“What makes any company famous?”
These two are the most common responses I receive from participants whenever I conduct a workshop on brand-building. And these responses can be extrapolated to a whole host of companies who have the misplaced belief that brand-building can be achieved mostly through advertisements and promotional campaigns. Such campaigns, often high decibel, involve significant costs and time. Due to limited resources, this discourages many small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) from undertaking a well-planned brand-building strategy. At the same time, such campaigns are also received with limited acceptance by consumers because it is the company itself that launches advertisements and promotion – viewed as a case of the company blowing its own trumpet. That puts the Return on Investment (ROI) of the campaign under question, which further limits the attention SMEs put towards the brand-building exercise.
This misplaced belief causes huge disconnect!
Brand-building is not about high decibel campaigns. It is about fixing the little things that matter. Promotional campaigns may bring the company in the “consideration set” but “conversions” happen due to the reputation that the company earns through experience it leaves with its target group. This is exactly what companies must focus on – initiatives that impact real experiences and are cost effective too!
A recent study by Bain & Co said 92% of consumers trust recommendations from other people (known or unknown to them) over promotional content that comes directly from the companies. In simple terms, this means that companies need to engage with their stakeholders proactively and offer unforgettable experiences. That acts as the unique differentiator in an otherwise price sensitive market. The customers become the brand evangelists in a true sense!
Based on my experience, I recommend the following three-pronged approach for any SME as an effective base to plan a brand-building strategy for a company – your company!
1) Get your basic positioning right, and ensure all your communications reflect that positioning: This means companies must have a clear brand message and positioning of what it is targeting. And all its collaterals and communications must carry that core message in some form in order to reinforce the positioning in the audience’s mind.
For instance, let us consider a footwear company. Just calling yourself a footwear company is not enough. You are talking to everybody, but connecting with nobody. So the company must have its basic clarity on which category it is targeting – men, women, kids, etc., what kind of value it is offering – long lasting, trendy or pocket-friendly, etc. Then its entire brand communication should target that segment of consumers with that specific brand message.
2) Do you engage with your employees; and if so, how? As the famous Richard Branson said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.” Rightly so! Ensure that your employee interests are addressed and they are engaged well. Not only are they consumers in their own right, but they are also interacting (formally or informally) with a number of your probable consumers out there.
But in reality, most companies pay minimal attention to proper employee engagement. According to them, initiatives like traditional days, funny Fridays, quiz are the major forms of engagement. Absolutely incorrect! These may be fun initiatives that are enjoyed in a day, but they do nothing to keep employees loyal to the brand. Employees are the biggest brand ambassadors, so pay attention to their voice. Listen to their core issues and address those; that goes a long way to build morale and true engagement.
“…engaged employees are more likely to improve customer relationships, with a resulting 20% increase in sales…”
3) How do you really connect with your customers? Sales do not happen by default. It needs months of planning and effort to convert the prospects into customers. Further, retaining these customers is even more important as that is what helps the companies manage both topline as well as bottom line – remember, it is always cheaper to sell to an existing client than to acquire a new client! Studies suggest a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to an increase in profits between 25 and 95%.
It goes without saying that companies need to connect with their customers and make them feel valued. That creates impeccable experience – the crux of true brand-building.
So what are some of the simple ways for you to get this right:
– Ensure that any customer feedback is always acted upon: In B2B setups, it is easier to circle back and inform the customer about the progress on their feedback. Even in B2C setups, this is not impossible – contrary to popular belief. Companies can regularly study the feedback pattern, prioritize the issues raised, fix them and communicate the progress at a public forum. Valuing customer’s feedback is a must to make customers stay with you and buy again!
– Kill the irritants: Even though you have implemented the best processes to ensure unforgettable customer journey, yet the reality might be different. Time and again conduct “mystery shopping” to ensure that the claims on your marketing materials actually meet the real practice on-ground. If any gaps exist, then plug them. Any long-holds when a client calls up customer service, any delay in responding to client mails, any unempowered (“I will check and come back” type) employee at your front desk, any indifferent sales/customer service staff, etc. are all typical examples of this.
– Let them know you are smart: A relationship works both ways. While you have to make you’re your customers feel valued, they also must feel proud of being associated with you. So remember to showcase your achievements, certifications and insights time to time through owned platforms like your website, social media platforms, emails or get-togethers.
– Actively engage with customers throughout the journey to keep them aware: Thanks to digital solutions, staying in touch with customers is just a click away. Design simple engagement programs and keep them aware and hooked though the journey.
– Let them know they matter: Many companies often take long-standing relationships for granted. Never let such complacency creep into your system! Retaining a customer is way more cost effective and profitable for you, so do not leave any room for disappointment in the case of existing customers.
Following this three-pronged approach can create a brand with lasting recall. The key is to listen to customer feedback, engage your employees properly and get your brand positioning correct.
That builds the reputation of an organization and brings target group loyalty, which is turn creates memorable client experience – a must for any SME to build a memorable brand!
Written By: Ms. Mitu Samar, Founder – Eminence, a reputation management company. A first generation entrepreneur, Mitu has a proven track record in strategic brand communication and thought leadership positioning. She also serves as an Independent Director on the boards of Times Group companies – India’s leading media conglomerate