Personalization and customer-centric approaches can set successful small businesses apart in an age of information overload. In these competitive, authenticity-focused markets, business owners can tailor their products, services, and marketing efforts to individual customer needs and preferences, fostering stronger loyalty. What does that mean for you? That you can let your consumers work for you. Their sense of community and identities can be beneficial to your business.

The Internet and the prevalence of smartphones has likely had a strong influence on our shortening attention spans. Forbes reports that the average consumer attention span continues to drop, leaving businesses and other organizations only eight seconds to get potential customers’ attention and secure their business. But how can small businesses hold their customers’ attention and win their loyalty in such a short amount of time? There are a plethora of answers, but tailoring products, services and marketing efforts to customer needs and preferences can help.

In the past decade or so, we’ve seen a shift from customers primarily browsing on their personal computers to spending more time on their phones and on social media - think fast scrolling rather than leisurely browsing. This means that your hook or emotional hold on a potential consumer has to be delivered in less time while standing out more.  

Tailoring Your Products

It’s essential to make sure your products fit your target demographic. Gone are the days of generic products and the “good enough.” With the rise of social media and absent-minded, appealing to the people scrolling on their phones has become the basis for the cultivated personal brand. Especially for Millennial and Gen Z consumers, it is crucial that they feel your brand fits into their lifestyle and image.

Like anything else, in the attention economy and among depleted attention spans, you have to pique their interests quickly. Remember – eight seconds. From your sourcing to visual design or pitch offering services, you only have a few seconds to grab your audience’s attention and convince them that your product or service fits into their life.

Once you catch their attention, you can persuade them to buy or subscribe, but this means you have to have your ideal consumer or audience clearly in mind as you develop your products, from the earliest developmental stages. What does your audience value? How do they see themselves, and how do they want others to see them? Do they prioritize sustainability, aesthetics, tradition or cutting-edge technology?

Your answer to this question should inform the way you design, manufacture, and present your product. And remember: just making a solid product is no longer enough to inspire consumer loyalty. Today’s consumers want more. 

Personalizing Your Services

If you’re selling services rather than products, the key to success for your brand is to assure your customers that your services will be customized to their needs. Whether copywriting, working as a personal assistant or offering accounting, you’ll find that potential clients in today’s market crave authenticity and personal attention. They don’t want to feel like another invoice on your desk – their loyalty comes from more personal attention.

Take some time with each client to learn how you can be helpful to their brand and best meet their needs, whether they’re a consumer or a business. Forbes has reported that Millennials and their successors, Gen Z, value authenticity. Social media has created a generational expectation of story-telling and personal engagement.

Younger consumers, who are increasingly entering the market for professional services and consumer goods as they gain earning power, don’t just want you to know their story. They also want to know your brand’s story and how it fits with their needs and values, and to be assured that they’re not just a nameless, faceless figure in a spreadsheet.

Individualizing Marketing Efforts

This desire for authenticity and connection can also inform your marketing strategy. Having the right product isn’t enough if it isn’t presented in an appealing fashion. The wrong approach to marketing, especially digitally, can either get your product ignored, or worse, make it go viral for all the wrong reasons!

Technology can help here. Targeted social media and web marketing can help you reach the consumers you want. Ads on Google, as well as on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok can target your carefully designed services and products to the consumers who are most likely to be interested. You can adjust your specifications based on a variety of demographic factors and interest categories to make sure you’re reaching potential clients who need your help or your product.

For an even more personal touch, you can ally with influencers. The para-social relationships consumers develop with their favorite online celebrities can make their recommendations feel like recommendations from a personal friend rather than from some slick, polished product from an ad agency. Recent AdWeek research found that 99% of Gen Z consumers skip advertisements, either by choosing to skip them or using ever-more sophisticated ad-blocking software. Aligning your brand with a trusted voice can help your brand scroll past the noise younger audiences choose to block out.

Ads with a personal touch are best here, with many consumers, but especially younger ones, preferring personal recommendations and word-of mouth communication. If you speak to specific communities, you can leverage this as you build your brand. Giveaways and user-generated content can help you take advantage of the often digitally-based communities that have emerged in Millennial and Gen Z markets.

Foster Strong Customer Loyalty

Building a loyal and energized customer voice depends increasingly on building communities and personal connections. Harnessing social media marketing and word-of-mouth recommendations works better in a market characterized by shortened attention spans and constant scrolling – remember that social media and cell phones are less suited to leisurely browsing than they are to quicker, less engaged scrolling.

Before you can market and engage with potential customers, though, it’s essential to make sure that your products and services are designed for a consumer market that’s increasingly concerned with authenticity and sincerity. Consumers will see right through a generic or impersonal product marketed with a veneer of sincerity. So be better.

Once you’ve built a personally appealing product and a sincere community following, you can leverage your newfound sense of community to share customer-experience stories and word-of-mouth recommendations, letting your customers do the marketing for you and taking advantage of younger consumers’ desire to share their own experiences.

Written by Sara F.

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