By Austin Andrukaitis, CEO of ChamberofCommerce.com

Consumers are flooded with marketing messages and it’s increasingly challenging for brands to capture their attention and loyalty. So, how can you cut through the clutter to attract and retain customers? What can you do so your products or services stay top of mind?

To cultivate customer loyalty and generate more sales, you need to build brand equity and strengthen brand perception.

What is brand equity?

Brand equity refers to the perceived value of a company, product, or service. It’s based on a brand’s reputation among consumers and involves factors that go beyond features, benefits and price.

Consumers often make purchasing decisions based on their perception of a brand, i.e., its brand equity. They buy from brands they feel confident in, are familiar with and consistently get value from.

How can you become instantly recognizable by building brand equity?

  • Here are the various pieces of the brand equity puzzle:
  • Brand recognition: Your brand becomes more valuable when more people in your target market recognize it. Increase brand exposure by publishing valuable content or engaging with your audience on social media.
  • Customer experience: An outstanding shopping experience is key to attracting and retaining customers since people are willing to pay more for better customer experience.
  • Customer preference: Understand what makes your customers tick and then position your products to speak to their preferences.
  • Customer retention: When your customers are happy with their experience, they’re more likely to return. Since it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire a new one, customer retention is key to higher profits.
  • Unique selling proposition: Communicate why your brand is different from your competitors. Focus on building an emotional connection with your customers, rather than any particular feature or benefit of your products.

Augment brand equity by shaping a positive brand perception.

Having all the pieces of the brand equity puzzle in place is just the beginning. How you communicate your brand image will affect customers’ perception of your brand.

A positive brand perception increases the likelihood that customers will choose your products over your competitors,’ even those at a lower price point. Consumers refer friends and family to the brands they love, so you can leverage word-of-mouth marketing to acquire more customers at a low cost.

How can you improve brand perception?

Here are the key factors that affect how consumers perceive a brand. When you dial in all these pieces, you can improve brand perception, drive sales, retain customers and increase referrals:

  • Brand message: How consumers perceive your brand depends a lot on what you say and how you say it. Make sure you’re consistently communicating your brand’s value, vision and unique selling proposition in a way that resonates with your target market across all customer touchpoints.
  • Great products or services: Make sure your products are of high quality and relevant to your ideal customers.
  • Customer service: Shoppers’ interactions with your customer care team across all channels (e.g., email, phone, social media, chat) will have a significant impact on how they perceive your brand. Deliver a seamless and consistent customer experience that aligns with your brand image across all touch points.
  • Trust badges: When selling online, build trust and credibility with shoppers. Websites with trust badges make customers feel more confident when sharing their information (e.g., during checkout).
  • Online reviews: Positive online reviews on your website, online marketplace (e.g., Amazon) or third-party review sites (e.g., Yelp) can provide social proof, increase credibility and boost your reputation.
  • Social media: Offer customer service on social media platforms. In addition, many ask their friends for recommendations or search on social media to see what others are saying about a brand.

To create a positive brand perception, you need to know how your brand is perceived by customers. Here’s how to monitor your brand perception:

  • Sign up for Google Alerts so you get notified when relevant keywords (e.g., your company or product) appear online.
  • Read online reviews on third-party sites (e.g., Yelp, Angie’s List, G2Crowd) to see what customers are saying about your products. Respond to customer comments to show that you value their input.
  • Use social listening tools to monitor mentions on social media. Share posts of positive reviews from happy customers and respond to comments or inquiries in a timely manner.
  • Survey customers to solicit feedback at critical moments of the purchasing journey. For example, use a customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey to gauge customer sentiment or Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure customer loyalty.

To stand out in today’s competitive marketplace, you need to build positive brand equity. It’s important to shape a positive brand image and monitor your brand perception so you can fine-tune marketing messages to attract prospects and retain customers.

Austin Andrukaitis is CEO of ChamberofCommerce.com. Experienced digital marketing strategist with more than 15 years of experience in creating online campaigns.

Published on: Sep 6, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.