Building a Relationship Through Social Branding
Brand loyalty rarely exists in today’s culture. In the vacation rental industry, we see people changing where they stay based on price, convenience, website ease-of-use, and when it comes down to it, the level of trust they have in the company.
Millennials are more prone to look for new adventures, new companies, and new places to stay, and with the world of rentals at their fingertips, it is more difficult to twist their arms toward a repeat stay.
Be that as it may, a common misconception in the marketing world is the line between trust and loyalty. Many mistake trust for loyalty, or vice versa. Loyalty is choosing something—a product or service—even though it may be a little more expensive or not perfectly in line with what you are after. However, because you are loyal to that brand, some would even say they feel “in debt” to the brand, so the scales are tipped in that brand’s favor.
Trust is when you choose a brand based on complementary factors it exhibits in the marketplace. If it is enhanced by an easy-to-use website, allows people to make bookings without hassle, and provides them with the right information at the right time, that will build consumer trust. “Social proof” is also a huge trust favor. “If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.” Another prime reason for trust is the brand’s ability to get as many reviews as possible everywhere it can.
So, why should we know the difference between trust and loyalty? There is a saying that goes, “Don’t mistake kindness for weakness,” and that is relevant in this case.
Many marketers think they have loyal consumers when, in actuality, the consumers just trust the brand.
It is a sad fact that many of us see consumers opting toward cheaper, easier companies for their vacation needs when they feel like it suits them a little better.
So, how do we build and manage trust in the marketplace? A great place to start is by identifying your advantages in the industry. Ask yourself what the strong points are about your brand. Do you offer perks that others do not (i.e., keyless entry, bundled incentives like show tickets or free Wi-Fi, or maybe amazing concierge services)?
Being unique builds trust in a consumer’s eyes. Furthermore, think about what you do not offer that a consumer would like to see. Remember that we live in a digital age where the consumer has the control. They can choose your competitor over you with a simple Google search—that’s power.
Take away steps: Ask yourself:
- What does our company do really well for our consumers?
- What do we not do really well?
- What makes us unique?
One of the largest factors changing the way consumers interact with brands is the digital era. The dawn of the digital age has given the consumer the power to compare brands side by side to see which one suits them the best. What used to be private for brands is now public for everyone to see (reviews, social media, offers, etc.) The list goes on and on. So, why should we stay loyal to company A when company B is offering the same thing at a better price? This is why loyalty, for the most part, is dead.
So, what steps should you take to build consumer trust?
Start responding to reviews. Good or bad, you should be responding to reviews on all platforms. We know it is painful to see a bad review (and it is easier to ignore), but a consumer is more likely to forgive a bad review if the company has an apology or explanation rather than if they have nothing at all. And if someone leaves a good review for your company, thank them. This shows everyone who sees the review that real humans work behind the brand, and that speaks volumes.
Have a functioning website. It is incredible that some companies still think they can get by with just a Facebook page. People want to see websites, and honestly, it is easy to create one if you have a little determination and guidance. A website allows you to track your audience, it displays your brand image properly, and it acts as a standalone location. If you don’t have a website—especially a mobile-friendly one—then you might want to start wearing parachute pants and listening to the Backstreet Boys because you are stuck in the 90s.
Develop your “why.” Many companies can tell you what they do and how they do it, but most companies cannot tell you why they started or why they are better. Developing the why shows the passion behind your company and the values it stands on. Start selling the passion and show people that behind the brand are humans just like them who care about their vacation and their family.
The little things. Empower your reservation agents to make decisions and get things done without the need for management to step in. If an issue gets addressed in a timely manner, that speaks volumes for your brand and your company. If a guest’s coffee maker is broken, and this goes more than 24 hours without being addressed, that leaves a bad taste in their mouth. The more cooks you have in the kitchen, the more that gets lost in translation. Have them follow up with the guests as well to make sure any issue is resolved.
Many things can add to consumer trust, and the first step to building that trust is admitting that you must. Do not mistake trust for loyalty because, in the end, if someone can find it easier, faster, and cheaper elsewhere, they probably will! Treat your consumers like humans, engage with them, and start building those relationships.