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Dare to share the power of touch

Reach out to your customers

Kevin O'Brien -- Casual Living, August 20, 2010

Kevin O’BrienFAR TOO often, we forget the power of touch as it relates to marketing communications. The true power of the passion you have for your business is the impact created by your willingness to share that passion with the world. The future of marketing is no longer even really about your company's product or image; it's about the story your brand is telling. That is what makes the biggest impact on your customers.
     Go touch somebody. Forget about the metrics of your Web analytics, the penetration of the local newspaper, the status of your database. Go touch a customer, a potential customer or your employees. Go ahead and reach out to your vendors or stakeholders, for that matter.

The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades...
      We just had a client conduct a trunk show for designer sunglasses. You know, the really nice, expensive sunglasses that you should buy, but hate to because you're sure you'll lose them? Well, I happened to show up during the middle of the radio station remote for the show and had to laugh to myself. The scene unfolding before me looked somewhat like a junior high school dance, with girls lined up on one side and the boys on the other. Except instead of boys and girls, here we had our client on one side and potential customers on the other. Let's dance, I thought.
     From the very first discussion on how good the nice older woman looked in the "made for her" designer sunglasses, to the ongoing demonstration on polarized lenses, everybody started to interact. In that moment they formed more than a "community" built around a product. They formed a community around the brand.

Touch tools
     Now more than ever, we hear about the relevance of 360-degree marketing as it relates to touch points. It's now imperative to continue to actively engage your brand or product with your audience at all stages of involvement - before, during and after a transaction. With the shift from "inside to out" branding (companies just pushing out information about their specific products or offers), we are moving more to an "outside- in" model, where consumers are taking the opportunity to engage in and seek out conversations about your brands and products. We are seeing a significant shift in activity and are moving from a push to a pull marketing model. So now, more than ever, is the time to give these customers (who may then become your buzz agents or evangelists) a great story to tell.

Touch opportunities
     There are so many opportunities to touch potential customers during their "dance" with your product, but one of the most important keys to making this successful is to be sure that every member of your own company (from the CEO to the janitor) is an evangelist of your company. Everyone should contribute ideas and customer service, and have a true understanding of your brand and its story. You have to get your customers to believe in your brand, or (read with caution) everything you say to them, aka all your paid marketing and advertising efforts, are in vain. Make sure you have that taken care of internally first. Construct your own brand army of the people in your company to go spread the word. They are your best advocates. And they can touch so many people along the way in so many different ways.
     Because we are seeing more and more social communities spring up around brands and products, apply the same principles to your own branding initiatives as well. Do so and you may have just created yet another buzz agent for your company who will share those great experiences with friends and family.
     My point is this: Don't let people in your business act like they're at the 8th grade dance and expect clients to just flock to you to purchase your product. Ask them to dance. They may say no, but they'll remember that at least you asked. Then ask them again later or at the next dance.
     When someone finally accepts your dance proposal, dance with wild abandon and have the time of your life. You'll get to know that person, that brand, like never before, and they'll be glad they met and interacted with you. They just might stay in touch even after the dance. Then you will have learned that you don't just have a dance partner, you've created a long-term friendship and relationship.

Kevin O'Brien, a brand strategist for clients throughout the United States and Canada, is the president of O'Brien et al Advertising in Virginia Beach, Va.

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