Naturals brands — particularly those that embrace functional nutrition, cutting-edge ingredients, or specific lifestyles — have a lot of education to do. As a marketer, you may think that consumers will naturally gravitate toward your brand, or that they’ll respond to a charismatic founder, or that they won’t bat an eye at paying a premium price. But that’s arrogant.
Instead, at every touchpoint, you need to teach the consumer why your brand matters, what wrong it exists to remedy, how it will help enhance her life, how she’ll feel when she stands with you.
(Note that this assumes you and your leadership team have done the hard work of articulating your brand’s WHY. If you haven’t done that yet, start learning here.)
Understanding the Naturals Customer’s Journey to Buy and Beyond
When you were in business school, your marketing professor likely introduced you to the Customer Journey — the hourglass-shaped pathway by which customers make purchasing decisions. The first step in the Customer Journey is education, as the consumer identifies a problem or need and begins searching for a product that will help her.
B2B companies with long sales cycles or complex products lean on the Customer Journey to coax a prospect into buying.
But the Customer Journey concept applies to consumer brands, too. In fact, our book Beloved & Dominant Brands shows how marketers can guide consumers to embrace their products. Like the standard Customer Journey diagram, our Brand Ecosystem rests on a foundation of education.
In the naturals category, the Customer Journey might look like this:
Educate I think I may be sensitive to gluten, or I am curious about the Keto diet, or I want to lose weight, or I want my family to eat healthier.
Research I’ll ask my friends, see what’s trending on social media, and maybe browse the natural products at my grocery store or visit Whole Foods.
Evaluate I’ll pick up a product at shelf or view an item online, or maybe consult my mobile phone while I’m out shopping.
Justify I’ll decide if what the brand is promising is worth the product’s price.
Purchase I’ll take this to the checkout.
In the naturals space, most marketers give up on the Customer Journey once their product gets into a shopping cart. You might assume that once he’s tried you, he’s a fan. Again: arrogant. The category changes too quickly — new darlings come into the market, store brands replace niche brands, trends evolve — and soon the customer will have lots of similar products to choose from. Creating trial might get you into the shopper’s consideration set but it opens you up to competition from better, cheaper, different options.
Brands need to constantly remind shoppers why they bought in the first place.
To secure Beloved & Dominant status for their brands, marketers can’t ignore the last three steps in the Customer Journey:
Adopt I love this product and what it does for me.
Belong Not only do I love the product, but I admire what the brand stands for.
Advocate I can’t wait to tell everyone I know about how great the brand and its products are.
The money lies in these last three steps. We know that it’s less costly for companies to sell to existing customers than to recruit new ones:
- Acquiring a new customer can cost 5x more than retaining an existing one
- Increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits by more than 25%
- The success rate of selling to an existing customer is 60%–70%; it’s 5%–20% for a new customer
Why do advocates — we call them believers — matter? Believers overcome price objection on your behalf, preserving a healthy margin on your products. They buy not just your products, but your mission. Which means they’ll remain loyal; you’re not one of 20 different brands they may rotate through their shopping carts.
Storytelling is the Mode for Turning Buyers into Believers
When we talk about educating consumers, we don’t mean drowning them in information about your features and benefits. That’s neither compelling nor distinguishing.
Your brand story, though: that’s compelling and distinguishing. Without a good story, you’re relegated to talking about flavors and ingredients. Your brand story is pegged to its strategic foundation. (Remember: We define brand as your promise and the way that you keep it.) It has to be true and believable and authentic — you can’t fake that crap. It’s the opportunity to share your value system, your contribution, and your brand citizenship with the world.
What’s more, your brand’s story and the messaging that spins from it aren’t about you and what you’re doing; they’re about your consumers and their world. Allow consumers to identify themselves as part of your brand’s higher calling. Make them the hero of the story, and you’ll create a cohort of believers who’ll support your brand, no matter what.
Case Study: Introducing the Story of a New Naturals Brand
What does it take to launch a brand based on thousands of years’ worth of knowledge into a modern marketplace? It takes a really great story.
NuTraditions (the name a portmanteau of nutrition and tradition) came to us for guidance as the third generation of a Chinese-American family-owned company took the reins and sought to update their brand positioning. With deep relationships to wildcraft producers in China, the brand was well-positioned to offer a unique line of traditional botanic products.
We collaborated to create a brand story that would use ancient Chinese medicine to bring balance to hectic modern life. The brand’s educational platform relies on teaching busy people how to better manage their energy, stress level, and life through healing methods that have been proven over thousands of years.
Converting believers is part of their strategy as the brand debuts in Summer 2020; we determined that if they could convert just over 300 believers they’d exceed their annual sales goal in just six months because those believers would encourage trial from others.
For Beloved & Dominant brands, storytelling magnifies their marketing efforts because believers will share that story on their behalf. They want their friends and family to belong to the tribe, too.
You and your brand are part of our tribe. We’re ready to be your biggest advocates. Let’s talk about how to share your story.