As humans, we need consistency; we crave it, our lives would spin out of control without it. Just for a second, imagine going to work, and unlike yesterday, all your files on your computer are not there. You would probably freeze, panic, freak out a little more, and then, with some measure of composure, call I.T with a touch of desperation and hope.
What if you reviewed your wage stub, and suddenly there was 50% less than last month? It would probably leave you feeling confused and jilted. Within the context of a business, your emotional response toward their brand is why companies strive and add great importance to delivering a consistent experience for their customers.
Go into any modern high street coffee shop and then visit the same store elsewhere in the country or even the world. You will, more likely than not, have a very similar (if not identical) branded experience. To signify that you have found the right place, you will recognize the logo and exterior design of the coffee shop. You have the confidence that you are going to get what you are seeking, the way you have come to expect it, at the price you are used to paying. As you walk through the door, you are welcomed by a familiar-looking and smelling interior and are greeted by a barista wearing a familiar uniform. The drink names are the same; the pastries are the same; the merchandise they sell is the same. You know what you want, and you get it, time and time again. It is easy, stress-free, and it leaves you feeling satisfied and fulfilled. You get the point; consistency is essential. When executed well, it is the critical foundation for a fruitful and profitable brand.
Customers who have a consistently positive experience with your company will return for more. They will return time and time again. They will become loyal customers and will bring others with them to purchase your product or service, enrolling them to be part of your “brand tribe.” Sounds great, and it is, but there is a downside. Customers today can probably purchase your service or product from your competition (especially with the ease of the Internet). Customers are very loyal until something interrupts their experience, and they are very willing to jump ship and give their business to your competitor(s). Competition adds extreme importance and pressure for your company and staff to ensure that a positive experience is being delivered consistently, time and time again, without fail.
Brands are built as well as destroyed at the employee level. Staff retention is vital; it pays to retain them and to keep them happy. A company can spend a lot of money rehiring and training a consistent flow of new employees – which can affect workflow and company moral. Employees appreciate consistency for all the same reasons as your clients do. Ask your team what the company can do to enhance their experience as an employee. Inclusive environments promote a feeling of belonging and value. Employees who sense they make important contributions increase their loyalty, which results in a happier workforce – this benefits the bottom line.
In the eyes of a successful brand, every member of your staff from the custodian to the CEO are equal. You could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a successful advertising campaign. Still, if someone experiences poor service from the receptionist or agent over the phone, it can erode your brand equity, reputation and could cost you the company. Where in your business, are you not delivering the same branded experience?
Consider how and when a customer comes into contact with your company. These “contact” points are known as “touchpoints.” Are your customers receiving the same branded experience via every touchpoint? If not, question what needs to change; is it retraining of a staff member, or maybe ensuring that your logo is the same for all your corporate and marketing materials?
As your business grows or the business environment around you changes, some touchpoints will no longer deliver the required corporate message and branded experience. You can simply re-align it. Should you feel unsure of what needs change and how to accomplish this, try asking your customers or staff what would work for them. Alternatively, you could hire a communication and design company to assist you with the process.
To get you started, I have included a few touchpoint categories (in no particular order). Note that as each company or industry has its unique set, this list is not exhaustive.
How does a “speech” deliver your brand message? It could be a public speech, a business presentation, or even an address to university students. Question every detail of that statement, what different elements could leave people with an experience or a judgment of you and your company.
Consider how the following can influence a certain impression: your clothing (too casual/too corporate), how you speak (interesting, slow/fast, even inappropriate), your PowerPoint presentation (designed well? or is it consistent with your handouts and other corporate materials?). Put on your detective hat and inspect every touchpoint. Once you have obtained consistency across everyone, your clients will become loyal brand ambassadors, returning for more and more.
Being consistent is an ongoing endeavor, and it takes repetition to get a brand message to stick. Often at the point that you are becoming tired of a campaign or message is when it’s starting to have a real effect on its intended audience. Be patient; it takes time to build loyalty.
In summary, be consistent, consistent, consistent. Then a little more.
Some touchpoints for you to explore:
WORD OF MOUTH
VOICE MAILS / ANSWERING MACHINE / TELEPHONE
ENVIRONMENTS / OFFICE SPACE
PHYSICAL WORKING SPACE OF HEAD OFFICE
There are often misconceptions about home businesses and their long-term viability. A company, no matter the size, location, or time in operation, is still a business and should be treated as such; this is crucial when considering your brand image.
Some consumers look less favorably towards home businesses rather than ones that have become successful and grown out of their infancy stage, having moved into a professional office. The truth is, many home businesses can and do flourish and operate as very professional companies. However, it requires the owner to treat it like a professional business for their customers to follow suit and do the same.
“Inward facing” (behind the scenes) do what you like – wear your pajamas all day, answer the phone stark naked if this works for you. But as soon as your business becomes “outward-facing,” it’s time to put on your “business hat.” Be professional on the phone, if someone comes over, put some clothes on – clothing that is appropriate for the type of client.
This article was inspired by a personal experience I had when it was time to select a daycare for my daughter. While searching, there were some non-negotiables such as: close to home, licensed, and the hours had to compliment schedules. There was also the “emotional” list. Did the person instill a sense of trust and competency that they would be a great teacher and provider for my daughter? Did they seem passionate about their job and the possibility of being a part of my daughter’s daily life?
My experience of the daycare centres greatly surpassed my experience of the home-based ones. The centres displayed professionalism, and the caregivers were passionate and able to make time to answer my questions. I admit that I had a bias during this search; I expected home-based daycares to fall short, and they did by a large margin. The service I got from the home run daycares was astonishingly poor.
I had three experiences with home-based centres that left me shaking my head in disbelief. On one occasion, I called, and a young child answered, unaware of whether his mother was around, he took a message. With such a poor first impression and little to no confidence that the Mom would indeed get the message, I crossed that option off the list.
Many of the home daycares I contacted during regular business hours answered the phone without any type of indication that I was calling the right place. Whatever happened to “Hello, ACME daycare, Joyce speaking, how can I help you?” The bare minimum I would expect when contacting a company is a polite greeting. Regardless if it is the owner, an employee, or a family member as the case may be, train them to respond similarly. To take customer service up another notch, get a private line with an answering service that is just for the business and not for Joyce, Bob, Charlie, and little Peter.
One home run daycare had excellent business phone etiquette. However, when the owner began giving a tour, my confidence began to waver. Saying things like, “this is where the kids put their coats and belongings – it’s a little messy right now…I should really tidy that up,” unfortunately, gave the impression that if it were unkempt for my first visit, it would most likely continue in this way.
Before a client or potential client comes over to your home business, tidy up. Wash the dishes (even if you have to hide them in the oven, get them out of sight), vacuum, dress up, and whatever it is that you are selling, make sure it is spectacular.
The most shocking experience was the one my daughter’s mother visited. The information sent along was excellent; it read well and sounded very professional. The price was a great fit, and I was very hopeful. One of the first things that the lady stated was how hard the previous year had been with the kids in her care. She said that she was close to a nervous breakdown and hoped the coming year would be better (seriously?!). When questioned on her first-aid qualifications (something high on the essential list), she said that she previously had it, but it may now have expired and that she should “probably look into this.”
It is an excellent example that it is easy to say great things about your company, but the “proof is in the pudding,” so to speak. If people believe your sales pitch and try out your product or service, and they have a poor experience, they will NOT be coming back for more. More than that, they will probably share their miserable experience and tarnish your name and any positive brand image that you may have created to date. As a branding specialist and communication designer, this would be like me trying to sell you a logo design but letting you know “that the last client I had was very disappointed with my work. It was stressful, and I don’t like dealing with people much. And by the way, you should hire me.” Not going to happen, right?
We all have bad experiences running a business, whether it’s a home business or a multi-million dollar corporation. But put simply, “keep your mouth shut” about them, especially when talking to staff and even more so, to potential new clients.
As I mentioned earlier, as a home business, you may be perceived as not yet having “made it,” which places even more importance on customer service. Treat each customer as if you are the best in your business, and at that moment, they are the most important person in your world.
Any home-run business is still a business. Operate one that is professional and leaves its clients with a positive experience. If it’s not apparent how to do this, then ask other successful companies for help and mentor you as a fellow business owner. On the most basic level, look at shops and companies you like to do business with, what is it about them that has been an enjoyable experience and has you going back for more. Once you identify these successful elements, incorporate them into your business. From there, keep on learning and keep on enjoying the benefits that come with owning a home-run business.
Is your business communicating the right message, to the right audience, in the right way that will assist in closing the sale? You may be asking yourself, “am I saying too much, too little, or even the right kind of language for my audience to understand?”
To best answer these questions, I am going to show a few examples that will hopefully assist in answering your questions or may spark new inquiries that will lead to a clearer and more effective corporate message for your company.
At first glance, there is nothing amiss about the following sign for a wholesaler of fresh and frozen poultry, meat, and seafood.
When I first saw this, I was enrolled; it was local to where I lived, and the thought of buying wholesale appealed to me. I read the rest of the sign, and suddenly I was no longer quite as enthused.
The fact this company also made dog food put the quality of the meat into question and became an instant turn off – although I was excited about photographing it for this article.
Joking aside, there is nothing wrong with the sign if it communicates effectively to their target audience. I simply know that I am not their target audience.
It is unrealistic to think that your corporate message will resonate with everyone – it won’t. Focus your time and efforts on having it communicate effectively with your target audience.
Once you have defined who your audience is, create a user profile of them. Answer the following questions: How do they sexually identify? What is their age? Nationality? Sexual orientation? Income bracket? Education? What do they do in their spare time? What do they like to wear? What vehicle do they drive? Are they married, have kids or pets? The best way to understand your target audience is to speak with them. Find out what type of language (verbal and pictorial) communicates effectively to them.
Unless you are a very skilled communicator and writer, hire a professional to help you sculpt the right messaging. I believe the person who created the “Ass Fruit” sign at the top of this article could have used some professional assistance. I am quite confident that they are not selling Ass Fruit (even though it seems like a real bargain at only a dollar per bag) and that even the clientele of this Asian grocery store wouldn’t buy this product… although I could be wrong.
This following sign successfully communicates its message effectively. It is for an electricity company, and they are warning you not to enter the designated area.
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. But what if you don’t read English? The company accompanied the wording with an image that clearly communicates the message to all non-English readers and even accentuates the message to those who understood the written message.
In summary, they are saying – Don’t. It will hurt—a lot.
As we live in a fast-paced society, you only have a few seconds to impress someone. As your company name is often the first point of contact, you want it to impress right from the start.
It is similar to being in a bookshop and looking at all the book covers, wondering which one to purchase. Does the title grab you? Does the image entice you? Have you previously heard of the author? These are all hooks to have the “potential” buyer turn the book over to read more before committing to buy or to move onto the next book. This is why it is critical to have a company name that aligns with your corporate message. If you are going to open a restaurant, you wouldn’t want an off-putting name. Like this one:
Would you like your food to have a lingering flavor in your mouth (I wonder if they charge a premium for this)?
Your message has to be truthful and honest. If you are claiming that you have the best, fastest, cheapest widget in the world, you better deliver; if you don’t, people are unlikely to be a repeat customer. Additionally, they are likely to communicate their disappointment with friends, family, and colleges, spreading a negative brand association with your company; this alone can cripple a business.
The following company is promising in its name that it sells the “best” pizza. Firstly, would you eat there? And secondly, do you think it would be the best pizza of your life?
Creating the right corporate message requires immense amounts of work. You also have to consider that once you have perfected it, the market may shift, and you may have to adapt the message and the entire communication platform. You might ask, “Where do I start?”
My suggestion is to consider the following questions:
- Who are you, and what is your story?
- What are you selling?
- Who is your customer?
- Why should they care?
- Who is your competition?
- How do they communicate about their product or services?
- What differentiates you from your competition?
From your research and answers, begin to think about your corporate messaging. Hire a professional branding and communication company to help you get it right. There will be an expense for this, but if it can prevent your ass fruit from having a lingering flavour, then it may be the best investment your business will ever make.