4 ways to build your brand that won’t cost you anything.

The CenterEdge team recently had the opportunity to attend an industry education event, LaserTAG360, a two-day conference for new and existing facilities. While the focus of the event is laser tag, the top-notch business practices being shared are applicable across all aspects of the amusment industry from FECs and trampoline facilities to amusement, water and adventure parks.

One of the major topics discussed throughout the two days by several speakers was the importance of building a brand that you can be proud of, including every detail—from your attraction mix to your design to your website and all the way to your facility’s unique atmosphere. If you can do it right, you’ll also create an organization that your guests want to be loyal to, and ultimately advocate for.

Read on for five free ways you can build the brand to be proud of.

1. Be authentically transparent.

Shama Hyder, the founder and CEO of the Marketing Zen Group, delivered a seminar for Social Media Marketing World earlier this year that discussed the idea of converting any customer (or guest) into a brand advocate. She first reminded the audience that “people are the media” and that today, more than ever, companies and their leaders need to be transparent and accessible. While it may seem easier for family-run entertainment venues to have a hands-on approach to guest communication, it can be a challenge to scale and maintain that same level of familiarity as growth often equates to bigger facilities with more staff or additional locations.

It’s not impossible, though, if you maintain your authenticity. Great leaders are real and authentic, and they communicate in open and meaningful ways. When you lead with authenticity, you’ll attract staff who are more like-minded because most of us prefer to work with people we relate to. As you grow, hire and promote managers and other leaders that can pick up their own torch and communicate with the voice that is in line with your authentic brand.

It’s worth mentioning that authenticity can be a weakness if you succumb to any of the common leadership pitfalls and falsely label them as authenticity. Authenticity and transparency work together when you’re focused on your values and living up to them as a leader and as an organization.

2. Become an organization worth knowing.

The second secret to brand advocacy shouldn’t be a secret—your organization needs to be one others want to rally behind. What does your organization value the most? Your purpose, your “why”, your “one thing,” must be compelling enough to rally the people you want to become advocates. But what does it take?

Hyder made a terrific point saying, “a great experience is the minimum.” Most of us expect, and even demand, a terrific experience. That’s the norm, so it’s time to establish a new normal, and set your organization apart by becoming one that people want to know and talk about.

Maybe your true identity can be found in the ways you support local schools, or in the guest-centricity you establish through a membership program. Southwest Airlines, for example, chooses to be completely guest-centric in the non-industry standard lack of fees: no change fees, no cancellation fees, no baggage fees. They’ve made themselves worth knowing by proving that they love their guests. There’s a lot that can be learned from that if you think of what you want to prove to your audience.

3. Find your voice.

As you become clear about who you are, remember that it’s still important that you are communicating your unique story. The more you communicate meaningfully, the easier it will be to share your values and ideals begin to cultivate conversation with people who identify with those ideals. Remember that, as Simon Sinek says, “every decision you make is a piece of communication,” and you will be held accountable to your audience for every one of them. Choose wisely.

But as you are doing great things for your guests, your team members, and your communities, be proactive about sharing that in-store, out in the public and on social media. You should be proud, but humble.

Have fun with your communication, be genuine, and showcase not just what you’re doing but more importantly, why. For example, don’t just post pictures of a staff party or team building event, perhaps you tell the story about how hard your staff works and how much they deserve a chance to have fun and grow personally or professionally. Or even better, maybe there’s a young cashier who can lend her own voice in a short video about how working with your business or your guests has positively impacted her.

4. Ask for REAL feedback consistently.

According to BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Study, more than 90% of consumers conduct an online search before visiting a facility for the first time, and we know that they are more likely to visit if the feedback found online is positive.

Ask for feedback from guests every chance you get. If you don’t ask guests for their feedback, who do you think is more likely to take the stage about your business: someone who thought their experience was great, or someone who didn’t? Why take the chance it could be the latter? The same BrightLocal survey stated that 68% of people left a review when asked, which statistically speaking is going to present a clearer representation of your overall performance.

One thing to note is that, while more reviews you typically will present a more accurate picture of guests’ impressions about your facility, authenticity and transparency are key. Don’t just ask everyone to leave a positive review – instead make the space for them to deliver authentic and honest feedback.

In a case study performed by Marketing Zen Group, two review pages for a company were tested. One portrayed solid five-star reviews with no deviation and the other had 70% five stars, with a scattering of lower scores. Which page performed better? The one with mixed reviews. The learning the company found was that the average consumer doesn’t trust perfection, and that authenticity is rewarded. The key is to create a space for an accurate picture to be painted. (How you handle feedback counts, too!)

Having a clear vision of both the experience you’re trying to create and the voice you’re trying to communicate will help you build loyalty and evangelism.

How do you tell your story? Share your brand evangelism stories with us in the comments or on Twitter.

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