Why do some brands fail while others flourish? And how can you make sure that your brand helps your business grow?
Let’s start first with “brand” – what is it?
Is it the logo?
Well, technically, yes, but that is only a small part.
Your brand is your customers’ experience when they interact with you – your product or service, your employees, your facility, your website – anything that they associate with your company.
Your brand depends on EVERY interaction someone has with your company.
It is a concept that exists in your customer’s mind. It’s their impression of your company. It’s formed over time.
However, it’s important to know that many researchers believe that there 2 interactions that matter most — the very first interaction a customer has with your company and the most recent interaction they’ve had with your company.
That means that first impressions make a big difference. But it also means that every subsequent interaction is important too because each interaction will be the most recent one.
And how do you make a great impression? You become “compellingly different.”
A common mistake that I’ve encountered with clients over the years is thinking that creating awareness of your product or service is all you need to increase sales.
Not true at all. Branding – and effective marketing – all starts with differentiating yourself from the rest.
But there’s a catch.
You can’t just be different. You must be compellingly different – different in a way that is meaningful to your customers.
That means that Step 1 of creating a meaningful brand is to know what your customers need. What is a problem they’re having that you can solve?
If you don’t know, that’s ok. Just do some homework. You may already know your customers really well, so just reflect on what they really need or what would make their experience even better.
Would they like more convenience? Would they like others to be impressed with them? Would they like to be thinner, faster, prettier, stronger, smarter?
Write it down. Make a list.
And if you don’t know what they need, consider surveys, polls or focus groups. It doesn’t have to be too extensive, but it does have to give you enough intel to make informed decisions.
Step 2 of creating a meaningful brand is to set your company apart from the rest. You need to offer something that your competitors do not. The catch? It must address at least one of needs on your list.
Now that you have the list of what your customers need, which of those items can you provide for your customers in a way that your competitors cannot?
If your customer wants more convenience, what can you do to deliver your product or service in fewer steps than your competitors?
If your customer wants to be the envy of the neighborhood by installing a luxurious outdoor patio for entertaining, what can you do to show them that your materials and craftsmen are the superior choice unique hardscaping?
And Step 3 of creating a meaningful brand is to reinforce your brand with every single interaction.
This is another step where a list comes in handy.
Picture one of your typical customers. Now picture each of their interactions with you from that specific customer’s perspective. Go through the total customer experience step-by-step.
Did they start by checking your website to get your hours, your number, or to check out your services? Put “website” on your list.
Did they come into your store or office? Add it to the list.
What do they see when they come in? Is the space clean, dirty, tidy, cluttered, bright, dark, modern, dated, etc.? What does it smell like? (Smell is a BIG deal. It’s a powerful trigger for forming perceptions based on what someone associates with the smell.)
How are they greeted? Quickly and with a smile?
Do they wait? What is that like and where do they wait?
When they interact with someone from your company, is it pleasant, courteous, and professional?
Do they get a receipt or paperwork when they leave? What does it look like? Does it include helpful information that demonstrates how you anticipate your customers’ needs?
What is the goodbye like? Do they feel great about your company as they leave?
Your list now shows you every touchpoint – every interaction – your company has with your customer. To build the perception you want customers to have, be sure that your compellingly different brand is demonstrated at every single touchpoint.
And if your compellingly different brand is NOT demonstrated consistently at every single touchpoint?
When there is a gap between who you say you are and what you actually do, you damage your brand. It leaves you vulnerable to mistrust, criticism, and ridicule.
Keep the total customer experience seamless and consistent in reinforcing your compellingly different brand.
Bringing It All Together
All of this – everything you just read – is one of the reasons I believe you need both Marketing and Leadership in order to have the winning combination for business success.
You don’t control your brand through Marketing.
You control the brand through effective Leadership.
Let me expand on that. In order for the marketing (events, billboards, commercials, ads, etc.) to effectively lead to sales of your product or service, there must be something compellingly different to sell.
If your brand were a rainbow, Marketing would be closer to the blue side, not the red.
If your brand were a plane flying from L.A. to NYC, Marketing would be closer to Ohio.
So focus on what happens closer to red end of the rainbow – closer to L.A. – closer to the beginning.
You have to determine what you’re going to sell, how your employees will treat your customers, what an optimal customer experience is, and who your company truly is at your core.
So what are those things called?
Maybe these would work: recruitment, selection, induction & orientation, core values, vision statement, strategic planning, culture building, research & development, consumer analytics, financial analytics, and operations.
And what do you need to do all of those things effectively?
And that’s when the magic happens!
That’s when your marketing can have the biggest impact on increasing sales.
Image courtesy of ibeam consulting