People Need People, Part 2: Building Emotional Connections

As we explained in the first part of this series, people need other people. That includes the need for physical face-to-face interactions with others. This very human need has been more difficult to achieve in this time of mostly digital and virtual communication. Luckily, one of the other big parts of what people need — emotional connections — can be built right now, no in-person contact required. And the need for emotional connection goes beyond person-to-person relationships: People want emotional connections with brands, too.


What are emotional connections?

The word “emotional” means having or arousing strong feelings. We all share a common language of emotion — feelings such as anger, joy, love, happiness, and so on. A “connection” is a bond or tie to someone. Put together, an emotional connection is a bond or tie to someone or something of which you share common emotions. Emotions influence our behavior — at the most basic level, we are more likely to behave a certain way when there is a strong change of experiencing a positive emotion, and less likely to act if we expect to experience negative emotions.

Everyone forms emotional connections with things they use and come across throughout their lives – both positive connections and negative connections. These connections guide our behavior. Emotions can become associated with objects, places, or a certain time in your life. Just by experiencing something again, the same emotion is often evoked. The easiest way to explain this phenomenon is the experience of nostalgia. Similarly, there is probably an object from your childhood that has a sentimental value to you. In business, a strong emotional connection is determined by the overall positive feelings a consumer has towards a brand, and the key attributes or values with which the brand is associated. 


Why do emotional connections matter?

Companies struggle to create and maintain personal connections with their customers, according to research by Forrester. This is a shame, because emotional connection matters more than customer satisfaction! A commonly cited number is that 50% of buying decisions are driven by emotion. 

According to Harvard Business Review, moving customers from “highly satisfied” to “fully connected” produces greater returns than moving new customers from unconnected to highly satisfied! HBR recommends focusing on the “fully connected” category — maximizing the value of the brand to those customers, and attracting more connected customers. An emotionally connected customer is twice as valuable as a “highly satisfied” one. And according to a study by Capgemini, 70% of emotionally engaged consumers say they spend more on brands they’re loyal to.  

Clearly, customers’ emotions influence their behavior. An emotional connection can make the difference when a customer is deciding what to buy. Forming and nurturing emotional connections can turn potential customers into brand fanatics.


How to build emotional connections.

Some of the same principles that matter when forming other relationships — empathy, trust, respect — are just as important for business. Here are some tips for building emotional connections with consumers:

  1. Practice empathy. This is one of those principles that really benefits from face-to-face communication. Read their body language, pay attention, ask questions, and offer solutions to their problems. 
  2. Provide a fun, satisfying customer experience. Experiential marketing is a great method for providing memorable and fun customer experiences that will associate your brand with positive emotions. Even without the ability to create in-person experiences, you can practice this principle by providing “moments of delight.” Could you provide a special reward or surprise to your best customers? How can you make your customers feel special?
  3. Get personal. Don’t be afraid to be your authentic self. Allow your brand to get personal, maybe even use some humor. Learn more about your customers. A study by Arthur Aron showed that asking and sharing intimate stories made people feel closer and more connected. Simply put: don’t be afraid to be human! 
  4. Establish trust. Keep your promises, honor your commitments. People like to buy from people they like, trust, and feel like they can count on. This is especially true in times of crisis. Delivering what you promise will build strong emotional connections better than any fancy website or product can. 
  5. Create a community. Find a way to cultivate a community around your brand. Give customers a sense of belonging. You can build an online community — on your website or on social media — that asks for community members’ opinions on products, shares news and announcements, and encourages participation. You can even enable customers to participate in product development. For example, Lego has an online community that allows members to submit their own design ideas for new sets. As a bonus, you can also engage with this community you’ve created by providing opportunities for in-person events, when the time comes. 
  6. Emphasize shared values. The same Capgemini study found that 70% of emotionally engaged consumers say that brand values such as social responsibility or eco friendliness are important to them. Find out what values resonate with customers and find opportunities to make a difference. 
  7. Show you care. Especially in this time in history, demonstrate your values by acting on them and showing you care. Participate in relief efforts, support your workers and local community, and consumers will appreciate you. Companies that act tone-deaf during key moments in history will damage emotional connections they have with consumers.

From the Pro Motion team — we’re thinking of you all. Take care of yourselves!

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