In our “Dear StartUp FASHION” series, we take questions from real entrepreneurs and small business owners. Recently, we received the following question:
“Dear StartUp FASHION, once I know who my target market is, how do I create a real relationship with them?”
If you haven’t already, we suggest reviewing the article “Building a Fashion Brand: Know Your Target Audience to Maximize Growth” This provides background information on completing the first step of identifying a target audience.
Two things to note before we move on. Firstly, remember–you may have several target audiences. A product can appeal to a variety of buyers who have different motivations for purchasing. It’s not necessary to pursue these different groups at all at once, but keep them in mind as you grow. Secondly, continually research and learn about your main audience–this information is never really complete.
How to Create Relationships with Customers
Loyal customers are your most profitable customers. Developing authentic relationships with them drives repeat business and generates awareness through word-of-mouth.
Initiating relationships and keeping them going can be challenging. As a fashion startup, it requires you to pay extra attention to details, and be incredibly thoughtful and creative. This can also be a really fun process – it’s where you get to interact with others and even spread joy–which can be really fulfilling!
Customer Service – If you do nothing else, get this right.
Right off the bat, the one thing you must do as a startup fashion brand to build loyalty is to have excellent, high-quality customer service. Respond to issues and concerns quickly. Whatever those are, walk away from the exchange knowing you did everything you could to help. Even if a customer was unsatisfied in your product, get them to believe in your sense of service so they might be willing to take another shot down the road.
Activities to Drive Loyalty
There are many different activities that can help build relationships and inspire loyalty. We’ve broken it down into three main categories.
- Interesting, relevant, consistently produced content
- Personal Touches
Before we get into the details, remember that no matter what activity you choose (or mix of), do it well, do it consistently (this is really important!), and do it with a distinct personality.
Interesting, Relevant Content
You would be surprised how customers, especially your first round of them, appreciate being kept in the loop. Keep in touch via emails and social media, and let your shoppers know what is going on with the company. Share news, milestones, and sometimes, even fall-backs. It will make them feel really involved and invested in your growth.
Besides sharing company updates, you could (and really, should) have a content plan in place. Content strategy needs it’s own dedicated article or two, but in a nutshell: Highlight interesting, relevant topics that your readers want to know about. Sometimes, these posts may not even mention your brand name – and that’s ok! Your goal is to get your readers engaged and form strong associations with a certain vision, lifestyle, or aspiration.
Some example of content you may want to produce through a blog, videos, email, letters, etc:
- “Behind the scenes” descriptions of the company and it’s employees
- Holiday and/or Milestone messages from founders
- New and exciting developments within the company
- “Customer spotlight” pieces
- POV (points of view)- Become an expert in topics related to your brand and produce content about them. For example, if you are inspired by vintage clothing, write about that time period from every cultural angle you can think of.
Tools and Rewarding People to Take Action
Asking customers to take action can drive loyalty and help and you optimize your business at the same time.
- Surveys: Ask for feedback about your business, or send a survey to get to know your customers better. They will appreciate being involved! Let them know that you care about their experience and that you are listening to their concerns.
- Contests: Basic drawings or raffles work. You can take it up a notch and hold contests that impact the business – such as a naming contest for a new product or colorway.
- “Friends and family” or “customer appreciation day” discounts and offers during specific time periods
- Referral programs: Reward people who refer you
- Loyalty reward programs, such as sweettoothrewards.com
Personal Touches – What can you do no one else can?
The key here is to use what you have, and create experiences that are unique to your brand – things that big companies don’t have the flexibility to do, or other brands can’t recreate.
- Hold exclusive, personal events for your best customers, or offer specialized services
- For example, if you were a retailer, you could offer a complimentary session with a personal shopping/ stylist.
- Send hand-written thank you notes in each order
- Offer exclusive, limited edition items to a group of people (or allow them first-dibs at least)
- Offer personalized/customized products
Choose a mix of tactics and Do Them Well
You don’t have to do all the things listed in this post! Pick a few and try them out. You will find a mix that is good for you. As your audience grows, you may discover various segments respond differently to the mix. Having a few options out there ensures that customers can reach on their own terms, which facilitates a good relationship.