Brand loyalty: Where do you stand?
Thriving in the new economy demands building and preserving brand loyalty. But how, really, does your brand measure up — with customers, investors, employees and others? Understanding where you stand now is essential to knowing what to do next, and to evaluating your progress as you build your enterprise and increase the profile of your brand.
Here’s what you need to ask:
Questions: What are customers, analysts, employees and others saying about you in the outside world? How are constituencies rating you — as a source, partner, employer, corporate citizen? Especially today, what is the buzz, online and across social media? Because one thing is clear: Your company needs to have a handle on the chatter.
Insight: Remember, it doesn’t matter what you think. What counts is what everyone else thinks. And these days, your brand’s reputation can turn, literally, in a day. To manage perception, you need to keep abreast of what’s being said about your company — especially in a world where opinion can hinge on the latest Tweet, blog post, or Facebook chat.
Action: If you don’t have a clear sense of market sentiment, get it ASAP. Begin with research (surveys and audits) for a clear sense of what stakeholders say. Also, continue to monitor talk across social networks and industry media. You may not be able to control the conversation, but you can’t join it if you don’t know what it is.
Questions: Are you doing business in a way that supports your brand promise? Would your stakeholders agree that, as a company, you “say what you mean, and do what you say?”
Insight: A brand is much more than a logo and a catchy phrase on a homepage or truck. In the final analysis, experience is the brand, and you must be able to deliver the experience. This is why it’s essential that your culture, policies and business practices support the brand — in short, that they’re brand-aligned. This includes everything — from the design, features and benefits of your products, to the functionality of your website, to the way you treat customers when they call on the phone.
Action: Audit your organization to see how brand-aligned you are — that is, how your culture, policies, procedures and behaviors are (or fail to deliver) on your brand’s value proposition. The research needn’t be complex: It may consist of customer and employee surveys that reveal the disconnects. And it can lead to internal workshops that begin the process of real alignment. Beyond this, surveys and workshops may reveal why past marketing and branding initiatives just didn’t stick — and give you a basis for making changes that will do a better job of building the brand.
Questions: How consistent is your brand expression from touchpoint to touchpoint? Across various lines of business? Across regions? Inside and outside?
Insight: Strong brands deliver a consistent experience wherever they’re encountered — in large part because communications across all touchpoints are on the same page. Conversely, brand identity and messages are undermined by two common problems: (1) Lack of shared ownership and understanding among those who speak for your company; and (2) Lack of dialog before, during and after the launch of a rebranding effort.
Action: To gauge consistency, try an exercise we call “Connect Four.” Take four major communications — say, your homepage, a brochure, a sales presentation and your latest web campaign. Are messaging and design aligned and coordinated, or does it seem as if they come from four different companies? If the latter, look at all branding and communications from the outside in. See what customers see as they interact with your company across all the different touchpoints. This larger perspective will help you see how touchpoints fit together and can be better aligned — and inform the development of guidelines and templates that will guarantee the consistency you’re looking for.
Questions: Are you striving to work with customers to solidify relationships, increasing engagement and maximizing up-selling and cross-selling opportunities?
Insight: In the new economy, customers are careful and buyer skepticism is high. So you have to make sure your value is clear — and, if anything, add more value. Gone, possibly forever, are the days of “build it and they will come.” These days, the question is: “What have you done for me lately?”
Action: Look for opportunities to deliver value above and beyond your products or services. For example, increase engagement by offering thought leadership content on your website or providing access to tips and insights that will make customers’ lives better. Begin by seeing how the service you provide maps to what customers actually care about. Then reinforce your relevance to meet immediate and unmet needs.
Remember, in the new economy, customers are tough and their loyalty must be earned. Knowing where you stand, and acting on that knowledge, is more important than ever.
John Nishimoto is a Sequel Principal who has directed branding programs for many Fortune 100 clients. This article was originally published In the B2B magazine Corp!.
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