Looking for a new, more effective way to reach and retain new customers? You’re not alone. Companies around the world are looking for ways to make their brands more appealing to consumers. The best ones, however, know that customers are gained not just by selling them products, but by providing them with experiences.
Think about brands you want—your shoes, the hiking jacket you’ve had your eye on, even your bath towels. What you’ll find is that each of these brands has cultivated a unique experience that extends beyond their products.
Create an Experience
A great example of this is REI’s #OptOutside Black Friday campaign. While most businesses were fighting tooth and nail to win customers with midnight sales, REI decided to create an experience. Rather than having a sale, they closed their stores and invited their would-be patrons to #OptOutside.
This signaled to consumers that REI was about more than just stuffing products down their throats—they were committed to making sure their products facilitated an experience for their users. Customers responded: #OptOutside garnered 10 times more social media traffic than any other Black Friday marketing campaign.
By creating an experience, you show your customers why they need what you have, rather than trying to convince them through a sale to buy your product. You put yourself in a position where you’re offering something valuable, and not pining after customers with low prices.
Tell a Story
So, what’s the takeaway here? How can you apply it to your business? Glad you asked. What we learn is that successful companies create their brand by telling a story, and, more importantly, they include their customers in that story.
Take hotel and accommodations recommendations company Baarb, for example. Every aspect of their website is geared towards integrating their customers into a communal travel experience.
Upon entering the site, you won’t be bombarded with lists of numbers and prices. Instead, you’ll encounter a bevy of photos, tips and blog posts all centered around making sure you feel comfortable and at home with their brand. Rather than telling you to buy a product, they invite you to “Get Inspired.”
Similar to #OptOutside, with Baarb, you can be a part of the #baarbit community by posting a picture of your travels with the hashtag #baarbit. This allows users to become a part of a much larger story that surrounds the greater Baarb brand.
This type of involvement helps customers form an attachment with your brand that they just can’t get any other way. This experience—this story, rather—will keep them coming back to you for a long time.
Form a Community
What companies like Baarb do is create a community that shows their product in action. They understand something that many fail to see—consumers are smart. They have unlimited information at their disposal, and—more than finding a killer sale—they want to know whether or not your product is of high quality (your product should be of high quality, by the way).
Smart companies show consumers that their product is of high quality by creating a community of “insiders” who use their products. That’s why, if you take a weekend ski trip, you’ll see a mountain full of North Face and Burton jackets. Or, if you’re being encircled by a biker gang at a rural gas station, they’ll all be riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
These brands didn’t carve out such a strong niche for themselves by having the best sales (indeed, many of them are high-end retailers), they did it by creating an experience and inserted themselves into the community that would be drawn to their products.
As long as your product has a group of people who use it (probably a good idea to make sure there are people who use your product before doing anything else), you can market your way into that community.
Whatever it is you offer, make it a part of the community. If you make climbing gear, make sure that your customers can readily see that climbers use it. If you make accounting software, your customers need to see it in offices, and know that it’s being used around that community.
No two businesses are the same. Depending on what it is you sell, you’ll have to go about marketing your experience in a unique way. The point is, you’ll have to bring some of your own ingenuity to the table. But rest assured, if you can find a way to create an experience, tell a story, and create a community that uses your product, your brand will be around for the long haul.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.