When did you attend your last professional networking event? It was probably not too long ago. From holiday parties to corporate mixers, we’ve all been there. Mixing and mingling is what it’s all about, getting to know interesting looking people around us, meeting new colleagues, letting our hair down and finding glamorous new opportunities. Ah, what an exciting concept!
But once you’re there, what does your experience look like? If you’re like most people, you grab a beverage, walk through the gathering crowd and look for people you know, thinking there’s safety in numbers. You want to have a good time, sure – a little excitement is all that’s called for, playing it safe, nothing too crazy.
What you’re looking for is called Inclusion.
And then it happens: you meet someone you don’t know. After trading names, what’s the first thing they say? They ask you The Question: “What do you do?”
Ah, The Question… so much is wrapped up in that one little query. A world of meaning is woven into it, and your answer in those first 5 seconds will have more impact on your relationship with that person than anything else for the rest of your interaction.
Your answer to The Question could mean all the difference between a passing encounter at a party and a long term commitment.
The same is true of your business. How you come across – your branding – means all the difference between a passing prospect and a committed buyer who gives you years of repeat business. Your brand is the answer to The Question about your company.
Creating a strong, memorable and compelling brand is essential for successful marketing. It only takes a bit of thought and a smattering of research, yet it may be the single most important decision you can make about your company.
You have to decide how you want to come across to your customers. Your brand is the set of expectations they maintain about your product and what they will tell their friends, neighbors and colleagues about you.
More than just a name or a logo, your brand is infused into your buyer’s total experience with your company. It’s expressed in every touch with your customer, from their first glimpse of your website, to their experience with your products or services.
If they like your brand, customers will choose you over your competitors every time, even if your product costs a little more – sometimes especially if your product costs more.
In fact, if you can offer your customers a way to fit in while qualifying for membership in a select group, you’ve found the Holy Grail.
The Bandwagon Marketing Paradox
Bandwagon marketing embraces the idea that since everyone else is doing it, it must be a good thing. If they want to fit in, they just have to buy the product. Inclusion may be had for a small investment.
Peer pressure is definitely a factor here. Consumer confidence is also fueled by hard data available online. Blogging, social media, reviews and ratings -such factors influence buying decisions mightily.
Demonstrating that your brand is widely accepted will go a long way toward qualifying your prospects, making them want to fit into the crowd who’ve already engaged with you.
Closing the sale becomes a matter of tactfully turning The Question on them, basically “Are you in, or are you out?”
The Inclusion/Exclusion Principle
Bandwagon marketing is in direct contrast to the Inclusion/Exclusion Principle. Since branding is all about creating product associations in the minds of consumers, brand exclusion seems at odds with getting people to support your company brand.
Excluding people from your brand assumes taking a posture which implies that your product or service is such high quality that only a very few can acquire it. Scarcity is the key here, and people tend to want what they can’t have. Using the Inclusion/Exclusion Principle is aspirational by definition. It’s exclusive.
Think of auto brands such as BMW, Mercedes Benz or Lexus. Are they expensive? That’s relative. Good quality? Reasonably so. Are they so exclusive they’re out of reach? Probably. A friend of mine got a great deal on a used BMW. But he learned the Inclusion/Exclusion Principle the hard way, when he discovered that he signed-up for paying $800 for a simple oil change on that used BMW.
Integrating Bandwagon marketing with the Inclusion/Exclusion Principle results in a psychology that implies both scarcity and compliance with group norms. Using the Inclusion/Exclusion Principle, owning your product allows a consumer to fit into a very select, discerning group.
In all cases, your brand needs to respond to your target market’s ongoing desires. For example if you are marketing to BMW owners, consider organizing nationwide events such as performance driving sessions at local race tracks. The one thing that’s certain not to change, is a buyer’s need to belong.
When you target that need for inclusion and make your customers feel special at the same time, you’ve struck a chord. The result could be a brand relationship that lasts a lifetime!
Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success. He works with bestselling authors and consultants which have included the late Zig Ziglar, Donald Trump and John C. Maxwell in the role of publisher and marketer. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book on converting website visitors into paying customers. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes working for Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.