Whether you’re an established brand in search of new audiences, or a fledgling startup looking to make its mark on the world, building trust with customers is imperative. Trust inspires brand loyalty. So not only does it help get your customers through the door in the first place, it also keeps them around and recommending you to their friends, says Shayne Tilley, Head of Marketing, 99designs by Vista.
But what role does design play in building this? Turns out, a pretty vital one!
As with any relationship, trust and loyalty are earned over time – and for small businesses, design has a crucial hand in influencing that development. Beyond first impressions, your design choices are key to conveying your brand values and have a direct influence on how consumers connect with your brand on a deeper emotional level.
Here are five design-driven moves small businesses can easily make to help build brand loyalty and trust with their customers now and long into the future.
Create a strong brand personality
Creating your brand is a unique opportunity to craft how you are seen in the world by your customers. They say great products speak for themselves and that much is true, but inspiring loyalty requires a strong personality, which is communicated through each visual design element of your brand – from your choice of colours and fonts, right through to the imagery on your website in your marketing materials.
Rather than just facilitating a transactional interaction with your audience, your brand personality enables them to connect to the human element of your business. These emotional connections help you stick in their memory long after the deal is done, and your design choices impact each interaction they have with your brand.
Maintain brand consistency across all assets
Whenever and wherever your customers encounter your business, they should have the same brand experience. This means the colours, fonts, imagery of your brand should be cohesive from your website, through to your newsletters, business cards, packaging and more. Brand consistency assures your customers that their expectations will be met time and time again and gives you a better chance of them recognising and remembering you.
Developing a brand guide can help you achieve this consistency. This will lay out your visual identity in granular detail so that if there is ever any doubt of how you should be looking or communicating as a brand, this single source of truth will give you the answers. A brand guide is also a helpful tool for ensuring all team members or contractors are promoting your brand in the same way—a big plus as your team and customer base grow.
Be authentic and transparent
From the ingredients in your product and the processes in your production line right through to the people behind the brand (that’s you!), consumers are seeking authenticity and transparency from brands now more than ever. Any sense of deception can quickly (and irreparably) break their trust, so think of design as a tool to help you clearly communicate how you work and what you stand for.
For your website, which is often one of the first places consumers will look when wanting to know more about a brand, this could be as simple as visually showing the ingredients in your products as opposed to just listing them, or illustrating your brand’s journey, mission and core values in your “Our Story” section. This additional transparency can go a long way in building trust with your audience by being upfront and showing you have nothing to hide.
Let your community do the talking
The success of your business is largely determined by your ability to nurture connections with your customers. Your customers have the potential to be your biggest brand advocates and their loyalty is worth its weight in gold. Incorporating this loyalty and advocacy into your design through avenues such as user-generated content, testimonials and case studies can help you build important credibility with new audiences, whose trust you have not yet earned.
The added bonus here is that it also strengthens the relationships with existing customers by making them feel like a special part of your brand. In the wise words of Maya Angelou; “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Create a positive user experience
Have you ever left a website that’s taken just a second too long to load? You’re not alone. One poor website experience can be all it takes to lose a customer, so prioritising a smooth and seamless encounter is a must. Doing so doesn’t have to be too complicated – minor upgrades to the layout of your website, streamlining navigation or simplifying the fonts and colours you choose might be all that you need. It also probably goes without saying that with consumers doing more on their phones than ever before, making your design mobile-friendly is a must. Taking these steps can make all the difference in ensuring a customer comes back time and time again.
Developing trust with your customers is one of, if not the most crucial aspects of building a successful business. Trust is the foundation of building strong, loyal relationships with your customers and it’s these relationships that ultimately support your bottom line. Building this loyalty is an ongoing journey, but design is your superpower in helping you communicate your value to customers over time. So the effort you invest in consistent, transparent and effective branding will be well worth the trust and loyalty you earn.
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