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November 5, 2012
How Brands Can Court Their Customers
At its core, the idea behind marketing is about brands building warm, loving relationships with customers. There are brands that customers actually love (I mean obsessively love) and that’s because brands like The Ritz Carlton, Starbucks, Zappos, and Chipotle show genuine love for and to their customers.
Consider for a moment the term “courting.” I would bet that positive thoughts come to mind. Courting sounds romantic and maybe even exciting. Encarta Dictionary defines courting as: “Trying to gain something such as somebody’s attention or admiration by behaving in ways that are intended to attract or encourage it.” By breaking this definition down into bite-sized pieces, you can see how it perfectly explains the steps required for brands to build loving relationships with customers.
Step 1
In the case of business or marketing, “trying to gain something” would be the overarching objective. What is the primary goal that you hope to accomplish with your marketing efforts? Or said another way, what is the one thing that is most likely going to build the business? Is it broader awareness? Getting people to try the product (or service)? Higher sales and/or wider margins? Repeat purchases by existing customers? Or something else entirely? It’s crucial that every brand determines up front what it is that’s going to best drive the business.
Step 2
After you determine the objective, brands need to address getting somebody’s attention or gaining their admiration. The “somebody” is your target and it’s imperative that you define your target as narrowly as possible. Yes, as narrowly as possible. The more specific you can be when determining your audience’s demographic and psychographic characteristics, the better.
Think about this next analogy. If you’re talking to a close friend or family member, you probably know how to communicate effectively with them. You know what their interests are, what subjects are taboo, what things they most like to hear about, etc. If you get to know your target well enough (like a friend), your communications with them will be that much more effective.
You want to speak their language, not your brand or product lingo. That way, they’ll be more likely to listen to what you have to say. It also helps if your marketing messages are charming and clever. A delightful surprise from a brand is definitely more interesting than what’s expected. Also, showing that you understand them and their needs is also important.
Step 3
Now that you know your target on a personal level, it’s imperative that your brand behaves in a way that attracts and encourages customers to gravitate toward it. People that are involved in a close relationship probably don’t intentionally behave in ways that would make them seem unattractive to their partner. And they probably do their best to encourage or inspire one another. Brands should act the same way toward their customers remaining attractive and encouraging or inspiring.
The way to do this is to be careful and deliberate with your actions. If you consider that you are delivering messages to your customers versus executing tactics to reach them, the whole thought process changes. When you deliver something, you most likely take actions to ensure that it’s received well. Whereas when you execute a task, you may just be trying to get it done or cross it off of your to-do list.
In everything that you do — be it advertising, social media, PR, mobile marketing, in-store experience, your website — think about creating a welcoming environment for your customers. Think about creating situations that your customers want to be in. Develop ads that they enjoy or that entertain them; create content on social media that they will appreciate and hopefully share; encourage salespeople to treat them well in your stores; make your website easy to use; the opportunities are endless.
If you think about what makes relationships successful, be it personal or business, three traits often rise to the top: (1) openness; (2) honesty; and (3) flexibility. If brands can be open, honest, and flexible, customers will more likely feel as if they’re being courted and a mutually loving and satisfying relationship with ensue.

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Emily K. Howarda marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.
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