have to have one that builds value for the customer. The difficulty is that each and every customer will have a slightly different definition of value. Some may want to save money on the purchases they make regularly, others will want freebies. Some may want exclusive offers that lend your brand a sense of prestige while others may value a rewards system that offers a degree of gamification; enabling them to have fun while doing business with you. Thus, it may be in your best interest to offer a host of different rewards schemes or better yet allow customers to choose their own or build a package to suit them. This will help them to develop a much more personal relationship with your enterprise and increase your chances of earning their loyalty.

Remember, emotions matter

We’ve discussed the importance of crediting your target market with intelligence, furnishing them with facts and allowing them to make their own informed decisions, but it’s also important to remember that consumer decisions do not always lie in the Apollonian mind. Emotions also play a huge part in consumer behavior. From a very young age, our emotions play a huge part in determining who and what we trust. How do you want your clientele to feel about your brand?

Do you want them to feel excited, optimistic and enthusiastic, as though choosing your brand will place them at the forefront of quality and innovation? This is certainly an avenue worth exploring if your enterprise has a strong technological bias.

Do you want them to feel safe, comforted and reassured? When you look at brands that market to parents (whether for child related products or not) this is clearly a strong motivator.

Do you want them to feel empowered, strong, confident or sexy? This is the clear endgame of industries like fashion and cosmetics.

When you know how you want your clientele to feel this informs everything from the language you use to the imagery you choose and even the colors that permeate your marketing materials.

Keeping up with the needs, wants and expectations is an ongoing process and a constant work in progress. Stay on top of it, however, and your brand will remain a firm favorite within your target market while your competitors crumble under the weight of their apathy.