Smart branding helps customers look beyond price.
By Brenda Haines
What prompts a customer to choose your company over another? For many companies, the frustrating answer is price. If you don’t want to compete exclusively on price, you need to build a strong emotional connection with your customers and prospects to inspire them to look beyond price and help them see you are not the same as your competitors.
That is where your brand comes in.
What is a brand?
Many people confuse a brand with a logo. While a logo is one part of a brand’s identity, a brand is so much more. At its core, a brand is the emotional response a company evokes in a customer’s or prospect’s mind.
Skeptical? Try this. Read the names of three brands below. Make note of what comes to mind when you think of each one.
Did Starbucks bring to mind a comfortable, welcoming place to hang out? When you think about Target, does it evoke a feeling of being hip, cool and fresh? When you think about Best Buy, do you think geek? As in, “Thank goodness there’s a geek here who can help me figure out what I really need?”
The emotions you feel are not random. They are (usually) responses the company has worked very hard to bring to mind. Great brands decide what they want to be and then build their organizations to support that vision.
Determining your brand
“But I’m not a national company,” you say, “so all this brand stuff doesn’t really apply to me, does it?” The reality is that, yes, it does. You already have a brand, whether you know it or not. Every interaction is a chance to make your customer happy, frustrated, angry or thrilled. If someone asks your customer about your company, your customer will tell a story starting with that emotion. “Company X made me so mad” or “I love Company X.”
One of the most common branding myths is that you can create a brand from nothing. Your brand isn’t something that you simply dream up. Effective brands are based on what your customers value and what you are already doing that they like. Effective brands aren’t created. They are unearthed, like a great find in an archaeological dig.
Don’t believe me? Ask your customers this question: “What do you tell other people about our company?”
You’ll likely discover that some themes emerge. Those themes constitute your brand.
Writing your brand statement
Once you’ve determined what your customers want—and what you’re good at providing—you can build on that brand. At Blue Door Consulting, we recommend developing a brand statement that you can use as a measuring stick for decision making. An effective brand statement will fit on the back of a business card, so it’s easily memorized and understood by your team.
Effective brand statement:
“We provide the backdrop for beautiful memories.”
Ineffective brand statement:
“Through innovation, engineering, design and project management, we develop custom tent rental solutions to fit each customer’s individual needs.”
Why does the first one work? The effective statement is both brief and specific. It paints an image of a beautiful memory, and it provides an easy way to measure success. You can ask the question: Does this [business process] create a beautiful memory? If the answer is no, you have work to do.
Let’s continue to use this brand statement as we move on to developing your brand. Powerful brands constantly refer to their brand statement, aligning every part of operations with it. Your people—from the sales manager to installers to the accountant—are a crucial part of your brand. Training can help employees who aren’t living the brand. Likewise, you can use the brand statement as the basis for evaluations and compensation.
Your facilities, sales and marketing materials, website and social media must also reflect your brand. Most importantly, the actual product must be consistent as well.
Using our sample brand—We provide the backdrop for beautiful memories—you would look at ways your people, places and products help create beautiful memories. Employees who excel at customer service and problem solving are rewarded. Those who do not are offered training to address the gaps. The company’s office, logo, website and social media are designed and updated to showcase the beautiful memories the company creates. Perfectly installed tents and smooth handling of logistics complete the beautiful memory for every customer.
How will you know your company is doing all it can to live your brand? Ask your team. Because they see your company from different perspectives, they are a great source for ideas to ensure that your brand is consistent across all areas.
One message, multiple audiences
While consistency is crucial, it is still important to acknowledge the differences among your customers. If you serve different audiences (corporations and brides, for example), you will need different descriptions for the way you create beautiful memories. What constitutes a beautiful memory for a bride is different from what does the same for a corporate event planner. You need to demonstrate the value you bring to each audience individually or they won’t see it as a value at all.
For a bride, you might describe the elegant spaces you create with the products in your inventory. For the corporate meeting planner, you may describe the efficiency with which you manage installation and takedown. Each statement creates value, differentiates and is true to your brand.
A strong brand will create such positive experiences for your customers that the resulting word of mouth marketing will help you grow. You can measure the success of your brand in two ways. First, customer surveys should ask brand-specific questions. For example: We strive to provide backdrops for beautiful memories. How did we do? How can we improve?
Second, you can measure the success of your brand by asking prospective customers how they heard about you. For service organizations, 60 percent or more of their business comes from word of mouth. Measure where your new business comes from to see how well your brand is working.
Measurement is the analytical finish to a process that starts with emotion. Keep this emotion at the core of what you do and you’ll be on your way to developing a strong brand.