Now, this may be my financial background kicking in, but your brand is your company’s most valuable asset as it drives sales, increases revenue and has a huge impact on your bottom line. Like a magnet, your brand attracts customers, followers, fans and even employees. And unlike depreciating assets such as computers or printers, when managed and executed properly, your brand value will (and should) appreciate over time. Essentially, your brand is the derivative of success.
However, branding has been unfairly labeled as that “creative marketing thing,” limiting it to just visual and contextual representations of your company. In reality, branding is much more than your logo and tagline and should be taken seriously. Effective branding improves the visibility and reputation for a product, service or company. Everything you do (and don’t do) and every aspect within your organization ranging from an individual to your company culture to your product affects how your brand is received. And then ultimately perceived.
But don’t forget that just like depreciating assets, your brand needs to be maintained and given the proper care, love and attention it so deserves. Let’s examine what I mean by that.
Get Back to The Basics
We all know that any healthy, strong and meaningful long-term relationship is built on a strong foundation. Similarly, your core values and beliefs should drive all business and marketing decisions. You must always ask yourself, “Does this uphold our core values? Does this align with our principles?” Your values should be apparent and integrated through everything you do—big or small—including the most innocuous and unsuspecting offenders. It only takes 140 characters to go viral and cause a huge scandal or media frenzy.
But don’t get caught up in the obvious. Remember to stick to the fundamentals because it’s the little details that count and can make all the difference. For example, if your restaurant’s motto is “The Customer is King” then every last detail from the service, atmosphere, food, uniforms, and cleanliness should resonate with that brand message. However, if I am served a poor attitude with a side of terrible service, well, then that sends a mixed message and doesn’t meet your customer’s expectations.
Manage Your Online Presence
We all hate that dreaded interview question, “What’s your biggest weakness?” Even when you have control over the answer…telling only half the truth. However, now your customers can answer that question for you. With social media and the non-stop chatter of the interwebs, everyone can and seems to have an opinion these days. Reviews, criticism and opinions were once reserved for the professionals. A restaurant only had to care about the mystery New York Times food critic coming to their grand opening. Movies would get the thumbs up or thumbs down from Roger and Ebert. Now there’s Yelp and Rotten Tomatoes and all sorts of social media channels that can make one comment go viral with just one simple click of the mouse.
So what do you do? It is more important than ever to stay on the offense and manage what you do and say. Have you seen those articles where an intern accidentally wrote an inappropriate tweet that garnered more press and media attention than your upcoming product launch? It’s always good to have policies in place outlining your values and stating what can or cannot be pushed out to the public. It’s also a good idea to have a real human who can actively manage your outreach initiatives and diffuse any complaints or problems when they arise. For example, if a customer is unhappy with your product, then send them a private message and offer to give them a discount on their next visit or mail them a replacement. They will be pleasantly surprised that you are actively listening and care about their needs. And more importantly, they will then probably tell all their friends about the great customer service you deliver. People are more likely to pay a premium if they receive good customer service.
Scandals, accidents, product recalls, and bad judgment can happen to anyone (yes, even the untouchables) and often strike at the most unexpected or inconvenient moments. Funny how that always happens, right? So it’s always wise to set up a reputation management process.
The first rule of thumb is to be accountable and own who you are. Face the problem head on and don’t shy away or hide. That only makes you look suspicious. Be open and honest in admitting your mistakes. The second rule of thumb is to be proactive. Don’t wait for the backlash—swift action and communication are key to a turnaround. In these unforeseen type of situations, you can control how you react. The best way to manage what people are saying is to control the direction of the conversation to your best ability. And finally, the third rule of thumb is to devise a clear plan of action. Outline the next steps and map out deadlines for what needs to get done or updated. Keep your customers in the loop and update them on your progress.
Move or Get Run Over
Don’t get set in your ways and become stagnant or stale. Ahem, Sears… ahem, JC Penney. You must be open to change and welcome any or all constructive feedback to continue improving. Especially when you are at the top spot, there is always someone willing to take your spot.
Reputation doesn’t just include damage control. It also means being responsive. The market is always shifting, consumers tastes are ever-evolving and trends come and go. So why do you think you can stay the same and still be relevant? You can’t. Success thrives on forward motion. You must make adjustments and tweak things by listening to your customers and learning from your mistakes. Don’t neglect the warning signs. Loyal customers and fans are so valuable and in some cases, they know your brand better than you. A way to address this is to get feedback from your customers on an upcoming product or service you are thinking about launching. Get them involved in the process. How can you go wrong with giving the customer what they want when they are the one making the decision?
Take Time to Reflect
So how do you start applying these practices to your brand? I’d suggest you start by evaluating and reflecting on your brand. You must know yourself first. Take the time to allow yourself a time out. Brands, like humans, evolve over time, so it’s always wise to take a step back every once in a while to see where you currently stand. Below I have outlined some guiding questions to discuss with your team. I recommend you request each team member answer the questions independently and then facilitate a group discussion to reveal the different responses:
- In 3 words, how would you describe your brand’s personality?
- What are the company’s current strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your key value propositions and benefits that make you unique?
- What are some common problems or complaints (internally and externally)?
- What are some recent failures (marketing, operations, sales) and lessons learned?
- What or where are opportunities to increase efficiency or expand your reach?
- How do you stack up against the latest market or industry trends?
- How do you stack up against your competitors? Why do customer choose your brand over others or your competitor’s’ brand?
- How would you define your ideal client or target market? (personality, values, beliefs, needs, wants, fears, hobbies, age, etc.)
After you’ve taken a thorough audit of your brand, then I’d move onto taking an audit of your marketing initiatives. We’d be more than happy to evaluate your situation and see how your brand goals align with your marketing initiatives.
Give us a shout or schedule a free consultation to get the conversation started. It’s our job to connect the dots and find untapped opportunities.
Originally Posted on Feb 20, 2014