Ted Bezos, founder of Amazon.com said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Put another way: A brand tells the world what they can expect to get, feel, or experience when they do business with you. If you’re not living up to their expectations, what they say about you when you leave the room may not be what you think.
Most people think of a brand as meticulously chosen logo colors and graphics and clever taglines and ad copy. But it’s so much more than that: it’s a promise of what the experience of doing business with you is going to be. I think we intuitively know this that’s why we put so much thought and money into our logos, taglines and websites. What some business owners may not realize is this is just the beginning – building a brand is about building a business that people know, like and trust enough to want to buy from, engage with, and refer again and again.
Think about it: Apple isn’t just a cool logo, it’s a culture. Nike isn’t just a swish, it’s high performance athletics. And Disney isn’t just a mouse, it’s an experience that people remember and talk about for years.
Do you know what people are saying about your brand when you’re not in the room? If you aren’t sure, here are 3 ways you may be damaging your brand without even realizing it:
1. You don’t do what you say you’re going to do. Does your brand accurately reflect what a customer experiences when they work with your company? Does it correctly represent the true value of what you deliver? Does your tagline ring true? Do you personally portray one image or promise of your business while your staff and your process deliver another? I’d venture to say this is probably the #1 reason most businesses fail to grow or succeed: they promise something they don’t deliver. This promise can be spoken outright or even just implied in the brand you’ve created
The Takeaway: The key to a strong brand is not promising what you can’t deliver but knowing exactly what you can deliver and doing it perfectly.
2. You don’t live up to the expectations of your industry. Would you hire a dentist with bad teeth? A marketing consultant you can’t find online? Or a web designer with a bad website? How about an accountant who can’t pay her bills? NO, of course you wouldn’t! What do consumers expect from professionals in your industry? Does everything you do live up to that expectation from the very first impression, email or phone call to the final delivery of the product or service? If you don’t know, it might be a good time to ask (Check out “3 Questions You Should be Asking Every Customer“). Tip: if you aren’t hearing rave reviews and thank yous throughout a project or upon delivery of your product or service, it might be time to review your process to make sure you’re meeting the basic expectations of your industry. And if you aren’t, it might be time to rethink your branding strategy and create something that’s more in line with what your company really is and not what you think it is.
The takeaway: What do customers expect when they engage a company in your industry? Are you meeting the basic requirements? Are you a premium, mid-range or budget-friendly provider? (Read: “Is your Business Bland or Gourmet?”) Do you tout superior service or are you a more do-it-yourself brand? Knowing, accepting, and owning this is key to building a strong, reliable, and trusted brand.
3. You don’t treat your vendors well. Your vendors are as important as customers when it comes to being your soldiers on the street to rave – or complain – about your brand. They work with you week in and week out and chances are they know your business pretty well. What are they saying about you when you aren’t in the room? Are they telling their other customers, colleagues, friends or family that you always pays late? That you’re rude to your staff? That you consistently show up to meetings late, nickel and dime them to death, and don’t value your company?
The take-away: Every single thing you do in your business is marketing – and therefore reflects your brand. It’s critical that every dealing you have with the public sends the message you want to send about your brand.
Remember, everything we do in business is marketing because it tells people (spoken or implied) what they can expect when they engage with us. Be honest about what you do well and what you don’t and be sure your message is congruent. As long as you do this, you can’t go wrong.
Tell us your experience developing your own brand or an experience you had with another brand that didn’t live up to your expectations.