Why it’s important that your customers get to know you slowly


Familiarity bias dictates that the more familiar you are with someone or something, the more you will grow to like it. For example, think about the last time you met someone and didn’t get on with them. Although the old adage, “first impressions count” holds true, more often than not its impact is lessened if you keep interacting with that person on a regular basis. As you become more familiar with them you learn to accept, or at least tolerate, whatever it was you disliked about them, simply by being in their company and getting used to it.

Familiarity dictates choice

Taking this concept further, research has shown that when faced with a choice, people are more likely to go with the option they are more familiar with, even if the alternatives are in fact better. Certainly this could go some way to explaining why my Fantasy Football team is languishing at the bottom of the inaugural TopLine league (my limited knowledge of football meaning I’m more likely to pick players I’ve heard of rather than ones destined to score a lot of points) but in fact a lot of the research into the concept looks at the ways it can affect the financial industry.

For example, familiarity bias has been found to actually sway investor decisions, as they perceive companies that they ‘know’ or are familiar with as the safer or better option even if the complete opposite is true. Familiarity breeds bias, and bias can lead to an underestimation of the risks involved in taking the familiar route.

However, it isn’t just investors and brokers that can use this knowledge to their advantage – let’s consider how familiarity bias can be used when marketing a product or service:

The value of becoming familiar

From a marketing perspective, familiarity bias is the reason why long term marketing strategies reap the biggest rewards. Successful businesses don’t just market solely to people that are already aware of their brand and basically at the point of purchase already – in fact, preaching to the converted makes up just one part of their strategy. Instead they do all they can to win new customers over to their product or brand in order to increase revenue streams and growth.

But for this kind of strategy to work it has to be measured the right way. To base the value of an email marketing campaign, for example, solely on the number of converted leads that came from it, is to miss the bigger picture. There is value in a potential customer learning about your offering even if it didn’t result in a sale first time.

With this in mind you should look at ways of establishing yourself in your customers’ minds so that when the time does come for them buy, the more familiar they are with your brand the more chance you have of being on their shortlist. Clever marketing tactics help create an affinity with your brand inside your customers’ heads and makes them become much warmer prospects.

Getting on your customers’ radars and staying there

Be warned, there’s a fine line between regular engagement with your target audience and becoming an annoyance. So what are the best ways to reach your customers regularly without them hitting the spam button? The key is to mix up your marketing channels, rather than relying on one alone, and change up your tactics from just pure outbound sales approaches. Here are  some ideas to get you started:


Re-think how you manage your social media

No-one follows social media accounts that just post self promotional content. Consider what your customers are interested in and aim to engage them in debate, perhaps by posting your company’s stance on a recent news story.

On Twitter, use trending and relevant hashtags to join in with your thoughts on popular topics and to entice curious users to click on your profile to find out what you’re all about.

If you’re a larger company, consider creating separate accounts for different aspects of your business (customer service for example) so that each has its own focussed audience.

Read more tips on incorporating social media into the buying cycle.


Give away something useful for free

It’s all well and good claiming your company is better or more experienced than the competition, but how can you prove your worth? Why not produce a free ebook, blog series or infographic that is of use to your target audience? You shouldn’t expect it to lead to many new sales directly, but by providing relevant and useful content (and free of charge, too) you’re showing that not only are you a thought leader in your field, but also a generous one too. It’s sentiment like this that can make the difference further down the line when your potential customers remember you in a positive way.

Find more about the value of reciprocity here.


Stay in touch through email

Whilst most people’s inboxes are often brimming with marketing messages, email is still an effective tool for getting on potential customers’ radars. However, you need to make sure you’re using it effectively so that your messages don’t just end up straight in the ‘deleted’ folder without being read.

The best way to do this is engaging via email only with people who’ve actually opted-in to hearing from you so that their first thought isn’t, “how did this company even get my email address?”. So instead of using email as the first point of contact as many companies do, use it to keep on your customer’s radar through a regular newsletter, special offer or similar. Segment your email lists and test which methods work best, varying subject headings, email designs and frequencies to find the best approach.

Increase your email open rates with these five tips.


What other ways can companies become more familiar to their customers? Leave a comment below. Read more posts in the Science of Marketing series here.