As the mom of 13- and 6-year-old daughters, I feel pretty practiced at this parenting thing. Sure, my first baby threw me for a complete loop. But thirteen years later, I at least know enough to expect the unexpected. Though I’m more than a decade into my role as parent, I’m twice as far into my role as a marketing and brand expert. And as I’ve deepened my experience in both areas, I’ve found some striking commonalities between raising a baby and building a brand.
Here are three elements they both need to thrive, and how to implement them in your business:
As anyone raising a child knows, young children – especially babies – crave consistency. Predictability builds trust and comfort for your tot, and it’s not much different for your customers and clients.
Changing up a baby’s sleep routine is going to wreak havoc. Suddenly thrusting a different caregiver with a very different style into the picture is also going to upset the upset the apple cart. Anyone who has moved, traveled, or hired a sitter during those early years knows what I’m talking about.
And as customers, we’re not that different from our infant selves. We like knowing what to expect from a business. When a brand we’re following suddenly changes up its voice, acts in a way that’s inconsistent with its personality or values, or even overhauls its visual identity, we feel confused. Then distrust sets in. Nothing, but nothing kills a brand quicker than confusion and distrust.
Think about how you’re showing up in your brand… Are you using a consistent tone of voice, even if you’ve hired copywriters? Is everyone who acts on behalf of your brand – from the person handling customer service inquiries to the person overseeing your social media – in alignment with your mission, personality and values? Even if all those people are YOU, it still matters.
And speaking of social media, are you showing up on a semi-consistent schedule? This is probably the hardest one of all (or is it just me?), but if your audience is used to you showing up daily or even weekly, and you suddenly drop off for a month, you’re going to lose their hard-won attention.
There’s a good reason hospitals have volunteer baby cuddling programs: human touch matters. It’s scientifically proven that human connection helps babies thrive. Likewise, researchers are finding that companies that are able to exhibit human behaviors in an authentic way, and develop an emotional connection with their customers are outperforming those that don’t.
One of the quickest ways to build that emotional connection with your customers? Tell stories. From babyhood to adulthood, we learn, grow and connect through stories. Brand storytelling, when done in an authentic and relevant way, helps the listener form associations – both conscious and unconscious – with your brand.
Remember that your stories should help to reinforce your core values, as shared values are an instant connector among human beings. Also, your target audience should be able to see something of themselves in your story, whether that “something” is who they are, what they believe, or whom they aspire to be.
Pregnant women are often told to talk to their babies while they’re still in-utero. Studies show that babies can hear their moms’ voices and already begin to develop language skills while still in the womb. Once your little one is born, talking to her early and often helps to reinforce those pre-birth language skills. It also fortifies your emotional connection.
How can we apply this principle to our brands? First listen, and then join in the conversation. Learn as much as you can about your target audience, and then talk with them about the things that matter most to them. Customers are more loyal to brands that show they understand and care. Studies show they also value transparency from brands they follow.
While it’s best to begin working on consistency, connection and communication skills while your business is still in its infancy, it’s never too late to begin. No fancy tricks involved – just nurture your brand, give it the attention it deserves, and watch it thrive.
Rebecca loves helping entrepreneurs to find their voice and build the brand of their dreams. She holds an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business, and her expertise has been shared in Entrepreneur, U.S. News & World Report, Fortune, Fairygodboss and Money Magazine, among other outlets.