Your company brand is a funny thing. Some people are convinced it’s all about the logo. Or the website. Or the marketing materials. But in reality, your brand is the reputation you have in the market. And that’s not always up to you.
What do people think and feel when they hear your name? What ideas come to mind when they see that logo?
You may think of your brand in one way – from your internal perspective of what you feel it is and what you want it to be. But people on the outside may see it and experience it differently.
But despite what you may want your audience to see in you, it’s their actual experience that will determine the brand they associate you with.
Fortunately, you have the ability influence and alter what they experience.
Benefits of branding
Your brand, and the communication of that brand, is your opportunity to prepare your customers in advance to start looking for the things that make you different and special— before you ever have a single interaction.
If you get this message across correctly, you will have laid the groundwork for the expectations and experiences that will follow.
When people are able to see, hear, and understand your message clearly before they meet with you, work with you, or purchase from you, you’ve already built a significant level of trust. This trust will allow you to bring them into the relationship expecting to be pleased with the outcome. And this is exactly what you want.
By effectively communicating the things you’d like your audience to know about you, you’ve given them an opportunity to recognize and focus on the things they like about you. Things like what makes you different, where you align with their values, and how you can help make their lives and/or businesses run better.
It may sound a bit intuitive, but the truth of the matter is this:
If you don’t let your customers get to know you ahead of time, they won’t know what to expect when they finally do choose to do business with you. This can easily add a level of unease or anxiety to their decision and increase the chances of them being disappointed or disillusioned by the experience. And this is exactly what you don’t want.
Be true to your brand. And your customers.
There are two things that are absolutely critical to creating and maintaining a successful brand. Get them right and you are well on your way to happy, satisfied clients. Get them wrong and it won’t matter what you do or say. Your brand will be out of your hands.
1. Be consistent
There’s one place your brand messages need to exist. And that’s everywhere.
Your website. Your blog. Your social media. Your advertising. Your Yelp reviews. Your press releases and news articles. Your charitable causes. Your hiring practices. Your storefronts. Your offices. Your customer service philosophy. And anything else you say, do, allow, or decide.
Your brand has to be true and consistent to the very core of your mission and your organization.
You can’t do one thing this week and another thing next month. You can’t claim to love your customers but maintain unfriendly business practices. You can’t say you care about your employees and then treat them like crap. You can’t proclaim your love for your community but never give back. These things will not go unnoticed. And they will work against you.
Define your brand and then let it shine in every single thing you do.
2. Follow through
Even if you manage to get your brand messaging picture perfect, it will all be for nothing if you don’t follow through with customer interactions that deliver on that promise.
Defining your brand internally is one thing, but it all hinges on the actual client experience. Those cumulative customer interactions, both large and small, are the experiences that will ultimately determine your brand in the eyes of your target audience. If you constantly reinforce the messages you communicate, your brand will continue to become more deeply ingrained in the minds (and hearts) of your customers.
If your actions are in conflict with your message, your brand will eventually become whatever your consumers perceive it to be, whether or not it’s actually true.
Make it stick
Great brands are built one customer at a time. Make sure your company culture runs deep and that your brand is a natural outcome of your shared values. If your employees love their organization and their work, your customers will feel it. And when your customers are feeling the love, they’ll give it right back to you. And shout if from the rooftops.
Which means you’ve done it right.
Photo by Deyan Georgiev