Think you don’t have a brand? Guess again — every company does. Some even have a clear roadmap identifying what they stand for, their brand promise, identity — even their voice.
All of this is critical in developing and implementing a brand that resonates. But how far has your team gone to create a memorable brand experience?
Delivering your brand is the most critical stage in the process — and the step most often overlooked. Crafting a “brand delivery plan” allows you to manage how your customers feel about their experience with you.
Before you develop a brand delivery plan, be sure you’ve built a truly sustainable brand roadmap and asked yourself the following questions: Who are we? What do we do? And why does it matter?
Who you are is your brand personality, what makes you special, the tone of your message and how you interact with customers. What you do is the product or service that you are uniquely suited to deliver — a factor that makes a buyer choose you over the competition.
As for why it matters, this is your “higher order benefit.” It’s the reason customers come back to you, the emotional benefit that your brand delivers. It can be anything from peace of mind or safety to tradition or creativity — something vital and relevant to your customers.
Then you have to understand how these three concepts relate to your audience. Do you really understand who your buyers are beyond simple demographics? What are their hobbies? Their values? What matters to them? Engage customers in the conversation as often as possible.
These exercises are important to the process of delivering a sustainable and meaningful brand. Each should be used as a filter at every point of contact, every time customers touch your brand. The following are just a few of the many ways you might manage, or prove, your brand promise.
- Say thank you in a special and relevant way
Let customers know they are special and important to your company. When saying thank you, do everything possible to make it a personalized experience — the way that you thank long-time customers for their years of loyalty should be different from the way that you welcome and thank a first-time tryer.
- Turn “talk time” into “memorable time”
One of the most poignant moments in a direct-channel experience comes when a customer actually talks to a “live” person, either on the telephone or using the chat function online. By incorporating a few carefully planned words that represent your brand or higher order benefit into a dialog with your customers, you can begin to reiterate your company’s unique differentiation.
- Merchandise by channel
Every channel provides a unique experience. Oftentimes, what customers buy in the store is much different from what they purchase from a catalog or online. Be sure you understand what distinguishes one channel from another, and then consider those key hot spots within each channel.
Give them what they want based on where they are. Within your catalog, place the best-selling products, themes and categories within those first few spreads. What do they search for the most when going online? Place those key words or products on the homepage or, at the very least, hint where they might be quickly found.
- Take a vocabulary lesson from your customer
Use their words, not your own. Listen to what customers say on the phone, and read testimonials, blogs and message boards to learn how they describe and define your products. Use what you find to build a relevant vocabulary list. Keep that language in mind when crafting any communication to customers, and mirror their verbiage, voice and tone.
- Review your tagline for relevance
Does your tagline focus on the end benefit of what you provide? A tagline is a powerful tool used for differentiation. It should be short and sweet — five to eight words that focus on the end benefit to customers. When crafting your tagline, always try to use words like “you” or “your.” This will help you bring customers into the equation, forcing the orientation not on the company, but on the benefit.
- Help customers hold on
Asking customers to wait on the telephone is a necessary evil — so turn the experience around by informing or entertaining them. Better yet, how can you use that brief time to reiterate the benefit of customers doing business with you? Instead of a standard on-hold message, use the prerecorded message to reinforce particular brand attributes or benefits. Focus on information they really want to know and deliver those brand messages as succinctly as possible.
- Create brand-infused e-mails
E-mail is so offer-driven that businesses sometimes give little attention to anything but getting click-through activity. Be sure that every e-mail is infused with the voice of your unique positioning. And make it easy for customers to do whatever you’re prompting them to do next. Include a link to your home page or a path answering any question they might have to make their decisions easy.
- Inspire the “box dance”
When your product arrives on your customers’ doorsteps and they see it’s from you, do they get excited and do the dance of anticipation? What are you doing to continue that warm feeling of anticipation as they open the package? From the look of your box to the way you stage the contents, you should aim to provide customers with an elevated experience. This can make a big difference in how they do business with you in the future. (For more, see “The Box Step,” April 2008 issue.)
- Make the most of confirmation e-mails or letters
In addition to confirming the receipt of an order or a shipping date, take this important opportunity to emphasize brand differentiation or, at the very least, say thank you in a special, not trite, way. Let customers know how much you appreciate their orders. You might consider sending them a follow-up survey to ask about their experience and how you could serve them better.
- Take them on a theme ride
If you’ve done a good job of analyzing what customers are buying, themes will begin to surface. A theme is a collection of related products that’s more specific than a product category. Look for and seize opportunities to create themes, because customers gravitate toward them. Expand on them, develop them, and create new products and content that fit within that realm.
- Make it their own
Give buyers a way to customize their product. Here’s what some of our clients do: Wolferman’s English Muffins allows shoppers to build their own gift basket to include exactly the product mix they want at a price point they are comfortable with. Exclusively Weddings offers personalized monogramming in a variety of options on many gifts. Even business-to-business companies allow customers to customize in quantities and selection. There is great value in letting the customer personalize their choices.
- Provide customized service, not just customer service
Don’t wait for something to go wrong to practice extraordinary customer service. Train customer service reps for specific customer segments. Do you have a segment of business buyers within your database? Give them customized attention with their own specialized customer service team. If your product line is extra-technical, have tech specialists standing by to walk them through their decisions. Anticipate the needs of your customers and be prepared to deliver a branded experience.
- Offer editorial content
Online, in your store or in your catalog, don’t be shy when offering relevant and useful information, tips or suggestions that will deliver on your brand promise. Why is the customer coming to you? Is it because of your expertise? Be sure to offer that expertise.
Or let happy customers offer the same relevant information or endorsement. Testimonials and success stories can be powerful tools, but don’t throw them in just for the sake of having them. Be sure they are truly special and relevant, and best prove your brand promise.
- Get everyone on the “brandwagon”
Your entire company must be on board, from the employee packing the box to the person answering the phone. Everyone has a part in delivering your brand promise, and eventually their efforts will affect the customer experience. By understanding what your company stands for, employees become invigorated and enthused and will often create new ways to deliver the battle cry. Get everyone on your team excited about the brand. That enthusiasm will translate to customers.
Many companies have seen the value of creating teams that research and plan for every opportunity. And in this competitive, multichannel world, it’s worth it to spend the time and energy in doing it to boost your brand.
Lois Boyle-Brayfield is president of J. Schmid & Associates (www.jschmid.com), a catalog consultancy in Mission, KS.