Building a brand, in many cases, simply means building an audience. A brand’s value is in fact valued on the grounds of the sheer size of its customer base.
The challenge, however, is that in a busy and competitive market, such as the fashion industry, getting people’s attention may be the hardest thing to do. Unless you are able to connect your products and services to a specific problem or customer type, you are not going to develop a sustainable business.
Developing a following, however, is not about “shouting louder than the competition”. If you are simply trying to attract customers by being louder than everybody else, your marketing strategies will be extremely expensive.
Creating an audience is much more about having something to say that is interesting and relevant to customers. A brand that builds a following is an organization on a mission that people feel is impacting their lives.
And here lies our first challenge, consisting in identifying messages that resonate with today’s fashion customers.
In this post, with no intent of superficializing a complex and fascinating topic, we’ll try to provide a simple 4-step strategy to create or grow your brand’s audience.
With no further ado, let’s dive right into the topic.
#1 Identify Key Stakeholders in the Industry
The first step in broadening your audience has to do with identifying the key stakeholders and spokespersons in your industry or niche.
These influencers can help you understand what we could call the “zeitgeist” of the industry.
Zeitgeist is a German word meaning the spirit of the time and it relates to the concepts, ideas, and values that are shared by society at a particular moment in time.
By identifying these stakeholders and following them you can immerse yourself in meaningful and relevant conversations that can help you understand what customers care about and what are the challenges that the industry is facing.
You should go the extra mile and try as much as possible to contribute to these conversations and debates. This will allow you to explore these subjects in-depth and use this opportunity to develop the “voice” of the brand.
You can consider this some form of market engagement or primary research, that can help you understand what are the characteristics of the customers you want to serve. If you’d like to read up more about this, in this article, we discuss the theory of customer segmentation in full depth.
#2 Analyze Consumer Patters in Passion and Trigger-Event Communities
Once you have identified the leading trends and concepts that may be part of your communication strategy, it is time to make an important decision, whether to develop a passion community or trigger-event community.
First, let’s discuss the difference between the two:
- A passion community is a community based around a common interest – or hobby – among members. These communities foster peer-to-peer relationships where participants discuss their opinions and experiences. In these communities, purchase intent is quite low, because most of the community needs are already satisfied, even though there is always an interest in reviewing new products.
- A trigger event community is a community that is developed to help participants overcome the challenges associated with a particular life event that opens up a new horizon of problems that need to be overcome. Examples of trigger events can be, moving to a new city, changing jobs, retiring, becoming a parent, etc. In trigger event communities, the relationships between members are much more hierarchical, as groups members who have already overcome some of the challenges help new members do the same. In terms of purchase intent, customers are much more ready and eager to buy, as they are dealing with a series of challenges that they want to overcome.
Great, now that we’ve clarified this difference it’s time to decide what kind of community to build.
If you want to build a passion-focused community, you may need to connect to quite a specific niche, as many passion communities are already present. Moreover, as we discussed, it can be difficult to generate a type of engagement that actually trickles down to purchasing a product.
If instead, you want to build a trigger-event community, it’s important that you identify an event that is relevant for your audience, where your brand or product can help develop a meaningful connection through informative, educational, or entertaining content.
We’ll explore content creation in the next step of our strategy.
By the way, if you’re looking for some academic literature on the matter, there’s an excellent book we recommend when it comes to developing your strategy: Social IMC: Social Strategies with Bottom-Line ROI
We’ve used this book as one of the sources for this article and we highly recommend it if you’d like to learn more about community building on social media.
If you’d like to see an example of how the fashion brand Patagonia was able to do this, very successfully, in this post, we talk about this in full depth.
#3 Create Value-Adding Content to Foster Top-Of-The-Funnel Interactions
Now that you’ve engaged with relevant influencers and identified the type of community you want to foster, it’s time to focus on developing a top-of-the-funnel content strategy.
The point of this approach is to interact with customers much before their intention to buy has been formalized. Through top-of-the-funnel content, what we are doing is creating helpful, informational content that builds early-stage interaction with customers.
This approach allows your brand to live out its values, mission, and purpose by identifying content ideas that connect and resonate with your public.
There are a few things to consider while implementing this approach.
Remember to develop a structured approach that allows your visitors to filter through your content and learn about your offers.
One of the challenges that are moved against this approach to branding and community-building is that the type of engagement that is generated on the website or social media platforms may not convert into actual business metrics.
In other words, getting many views, likes or shares does not impact your business profits.
In order to counter this, make sure you are setting up a clearly structured funnel that is able to allow your users to filter through your content to the actual product offers. By doing this, your strategy will generate revenue and will be therefore sustainable in the long term.
Use keyword search to tackle niches that your website can rank for in digital marketing.
As you may start developing this strategy online, remember that many factors interplay in connecting content to its intended audience.
Remember to create SEO-optimised content focused on low-difficulty keywords that can help your brand succeed in getting to the top search engine results page.
Regarding this latter point, we have an in-depth article for you to explore on how to use this approach to develop a fully-fledged brand media strategy.
Here at 440 Industries, we’re very much into content marketing and in this post, we list a full list of 12 reasons why content marketing is a great way to develop your brand.
#4 Measure and Convert with a Marketing “Hourglass”
Last but not least, it’s time to build a strong funnel. One that takes your top-of-the-funnel interactions all the way down to your product sales pages.
The subject of the marketing funnel is very broad, so in this post, we’d like to focus on the idea of moving your funnel into an hourglass. An hourglass is an “evolved” funnel focused on the customers who have already purchased but are still engaged with the brand.
In an hourglass, there are two essential steps leading after the purchase: retention and advocacy.
In the retention stage, you are making sure you’re keeping customers happy, so that they may buy again from you.
In the advocacy stage, you are providing your customer’s tools to amplify their brand experience, so that they may spread awareness of your brand.
As we know retained customers are far more profitable than newly acquired ones. This is why, as we build our brand, we should not just go for the highest volume of traffic, but instead, we should understand how to retain the customers who have responded to our communication.
These customers are a source of more meaningful and profitable customer interactions.
If you’d like to read more on this topic, here’s an article that addresses the subject in full depth.
Great! Now that we’ve covered all relevant topics, it’s time to draw a few conclusive remarks.
There you have it! In this post, we’ve analyzed a simple 4-step approach to growing the audience of your fashion brand.
It may seem easier said than done, but all of these steps require focus and persistence, as ultimately the secret of business success is perseverance.
Of course, there are many challenges along the way of developing a purchase-ready audience, and the first mistake you may end up making can be as simple as segmenting your audience incorrectly. If you’d like to read into this further, we’ve got another article that can help you build your expertise further, by understanding the top 5 mistakes that fashion brands make when segmenting its audience.
Moreover, if you’re interested in reading up more about how brands can develop a content-oriented approach to building an audience, we recommend the following book: Grow Your Audience, Grow Your Brand.
The book explores content creation as well as a variety of additional approaches to building your brand by expanding on the community it is able to foster.
Moreover, we recommend exploring our blog to access a wealth of free information on fashion marketing and beyond!
If you’re interested in learning more about Content Marketing, don’t hesitate to take a look at our course “Content Marketing for Creative Rockstars“. Our short and to-the-point, online class covers a wide range of topics spanning from developing blog posts capable of driving profitable traffic to strategies getting strong conversion rates on your landing pages. Here’s a link to the course, if you use the discount code BLOG20 you can access a 20% discount. Enjoy!