Do Your Customers Feel a Sense of Belonging?

/ 6 July 2022

The old marketing model of persuading consumers to think like you think has outlived its usefulness. Nowadays, brands benefit from a heart-centered approach that prioritizes community, connection, and collaboration. Combined, this leads to a sense of belonging – a web of emotions that increases customer engagement over time.

Curious? In this post, we’ll explain what a sense of belonging is, how it affects customer engagement, and a few simple ways you can incorporate it into your marketing strategy.

Sense of belonging: the basics

Without sounding too philosophical, a sense of belonging is at the root of what it means to be human. Since our caveman days, we’ve craved social interactions with communities of like-minded people. Kinship is critical, as are opportunities to contribute to our clan’s success.

How does this play a part in modern-day marketing? Well, a sense of belonging covers everything from emotional connection to embracing a problem-solving approach. Let’s take a closer look at the fundamental concepts…

·      Community

Everyone wants to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves, and that’s where community steps in. It’s so much more than an email subscriber list. It’s a highly engaged microcosm that fosters valuable conversations.

One outstanding example of a brand that develops a sense of belonging through community includes Apple. The Apple Support Community is one of the most active forums on the web. Alongside offering fans a space to share knowledge and feedback, it uses gamification to motivate and reward constructive participation.

·      Emotional (not social) connection

It’s easy to confuse emotional connection with social connection, but think about how many strangers you follow on Instagram. An overflowing friends list isn’t indicative of a sense of belonging, and likes don’t always translate into meaningful customer engagement.

Emotional connection isn’t performative. Consider community forums, closed groups and membership platforms that help customers build more intimate relationships with each other and your brand.

·      Brand loyalty beyond buying

Do you want your customers to be loyal to a product? Or do you want your customers to be loyal to your brand? The former has a short shelf life, and people will happily go elsewhere if you stop meeting their demands. However, if you hook people through shared interests and common goals, they could stick around forever.

·      Problem-solving approach

Nobody wants to belong to something that’s broken, which is why adopting a problem-solving approach is so important. Regularly asking for feedback, responding to messages and resolving pain points build trust. In return, customers are more likely to advocate for your brand.

How does a sense of belonging affect customer engagement?

Something magical happens when you focus on relationship building over retargeting ads and reward programs. You create a tribe of energized fans who feel passionate about your brand.

Have you ever gone to a party with a bunch of strangers? It’s hard to get excited when your heart’s not in it! That’s why a sense of belonging supercharges customer engagement. The more connected a person feels, the more responsive they’ll be to your marketing campaigns.

The positive impact a sense of belonging has on customer engagement is most clearly reflected in Costco’s unprecedented popularity. Initially, competing retailers scoffed at the idea that a wholesaler could succeed with a membership model.

What they didn’t bank on was that people enjoy being part of an exclusive club because it amplifies their sense of belonging. Thanks to their astute understanding of the human psyche, Costco is now the sixth-largest retailer in the world and third-largest in the US with a steadily growing customer base.

How to cultivate a sense of belonging

The following three steps will generate a sense of belonging for your customers:

1.    Be clear about who you are (and who you aren’t)

While this might sound obvious, it’s surprising how many businesses can’t define who they are, what makes them unique, and the demographics they serve.

Knowing what you stand for and, perhaps most importantly, what you don’t stand for will guide you toward the most valuable communities. Plus, you won’t waste precious time trying to force a sense of belonging with people who don’t align with your values.

2.    Identify how communities work and your role within them

Once you’ve found or formed a community that shares your vision, you need to understand how it works and the role you’ll play within it. 

What motivates a customer to join the community? Are they signing up for product support or building relationships with other users? Studying how people interact with each other will give you a benchmark for your approach and tone moving forward.

As a brand, you need to feel a sense of belonging too. That’s why you need a clearly defined role within the community. Are you the storyteller or mentor? Listen to your customers, find out what they need and become the solution.

3.    Promote collaboration

Above all else, you can enhance a sense of belonging by promoting collaboration. Low-hanging fruit includes asking for and acting on feedback and promptly dealing with customer queries.

But it’s rarely enough to toe the line these days. To stand out, follow LEGO’s example. LEGO Life and LEGO IDEAS are two platforms that allow fans to co-create with the design team. Customers can upload images of their work, vote on new product ideas, and meet other enthusiasts.

Create a sense of belonging with customer engagement solutions

At 3radical, we offer a treasure chest of customer engagement solutions. We take a multi-pronged approach by inviting engagement, being memorable, motivating occasional, and frequent buyers and empowering advocacy.

To see this in action, view our work with Mediacorp – Singapore’s national media network and largest content creator. They wanted readers to interact with their brand in a more connected capacity.

We used gamification software to drive new millennial users, reward participation, and increase brand awareness. By opening up a two-way conversation with customers through engaging weekly challenges, we created a dynamic and highly motivated community that kept coming back for more.

Want to learn more about our customer engagement solutions? Don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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