Defining your brand in every customer interaction
When talking to clients about their brands, I have found that most think branding refers to their logo, the font they use in their brochure or a graphic on their service vans. However, branding is not just a logo—it is everything about a business.
Customer complaints give insight into what a brand really is. If you visit Facebook and read any business reviews, you will find consumers talking about the way they were treated, the prices they paid, and the way the company communicated or did not communicate with them. What you will not see is someone saying, “I really wanted to hire them, but they used Comic Sans in their logo, and that offended my delicate sensibilities.”
Branding is how you present and interact with your customers directly and indirectly.
Let’s focus on three key areas: when you meet customers, when customers read you and when customers talk about you.
When You Meet Customers
If branding involves every interaction with customers, then what you say and do when you meet them is paramount. Things such as answering the phone, the way technicians conduct themselves in a customer’s home, and how your staff acts in your showroom are massive opportunities to set and enhance your brand.
How do you and your staff present yourselves? Professional? Knowledgeable? Transparent? Passionate? Good listeners? What is your body behavior? Relaxed? Rigid? Slouching? What language do you use with customers? Professional? Conversational? Sometimes inappropriate? At the end of the day, think about every interaction that you have with customers and how you come across in those interactions. What is working and what can you improve?
I am in and out of businesses every day. It always floors me when I interact with an employee who is unknowledgeable, unhelpful, unprofessional and, sometimes, downright rude. Customer service is the difference between building a long-term relationship with a company and walking away with nothing whatsoever. Employees are the ambassadors of your company. They learn by watching the owners of the business live their brand.
When Customers Read You
Although critics love to claim that no one reads anymore, consumers do more research on companies now than ever before. They will read advertisements, social media reviews, customer complaints and your website to decide whether they should even consider doing business with you.
So, what are you saying about your business? What words, phrases and language do you use to describe your company? Are these important to you? Are they important to your customers? Often companies focus on the wrong elements of their company when they talk to customers. They might talk about how long they have been in business even though their customers may not care. What does your customer care about?
Believe it or not, consumers use your website. What it says, what it looks like and how it is laid out gives your customers a lot of information. Is it responsive to mobile devices? Is it secure? Does it look modern? Is it easy to navigate? Do you have pictures of people who look like your customers? Does your website use the same language as your customers, or does it sound like a conversation between two water treatment experts?
Your website likely is the first interaction consumers have with your brand. What is it saying?
When Customers Talk About You
You might be saying, “I cannot control what customers are saying about me.” I say, “Hogwash!”
Look at a company with great reviews and you can see its brand. The reviews all contain similar elements of the same themes over and over. They will talk about the great customer service, warm staff, knowledgeable owners, clear communication, strong follow-up and more. When you make these elements the cornerstone of your brand and deliver them every time, you can control what people will say about you.
As part of a marketing company focused on trade and service companies, I cannot help but pay attention to these businesses everywhere I go—especially on the road. I have watched vans bearing a service company’s name and logo cut people off on the highway and drive aggressively through residential neighborhoods many times.
At the end of the day, I am a consumer, and that van and its driver represent a company. What do you think I am thinking about its brand?
Live Your Brand
If having rave customer reviews, being busy with meaningful work, and running a successful and engaging business is important to you, then you must own and live your brand. You need to decide how you want people to talk about your business and put into place the processes, platforms and resources to make that happen.