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European Regional Development Fund

The GX Project is led by NewcastleGateshead Initiative, and supported by the Innovation Super Network. GX provides a range of opportunities to North-East SMEs and scaleups before, during and after the Great Exhibition of the North. GX supported Six Circles to develop a white labelled community platform with a grant of £2,800. GX is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Posted by David in Interesting

Six cardinal customer service sins

Customer service is an essential aspect of running a retail business – a key ingredient with the power to make or break the flavour of your brand. An innovative, high-quality, competitively priced product can be completely undermined by a subpar customer service function – and if it’s your mission to bring such a product to the masses, one non-negotiable item on the agenda is ensuring your customer experience is up to scratch.

Customer service rep on headset call
Photo by Proxyclick Visitor Management System on Unsplash

At Six Circles, we’ve developed a cutting-edge community engagement platform that’s designed to effortlessly complement your customer service function – with tools galore to manage, engage and grow your brand’s audience online.

First, though, it’s time to master the foundations of customer relationship management, as we share a handful of unforgivable sins committed by companies in various sectors across the globe.

Setting a negative tone

The laws of communication with customers are highly nuanced, and it’s all too easy to slip into a visibly negative tone when countering negative feedback or frustrated comments from your customer base. Negative language – which covers anything defensive, dismissive or condescending – paints a picture of a brand unwilling to hear the likely constructive feedback being offered by those best qualified to comment.

Don’t think of these exchanges as a battle – think of them as an opportunity to court and persuade your customers. Simply reframing the experience will make it infinitely easier to strike the right chord with members of your community.

Neglecting basic etiquette

Manners cost nothing but are worth everything, as they say. This is undeniably true of customer service, as poor etiquette has the potential to end previously profitable relationships – while first-class customer service is the key to loyal, enduring custom. There’s more to this than the obvious hellos, thank-yous and goodbyes, but it goes without saying that these basics should be a firm fixture of your customer service script.

Use your customer’s name in every exchange to make it abundantly clear that they’re a valued customer rather than a box to be checked. Express gratitude when a customer provides useful insights into how your product or service could be further improved. Ask if there’s anything else you can help with. Go the extra mile with each customer encounter.

Refusing to say sorry

There’s a natural aversion to apologies among customer and client-facing businesses, fuelled by a fear that apologising means admitting failure and relinquishing all power. We’re not suggesting assuming blame for every minute hiccup a customer has experienced as part of shopping with you – we’re merely urging you to own up to genuine mistakes and approach conversations about these mistakes in a polite and transparent way.

Acknowledging a frustrated customer’s feelings (rather than dismissing or belittling them) is a crucial first step towards smoothing over situations where your business is undeniably at fault. A defective product or problematic shipping process can leave a customer relationship on the rocks – and an unsatisfying response from customer service could well be the final straw. Maintain some perspective and hold your hands up when the situation calls for humility.

Keeping it impersonal

No customer wants to feel as though they’re communicating with a mindless bot. Every customer service experience should feel genuine and personal and tailored to the given customer’s unique query or complaint. This means every response you provide should be relevant and useful, rather than feeling as though it’s been ripped right out of the catch-all customer service handbook.

Get customers on side right away by mirroring their tone to communicate that you’re on the same page – ensuring your language and energy are appropriate for the nature of the exchange. By all means, follow a basic customer service script structure in terms of carefully and politely guiding the customer to an acceptable resolution – but if the customer ever feels like you’re phoning it in, you’ve done something wrong.

Regurgitating industry jargon

Many customers feel alienated by industry jargon – not least because it has the potential to read as patronising by customers who aren’t in the loop. As well as unnecessary shop talk, though, there’s also the customer service jargon that, when overused, will convince customers you’re less than invested in their query. Don’t “apologise for the inconvenience” when a simple “sorry” will do.

Speak plainly. Time is of the essence from both parties’ perspectives, and resolving a customer’s query quickly involves getting straight to the point and leaving the industry noise in the company boardroom where it belongs.

Leaving them hanging

While we’re on the subject of time, we don’t want to miss an opportunity to stress the importance of acknowledging questions and complaints in a timely manner. ‘Ghosting’ your community is a recipe for dead-end customer relationships – and the truth is that, in many cases, all a customer needs to feel heard in the immediate sense is an initial holding message letting them know their query is being looked into.

If you need to buy the time to investigate their issue in more depth, by all means buy that time. After your initial contact, calendar reminders will serve you well when it comes to touching base and providing updates. As long as a customer knows their query is a priority for you, you’ll find they’re happy to wait patiently for the resolution they need.

With your customer service function on point, you’re ready to use these newfound skills to build a thriving community of happy and engaged customers. Get in touch now to book your free online demo of our community engagement platform.

Posted by David in Interesting

Six simple rules for writing your brand origin story

Businesses sell products or services – brands sell stories. Sure, they sell products or services, too, but every sale a fully fledged brand makes is built on an authentic, believable brand narrative that compels their customers to invest in them.

Whether you know it or not, your brand already has an origin story – the sequence of events and series of critical decisions that needed to happen to get you and your business where you are today. To truly embrace this origin story, it helps to get it down on paper, so to speak.

Typewriter on a desk
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

At Six Circles, our origin story is a tale of helping businesses and organisations of all shapes and sizes access the tools they need to manage, engage and grow. Now, let’s turn the tables and break down some golden rules for writing your own brand origin story so that you can wear this badge with pride.

Tell the truth

If honesty wasn’t already on your agenda, rest assured the benefits of being up-front are numerous.

Besides the fact that users can spot an overbaked origin story a mile off, it’s also true that consumers place a great deal of value on straight-talking brands who are honest about the hard road they’ve travelled to get to where they are now, and don’t retroactively construct an ethos that paints a prettier picture than the unadulterated truth.

Embrace past failures

As part of accepting the authentic beginnings of your brand comes embracing the aspects of your origin story you might prefer to forget – the failures that paved the way for success.

Whether that involves reflecting on regretful decisions at pivotal moments in your brand’s timeline or missed opportunities you wish you’d seized when you had the chance, taking stock of any setbacks and repackaging them as learning experiences is a crucial part of writing an endearing origin story.

Get personal

Relatability is essential to writing a brand origin story that resonates with your community. To make sure yours is relatable in all the right ways, kick the corporate spiel to the curb and focus on the message you want to convey (as opposed to becoming overly wrapped up in the polished language you use to convey that message).

Speak directly, informally (if appropriate) and in the first person to communicate the personal journey that led you to build your brand, rather than treating your brand origin story like yet another piece of purely commercial content.

Speak your customer’s language

Having built a brand, you’ll be more than familiar with the nuances of your typical customer when it comes to their likes, dislikes, buying motivations, communication preferences and more. These aspects of your existing user persona will serve you well as you nail down the language you’ll need to use to charm and entice them.

If your customers abhor being talked down to above all else, communicate your story in a respectful way. Similarly, if you know their environmental values influence their buying behaviour, make it abundantly clear the part that your own environmental values played in your brand’s journey.

Keep it simple

Just as you might find it impossible to persevere with books that are overly complex and convoluted, so too will your customers struggle to wade through a brand origin story that’s all self-important rhetoric and no substance.

While remembering to tailor your messaging to your customer persona, keep your language clear and straightforward and avoid gilding the lily in any way. Your brand’s origin story is sufficient in itself and needs no distracting embellishments that might take away from the spirit of your company manifesto.

Find common ground

Let’s loop back to the idea of relatability before we wrap this up. As well as speaking to your audience in a relatable way that acknowledges their personality and communication preferences, it’s also crucial to ensure the content of your origin story is likely to resonate with them.

If your brand was conceived to solve an age-old consumer problem, tie this sense of purpose into your origin story to let customers know their convenience is your primary concern. If your professional mission is to innovate your marketplace, make an essential daily routine that little bit quicker or easier, or turn a passion project into an income stream, be as transparent about these motivations as possible to establish common ground with your community and earn their emotional investment in your brand.

Communities are built on powerful brand stories. It all starts with your origins – but after that, it’s over to our state-of-the-art community engagement platform to help you convert loyal customers into committed community members. Request your free online demo of our platform today to take the first step towards a brand community to call your own.

Posted by David in Interesting

Six persuasive special offer ideas for your customers

It won’t always be peak season. Your business’s sales function won’t always be a perpetual motion machine. Your product or service offering won’t always be an easy sell. Understanding the peaks and troughs that come with owning a business is key to knowing how to capitalise on the upward spikes and prepare for the leaner months.

At Six Circles, we’re champions of community building and the sustainable business benefits that come with it – and today’s post is all about sustainable sales tactics.

Man using laptop and holding credit card
Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

Special offers are a simple yet highly effective tool to have in your marketing arsenal ahead of off-peak periods for your business. Serving as an irresistible incentive for on-the-fence prospective customers and would-be repeat customers alike, the right offer can seal the deal any month of the year. Here, we’re laying out your options to help you find the right offer for your brand.

New customer offers

During proactive sales drives, onboarding new customers is generally priority number one. Incentivising prospective customers who are as yet unconvinced of the benefits of your product or service isn’t always an easy sell, though. The key is to create a sense of urgency, illustrating that, of all the times they could choose to invest their money in your brand, now is the most opportune time imaginable.

Try introducing an offer aimed exclusively at sweetening the deal when it comes to becoming a first-time customer. Whether it’s a percentage discount off their first order, a welcome freebie that comes with their first purchase or a one-time offer of free delivery regardless of their basket value, find a lure that leaves them in no doubt now is the time to join your customer base.

Customer retention offers

Every business will inevitably face its fair share of customer churn – but that’s not to say you should go down without a fight. Businesses offering pay-monthly services or subscriptions will be more than familiar with customer cancellations, but many of these attempts to break away from your business can be quashed with the help of the right customer retention offer.

Persuading a disenchanted customer of yours to stay won’t always be possible, especially if problems relating to your product or customer service are the cause of this disenchantment. However, if their reasons for leaving are financially motivated, it’s well worth offering a single-use voucher or limited-time product or service discount in the hopes that this show of good faith is reciprocated.

Email subscriber offers

A large and engaged mailing list is an extremely valuable asset for any business, particularly ecommerce brands whose customers often convert directly via monthly email marketing campaigns. As such, anything you can do to grow your subscriber base over time is a highly worthwhile endeavour – but potential subscribers sometimes need a little buttering up before they’re willing to hand over their all-important email address.

Wherever your email signup form appears across your company website, you can preface this form with a snippet of persuasive copy explaining the benefits of being a subscriber. Beyond this, though, you can further boost signup rates with a tailored offer that only comes as a reward for signing on the dotted line, so to speak.

Consider an exclusive voucher code that’ll be sent to their email address immediately upon subscribing – entitling them to free shipping, or 10% off their next order, or a limited edition add-on product, to name just a few of the possible options. Whatever the offer, the key is to make joining your mailing list the barrier to entry.

Limited-time offers

Whether it’s your summer sale extravaganza, Black Friday through Cyber Monday or the pre-Christmas rush, there’s nothing like a seasonal sale to get carts filled and orders made. There’s an undeniable sense of urgency that surrounds limited-time customer offers – and you can reap the benefits of a timely promotion at any time of year with an offer that’s tailored to the needs and interests of your audience.

Aside from the aforementioned peak seasons experienced by ecommerce businesses across the globe, there are countless other opportunities for you to make sure time is on your side, commercially speaking. You may want to build a limited-time discount or sitewide sale around an upcoming national holiday, current event or company anniversary, for example. The secret to success is giving your valued customers a timely heads-up and taking a liberal approach to sending countdown emails ahead of the big day.

Referral offers

The ultimate goal for virtually any business is to reach a point where new customers are constantly onboarding themselves and your outbound sales function is effective but ultimately unnecessary. Your best chance of reaching this coveted state of self-perpetuating sales is to launch a referral offer wherein existing customers benefit from converting their friends, family and acquaintances into new customers.

Particularly effective for businesses using a pay-monthly product or service model, referral programmes generally take the form of a discount or freebie offered to brand advocates who are sufficiently happy with your product or service that they’ll extol its virtues to their inner circle. Often, the new customer is also rewarded for climbing aboard – making offers like these a win-win-win situation, with all parties benefiting from this successful word of mouth advertising.

Loyalty offers

Loyalty is a virtue that businesses should be rewarding, particularly when it comes to long-standing customer relationships the likes of which your company couldn’t do without. Loyalty offers take various forms but can be reduced to the same sentiment: here’s a token of thanks for your continued custom.

Whether you give long-term customers an exclusive discount the next time they shop with you, give them access to a beta test of your new online feature, send a free gift to their shipping address or treat them to an online voucher they can redeem at their convenience, the key is to find a fitting reward they’re guaranteed to appreciate. There’s also the option to launch your own loyalty card scheme so that customers can actively earn loyalty points to spend as they wish (but, crucially, with your business).

It’s our company mission to help businesses connect with their communities. While offers are an undeniably valuable asset when it comes to converting prospective customers and rewarding loyalty, they’re just one piece of the community engagement puzzle. For everything else, there’s our state-of-the-art platform – get your free online demo by contacting our team today.

Posted by David in Interesting

Six key ingredients for your brand’s digital identity

The world’s biggest and best brands have that unmistakable ‘it’ factor that makes them memorable and magnetic. As a more modestly sized business with aspirations of worldly acclaim, it can frustratingly feel like there’s just no way to bottle that je ne sais quoi and harness it within your own sector.

That’s not necessarily true, though.

Red Coca-Cola can spilling red ink
Photo by Monica Silva on Unsplash

While we appreciate that some brands really do just possess that extra, indescribable oomph that elevates a brand to more than a mere business, there are nonetheless a handful of key ingredients that contribute to this commercial staying power.

In this post, we’re breaking that recipe down to help your brand work towards this same memorable and magnetic status.

Logo

Your company logo is your coat of arms – a symbol of your purpose as an enterprise and your position within your sector. The world’s most unforgettable logos are invariably simple and elegant – communicating a business’s ethos and personality in one powerful image.

To rank among the giants of your industry, your logo should ooze character without being overly convoluted. It should echo your identity in its use of form, colour and typography – saying everything there is to say about your brand image in as few proverbial brushstrokes as possible.

Colour palette

Your brand’s colour palette will, of course, be present in your company logo – but its applications extend far beyond that. From your business’s website to its social media accounts and any conceivable marketing materials, online or otherwise, the colour scheme you establish when first branding your business should spill all over every piece of brand messaging that follows.

Understanding colour psychology is the key to harnessing the power of the most appropriate shades in order to convey your company ethos without words. Capitalise on the calming properties of blue, channel the energy of red, communicate luxury with black or showcase your sustainable values with green – whatever your message, there’s a colour primed to share this message.

Typography

Your brand’s use of typography may seem like a matter of personal preference rather than an element that would reveal anything in particular about your brand identity, but the medium is as important as the message when it comes to text formatting.

From settling on a traditional vs modern typeface to deciding whether or not to introduce your own signature flourishes, all typography brings with it a sense of personality – and big brands across the globe have laboured over theirs to find digital handwriting that’s unmistakably their own and instantly recognisable.

Company website

Your company website should be your pride and joy – a platform where you introduce your brand to the world, a hub where your big ideas are shared, and a verbal and non-verbal expression of your one-of-a-kind brand personality. Needless to say, there are design decisions galore to make when it comes to creating this all-important brand environment.

From your homepage where those all-important first impressions are formed to your About page where your company manifesto is laid bare, this hub of commercial content should succeed in a few key objectives: showcasing who you are, sharing what you do, and compelling users to become a part of your brand’s tribe.

Company blog

Your company blog is a natural extension of your brand’s website, but achieves the same key objectives in an altogether different way. This is a place where opinions, ideas and expertise are shared for the benefit of your customer base. While internal news has its place here, what separates the wheat from the chaff is a blog that reads more like a passion project than a series of self-serving press releases.

The first item on the agenda is establishing what value you have to offer your audience, whether it’s entertainment value, informational value, inspirational value or, better yet, a complementary blend of the lot. After that, your mission is to commit the time and effort your blog deserves to creating unique, memorable, shareable content that will enrich the lives of your loyal customers in some small way.

Social media presence

The last ingredient on our list – the secret sauce, if you like – is a charismatic social media presence. This is easier said than done – but the good news is that, with a fully formed and authentic brand identity behind you, putting your best foot forward on social media should come fairly naturally.

It’s crucial to remember that social media should never be treated as an echo chamber. ‘Social’ is right there in the name, and the brands we know and love use platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as the interactive tools they’re designed to be.

Answer customer queries, spark debate, offer opinions and make yourself heard – but participate in meaningful dialogues. Don’t shout into the void. This is the secret to growing a sustainable brand community and transcending mere business status.

For anything and everything else that comes with community building, explore the potential of our state-of-the-art engagement platform. Request a free online demo today to expand your community-building toolkit and give your brand the foundations it needs to thrive.

Posted by David in Interesting

Six virtual event ideas for self-isolating businesses and their communities

The year is 2020 and the month is April, in the midst of the global lockdown affecting businesses and their customers across the globe. For some brands, particularly those with a solely brick-and-mortar presence, this period of quarantine makes it impossible to do business. Thankfully, though, for many of us, the wheels continue to spin – although they need a little rotation during these unprecedented circumstances.

At Six Circles, it’s our mission to bring brands and their communities together – and in times of physical isolation, digital contact is the solution. Whatever your sector, now’s the time to explore the potential of virtual events – and in today’s post, we’re breaking down the options available to you so you can touch base with your community and offer a healthy dose of added value in the process.

Man wearing headphones using laptop
Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Practical workshops

Regardless of your industry, you’ll have sector-specific expertise you can share with your audience in order to show them how to take matters into their own hands – whatever those matters may be. Practical workshops are suitable for businesses of all shapes and sizes – from ecommerce retailers to B2B software providers and beyond.

To get started with these how-to virtual events, the first crucial step is to establish what informational value you have to offer your customers, and how you can impart this knowledge in a practical, hands-on format.

Market research sessions

We’re all about market research at Six Circles and never miss an opportunity to extol its virtues. It’s quite simply the most efficient, elegant solution to gathering unfiltered audience feedback, and, while distance may separate you from your customers right now, this shouldn’t have to stand in the way of gaining their valuable insights.

Get brainstorming with your team to compile a list of issues you’d love your community to input on and book in a virtual event dedicated to bouncing ideas around with the loyal customers whose feedback can and should help to shape the future of your business.

Influencer interviews

Interviewing a prominent figure in your industry works wonders when it comes to enhancing your authority within your sector as, if the figure in question is influential enough, their mere association with your brand reflects well on your company. The positive brand exposure up for grabs makes influencer interviews a no-brainer – but the benefits don’t end there.

On top of your own engaged community, influencer marketing means you’ll also have access to an industry influencer’s own audience (who won’t pass up an opportunity to see this VIP impart their virtual wisdom). With the combined power of these two audiences, your interview’s online reach will enjoy a very healthy boost.

Q&A sessions

While market research sessions provide a forum for customer feedback that’s still inherently led by you, question-and-answer sessions put the control firmly in the hands of your community – giving them the freedom to ask the difficult, daunting or outside-the-box questions in an open virtual environment.

If your brand prides itself on candid two-way communication, an online AQA (any question answered) session – be it via your dedicated company forum or in a webinar-style video chat setting – could be the key to increased trust, as a result of showing your customers you don’t dodge curveballs.

Product demonstrations

If your business sells a product, tangible or otherwise, a live or even pre-recorded demonstration of this product in use – covering its features, benefits and applications – could provide your customers with a highly useful piece of digital content you can share periodically.

With this product demonstration video in your digital content arsenal, you can minimise product troubleshooting in the long term while also gaining buy-in from prospective customers whose only hesitations around converting relate to product functionality. So, whether you’re unboxing, configuring and using a piece of consumer tech or navigating the interface of your brand’s bespoke B2B software platform, now’s the time to show your customers how it’s done.

Informational webinars

Unlike practical workshops, which are ideal for delivering live, hands-on video content, informational webinars provide the ultimate format for educating your users on the theory surrounding an aspect of your business.

For an accounting startup, such a webinar could explore various tax rules and how to efficiently adhere to them. If you run a fair trade clothing company, your informational webinar might focus on the ethical manufacturing processes your brand swears by. Software as a service (SaaS) providers, on the other hand, might release a new informational webinar every time a new feature becomes available. The options are endless – whatever it is you’re selling, you can always go one step further with added value.

Maintaining contact is crucial to sustaining your relationship with your brand’s community – and the good news is there are innumerable ways to use virtual events to keep these lines of communication open.

The state-of-the-art Six Circles platform is the missing piece of the puzzle for any business looking to nurture its customer base into an engaged community – with event planning and market research functionality built in to help you stay in touch from your self-isolation station to theirs. Get in touch today to request a free demo of our platform before you take the next step.

Posted by David in Interesting

Six types of user-generated content and why they’re worth having

User-generated content is the holy grail of content marketing – the perpetual motion machine that keeps on giving once you’ve mastered the fine art of driving it in the first place. This elusive content is hard to come by and requires an audience of users so engaged that they’re happy to do the heavy-lifting for you – and at Six Circles, this kind of community building is our bread and butter.

Needless to say, user-generated content is coveted by business owners and digital marketers across the globe – but before you set out on your mission to create the prime conditions, let’s take you through a handful of popular user-generated content examples to help you better understand what user-generated content is and why it’s well worth the chase.

Social media reaction icons
Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

Social media shares

Social media shares do exactly what they say on the tin – your content is shared by users across social platforms, expanding your reach to their audience of friends, followers and connections. Of course, the advantages here really speak for themselves – your content could be seen by thousands rather than being self-contained on your blog or site, with even a modest click-through rate generating a greater volume of qualified traffic than you would otherwise have seen.

In many senses, social media shares are the modern day equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising, with the sharer both acting as a brand representative and promoting your content for free. Better yet, by building this kind of brand-customer relationship where users actively advocate and promote the content you create among like-minded friends and followers, the natural referrals they generate are more likely to lead to engaged, converting and returning customers as a result.

Blog comments

If your blog content is engaging, the likelihood is that your readership will want to, well, engage. Luckily, blog comments from readers provide a unique opportunity that can be nurtured to reflect positively on your brand.

Look to actively encourage a conversation between your readers in the comments section – whether they’re sharing their opinions on your take on current affairs, an update on how they fared having put your tips into action, or anything else relating to the content you’ve produced. Seek to participate in these conversations by replying to comments and starting new discussion threads – responding to any queries, challenges or concerns.

The advantage of doing this is two-fold. First, it’ll establish your brand as an authoritative voice within your field by demonstrating that you both actively participate in industry discussions and have authentic knowledge on matters affecting your sector. Secondly, it will build a stronger relationship between audience and brand by presenting your brand as one that acknowledges and appreciates its readership – a real win-win.

Photographic content

In the age of social media domination, photographic content is all the rage. Whether it’s Instagram stories, Facebook posts or any and everything in between, social media users just love to share selfies and snaps. And with just about everyone now having access to a smartphone, photographic content isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

So, how can your brand capitalise on this? One of the biggest benefits of photographic content is that your audience is doing all the work for you, meaning your role is simple – repost. Whether it’s a snap of someone styling your latest clothing products or a picture of a cool new display in one of your brick-and-mortar stores, repost audience images that relate to your brand as a means of strengthening your brand-audience relationship.

This will demonstrate that you acknowledge and appreciate your customers, while also encouraging more of your audience to get involved – creating a greater sense of community surrounding your brand as a result.

Of course, there’s also the advantage of increased brand exposure. In much the same way that your content can benefit from social shares, encouraging users to share photos relating to your brand or product on their social channels will serve as a free advertisement that organically reaches a huge audience of all of their friends and followers.

With social feeds now filled with less-than-authentic ads and other content from social influencers and celebrities, reposting genuine photos from genuine customers is sure to resonate with users as a breath of fresh air – reinforcing the authenticity and integrity of your brand to the benefit of your brand image.

Video content

With a mammoth 500 hours of video content being uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s clear that the potential of video content shouldn’t be ignored.

To capitalise on this popular form of content consumption, once again, turn your attention to your audience and encourage them to participate. This one may take a little extra incentive, as creating video content often requires more substance than that required to take a quick snapshot for Instagram.

With this in mind, look to offer product testers and freebies to relevant and prolific video content creators as a means of increasing your brand’s exposure. Whether it’s sending makeup products to the owner of a makeup tutorial channel or a gadget for an electronics channel to unbox, research who and what is popular surrounding your sector within the video content community and react accordingly.

By letting your product or service do the talking, your brand’s authenticity will once more be highlighted and championed by your audience.

Reviews and testimonials

Once more on the topic of authenticity, review and testimonials are one of the best forms of advertisements your brand can receive – providing they’re positive, of course.

User-generated content works because, in a world saturated with brands claiming to be ‘the best’, the ‘leading’ or much the same, users turn to fellow users as a means of reliability. With this in mind, look to circulate positive reviews and show them off to your audience to establish your credibility among your users.

Of course, your reviews may not always be positive – but rather than simply ignoring these less glowing reviews, you should always look to reply. Apologise for the user’s bad experience and seek feedback on how you can look to improve. By doing this, you’re reinforcing that you actively listen to your audience and their feedback, strengthening the sense of community around your brand and turning a negative into a positive as a result.

Forum comments

By establishing your own company forum where users can participate in discussions day-to-day, you’re positioning your brand at the forefront of a user community – and the benefits in terms of brand-customer relations really speak for themselves.

As well as helping you to portray your brand as an active industry participant and authoritative voice, encouraging your customers to participate in forums boasts other advantages, too. By leading discussions surrounding your sector, you can better gauge the types of topics your audience want to be discussed.

You can use this knowledge to inspire new blog content ideas – ensuring you continue to feed the appetites of your audience. On top of keeping your audience happy, this also proves you have one ear to the ground at all times – once more reinforcing your brand’s role as a leading participant in your industry’s wider community.

It’s clear why user-generated content is becoming ever more important with so many perks for brands to enjoy.

Learn more about how Six Circles can help you take your brand’s community to the next level by getting in touch with our team today to request a demo of our state-of-the-art community engagement platform.

Posted by David in Interesting

Six benefits of a brand community in uncertain times for your sector

This post is coming to you from our self-isolation station.

Women recording radio show at home
Photo by Kate Oseen on Unsplash

As the Covid-19 virus continues to sweep the country and, indeed, the planet, many of us are now in our own domestic quarantine – advised against engaging in social contact and even running essential errands for who knows how long.

This indefinite period of self-isolation is no doubt troubling for business owners, team managers and innumerable self-employed people across the globe, with the economic impact of the virus already being felt and the demand for many products and services having plummeted in the wake of tightening government regulations.

To play our small but hopefully meaningful part in guiding you through this confusing and concerning time as a business owner and citizen of the world, we’re exploring the many key advantages for your business and your customers that come with having an engaged community around your brand in the face of meaningful change and uncertainty within your sector.

Ensuring mutual stability

In times of uncertainty, maintaining some semblance of stability is crucial. One major advantage of having a brand community is the two-way support system this provides, helping your business and its customers continue to feel connected to something even in these times of isolation.

Knowing you’re still out there providing the product or service they need can reassure your customers that they’re not completely cut off from the world – while being reminded that you have a loyal, engaged customer base who are following updates from you can provide much-needed confidence during an otherwise insecure time.

Keeping your audience informed

As part of this mutual stability, one of your duties to your customers is to keep them fully up to date on disruptions or developments surrounding your product or service – and while this should indeed be considered a duty, having a dedicated community means this can be done easily and in real time.

The current pandemic has cast significant doubt on the short-term stability of many sectors, and means that updates from the businesses concerned are largely dictated by updates from the government – meaning keeping your audience informed may very well have to be reactive. Nonetheless, keeping these lines of communication as open as they can be is essential.

Gaining customer feedback

We can’t stress enough that this active communication should be a two-way street, and these uncertain times can be just as worrying for you as they are for your customers. Not knowing if your business can weather the storm can be frightening, and a lot of this doubt comes from uncertainty as to whether your customer base will stand by you during and beyond this proverbial storm.

With an engaged brand community at your disposal, make use of nifty market research tools like custom polls to ask your members the big questions that are keeping you up at night. Keep them engaged with your brand, while demonstrating that their input holds significant value for you, and you’ll be able to harness these insights in the weeks and months to come.

Driving word of mouth where marketing fails

There are already numerous stories circulating about brands and their marketing teams pausing key traffic-driving campaigns in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak, as decision-makers acknowledge the dwindling demand for so many non-essential products and services. Of course, without the exposure generated by these sorts of active campaigns, it can feel like your brand will simply disappear into the ether.

Thankfully, with a loyal and engaged community behind you, word of mouth marketing can tide you over while other channels come to a temporary standstill. Sure, many of your customers will be practising self-isolation – meaning they’ll be keeping social contact to a minimum – but thanks to the ubiquity of social media, digital communication prevails.

Generating outside-the-box ideas

We’re a resourceful species, which has already become clearly evident in recent days and weeks – as self-employed professionals directly impacted by new government guidelines on self-isolation and social distancing look outside of the box for coping strategies. Particularly in the events space, lively brainstorming sessions are taking place across the world’s leading social platforms surrounding (primarily digital) alternatives to traditional events – giving professionals in event-centric industries (such as sport, music and the wider performing arts) a vital lifeline they may not otherwise have had.

Starting these conversations and sparking these ideas is made infinitely easier with a brand community in your brainstorming arsenal. If your industry is likely to be affected by the implications of self-isolation and social distancing, reach out to your audience for honest feedback and creative input on viable alternatives to your typical service. Two heads are better than one, and an entire customer base worth of creative brain power could prove to be a goldmine.

Planning together for the future

While it’s impossible to know how the current industrial, economic and societal landscape will change in the crucial weeks and months to come, whatever the future holds for your business and its customers, planning for this uncertain future should be a dialogue. Your valued community can let you know how best to support them through the rest of 2020 and beyond.

If you’re already a member of our community and have questions or concerns in this challenging time, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our expert team.

If, however, you’re ready to begin enjoying the benefits of your brand’s own support system, now’s the time to find out what you’ll get by joining the Six Circles platform. Request a live demo of our platform today by calling 0191 917 9697 or emailing us at hello@sixcircles.co.uk.

Stay safe and stay connected.

Posted by David in Interesting

Six questions you should be asking your customer base

Customer feedback is absolutely essential to sustainable business growth. Holding a mirror up to your own brand is a wholly unrewarding exercise, with this (likely flattering) reflection unavoidably being coloured by your own intentions and aspirations.

Instead, looking outward and inviting those most qualified to judge your product or service – the people paying for it – to share their unfiltered opinions can return powerful insights.

These insights can help to shape the future of your business, inspiring everything from product range expansions to customer service process overhauls – and today, we’re sharing six key customer questions every brand should be asking to help them work towards a more satisfying customer experience and a more positive reputation overall.

Customers at a cafe checkout
Photo by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash

How did you find us?

Knowing where your customers have come from is useful in a number of ways. First and foremost, these insights help you to identify your most fruitful marketing channels (such as social media, organic search, print advertising or good old-fashioned word of mouth) – information which can and should inform how marketing budgets are distributed in the long term.

On top of that, though, this knowledge can also influence how and, importantly, where you choose to communicate with your existing customers – tailoring this means of contact based on their preferences in pursuit of increased engagement.

What are we getting right?

Naturally, you’ll want to know which aspects of your product range or customer service are working for your customers, so you can carve out a long-term strategy that places these elements at the forefront and, as such, is built on solid foundations. Whether it’s your competitive prices, your high-quality product manufacturing, your knowledgeable customer service team or your proactive delivery updates, your customers are ideally placed to let you know what your USP is.

By process of elimination, you can also go some way towards establishing what isn’t going right. If you find that there are aspects of your product or service going completely unmentioned, this could be a sign to take a closer look at these less celebrated aspects and identify what, if any, improvements can be made.

Are we doing enough?

Where the above doesn’t illuminate you as to areas for improvement, asking this crucial question is sure to generate some worthwhile constructive feedback. Its vagueness means it’s open to interpretation, which broadens the range of possibilities when it comes to the answers you’ll get – from input on your customer service levels or delivery turnaround times to the ethics of your manufacturing methods or your commitment to eco-friendly business practices.

Asking this open-ended but highly significant customer question is a key exercise when it comes to establishing your brand as one that’s willing to go beyond merely satisfactory and strive for industry excellence.

Why did you choose us over the alternatives?

Standing out is vital in crowded marketplaces, but seeking to stand out and succeeding in doing so are altogether different things. You may have chosen to undercut your competitors on price, develop a vibrant, offbeat brand identity or offer round-the-clock customer support, for example – but the measure of whether this attempt to set your brand apart has worked will be the answers you receive to this question.

Rather than leading customers down a specific, premeditated path, give them the freedom to express their own views on your point of difference. Who knows? You might just find out you have a whole new unique selling point you can begin harnessing to generate business going forward.

What problems do we solve for you as a customer?

We expect your business was originally launched to solve an age-old consumer problem – whether you were setting out to solve this conundrum for the first time, or aspiring to solve it in a quicker, easier, smarter way than any other business had managed thus far.

Rather than asking your customers whether you have, indeed, solved precisely the problem you set out to, avoid putting words in their mouths and put it to them to explain how your product or service fulfils a need in, or removes an obstacle from, their life. With this genuine, unmanipulated feedback, you can find out whether the cornerstone of your brand mission is something your customers genuinely understand and recognise.

What do you want to see from us next?

Aside from what you’re getting right or wrong today, there’s huge value in understanding what your customers want or expect from you tomorrow. Customer questions like these can be highly informative when it comes to your long-term plans for developing and launching new products, expanding your customer service availability, introducing new payment options or attacking previously untapped revenue streams.

Your loyal customers are committed to joining you in the next phase of your brand’s journey, so it’s only fair that they should have the chance to help you chart the course.

The world’s most successful brands are able to thrive because of their engaged communities of like-minded customers. At Six Circles, our integrated community engagement platform is replete with tools to help your business connect with your audience – including market research tools primed for precisely this sort of revelatory Q&A activity.

Explore the features of our platform today to find out how your customer base can become a community through the art of honest, direct communication, and the long-term engagement that comes with it.

Posted by David in Interesting

Six secrets to maximising attendance at your next event

A report from last year revealed that most marketers believe event marketing is the single most effective marketing channel for achieving business goals. So, the question is: are you taking advantage of the power of experiential marketing when it comes to driving your brand forward?

For newcomers, now’s the time to dip your toe into the world of events for the first time. If, however, you’re already well-versed on the basics and benefits of experiential marketing, this handy guide should give you all the know-how you need to boost event attendance the next time you get back in the proverbial saddle.

At Six Circles, our integrated community engagement platform gives you the power to create custom events for your members. Coupled with these secrets to maximising your event’s attendance, you’ll have the perfect recipe for a busy event filled with engaged attendees who’ll leave hungry for the next instalment.

People in busy room at event
Photo by Jakob Dalbjörn on Unsplash

Create a dedicated landing page

Every successful event begins with a dedicated page illustrating the details of the event and, crucially, the advantages of attending. Whether this landing page is hosted on your own website or via a third-party platform, it needs to be clean, user-friendly, persuasive and overwhelmingly geared towards driving signups – with no other distracting calls-to-action reducing the likelihood of users securing their space. Maximising event attendance starts with maximising attendee signups, after all.

Promote liberally on social media

Promoting events is essential to increasing attendance numbers, and leading social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn can all play a role in this promotion depending on where your event’s intended audience spend their time online. With catchy hashtags, irresistible imagery and an engaged following at the ready, you’ll have all the basic tools you need to achieve organic reach – with the potential for paid event advertising via many of these platforms if your event needs an extra time-sensitive boost.

Make signing up simple

We’ve stressed the importance of a clutter-free event landing page, but don’t stop there. Once users arrive at the heart of your landing page – the signup form itself – they’ll need to be given as few hoops to jump through as physically possible, so as to avoid a situation wherein users are deterred at the final hurdle. Take a ‘less is more’ approach to the user data you gather at this stage, asking only for the essentials needed to make pre-event and follow-up contact easy and effective. This way, users won’t be repelled by an exhaustive signup form that requires too much time and effort to satisfy.

Confirm attendee bookings by email

The moment a user books their place at your event, they should have their registration confirmed by an email triggered immediately upon signup. Using email workflows, you can streamline this elegant follow-up process – creating a template email that’s sent automatically to registrants, confirming their place. This can and should be the first in a series of emails ensuring your event remains on prospective attendees’ radars – helping you to maximise event attendance simply by remaining at the forefront of their minds.

Facilitate attendee networking

The main draw for many regular event attendees is the chance to network with like-minded people – and as we’re in the business of community building, we relish any opportunity to bring people together based on shared needs, passions and interests. By prompting conversation among prospective event attendees – be it in social media or blog comments, through the use of your event-specific hashtags or within company forum threads – you can give your audience a means of making connections prior to the event, giving them one more reason to make event attendance a priority.

Remember your reminder emails

As part of your email workflow, which begins the moment a user first signs up for your event, there should, of course, be a number of reminder emails – being sent, say, a month, a week and a day before the date of the event. This way, registrants can remain aware of the event throughout the long countdown to the big day, and you can boost event attendance on the day by making it as easy as possible for users to plan their schedule around the event – with regular updates on time, location and other essential logistical details.

Whatever your next event is shaping up to be – from an industry trade show to a hands-on practical workshop – these golden rules for maximising attendance will serve you well. When the big day’s over, with a successful event behind you, you’ll have the pulling power you need to continue building on that experiential success.

Ready to get started? Explore the benefits of being part of the Six Circles community when it comes to growing a community of your own, and kick your next event marketing campaign off with a landing page primed for signups.

Testimonials

“Since incorporating the Six Circles software to further grow our network, we have seen a vast increase in new members and interaction and we are attributing both to the ease of the site’s functionality.

For us, our marketing is now tailored more specifically and effectively due to the inclusion of useful analytics which allow us to form a better understanding of what our members really want.

We would wholly recommend Six Circles to organisations wanting to offer their consumers a platform to meet others, voice their opinions, publish industry news and receive an inclusive and enjoyable customer experience.”

The Mussel Club