When it’s all said and done, all you’re truly left with at the end of the day is your company’s brand and what your brand stands for in the minds of both your customers and employees. Do you manage your company brand for the benefit of both constituencies: customers and employees? Most companies that I consult with focus their brand management efforts solely on the customer. If you’re really serious about differentiating your brand from your competitors, I suggest you begin to manage your brand from a dual, point of view: customers and employees.
Your brand, be it appliances, electronics, automobiles, clothing, etc. serves as a powerful magnet that attracts both customers and employees to your door, while serving as an anchor to hold them. The best companies manage their brands from both perspectives. And why not, after all isn’t it your front-line employees who are the face and personality of your brand to your customers?
Great brands connect with their customers on an emotional level vs. logical. It terms of emotion, what does it feel like to do business with you? Brand positioning starts with a frame of reference that communicates to your customers an expectation they can achieve when doing business with you. However, you have to know who you are before you can convince others.
Many companies often promote attributes of their products and services that consumers don’t care about. It’s important to assess not only product benefits and features but also the customers buying experience. Every point of contact, commonly referred to as “moments of truth” or “touch points.” From the moment your customers approach your stores to the moment they leave, what was the experience like? From exterior, to store design, to product offering, to service - is your customer buying experience fast, friendly, and helpful? It’s the overall experience that customers recall when it’s time for them to purchase again. Make it positive and memorable.
While careful consideration of your brands point of differentiation is important, just as important are your points of parity with your other products and services. Be sure to assess on a continual basis your points of parity otherwise brand attributes that were once differentiators may become minimum requirements, also know as “price of entry.”
If providing your customers with a fast, friendly, helpful and memorable buying experience is key to success, then I think we’d all agree that the folks serving your customers are the critical link. Not technology, products, or store design; but people!
Technology, products, and hard assets are indeed important to your business, however, successful branding is all about connecting with your customers on an emotional level, and that can only be achieved on the human level. Technology is a great enabler, however your brands real moment of truth is when your customers are standing at the transaction counter looking into the face of your sales associate. It is at this moment that all your branding promises are either fulfilled or broken (*).
Managing the employee dimension of your brand involves: recruiting, interviewing and selection, training, career development and business culture, which includes: motivation, teamwork, reward and recognition, and leadership. It’s the people side of the business that represents your brand to your customers that create the emotional link for brand loyalty.