When did you last take a step back and see how your brand was doing? Not the analytics for your website. Not the number of impressions or clickthroughs from your PPC. And not even if you like the new redesign of your collateral pieces. Your brand.
How is your brand/company perceived in the world? If people are aware of you, what is their perception? Or do they even have one? Branding is what happens every time someone interacts with your company at any level. Here are some of the major elements that go into it, and each one has several smaller pieces.
How easy is it for a customer to navigate their journey with you? Is it all automated and impersonal? Do some potential buyers get frustrated and hang up or abandon their shopping carts? People value their time and they’re not willing to take a lot of it trying to give you some of their money. And if a purchase is made, what is the follow-up? Is it a thank you or simply an automated review form? What are they reviewing – how well your software worked? That should be a given. You want them to feel something – like their business is appreciated. Go through your entire sales process with a customer’s eyes. You may be surprised at what you find. Be careful sacrificing personal touches where they make sense for the sake of productivity and/or efficiency. What you gain in time you may lose in positive perception and the opportunity to have enthusiastic brand ambassadors. If it’s a product that’s delivered, what comes with it? Is there a note of appreciation? Some special packaging with tissue paper or just an item in a plastic bag in a box? If you’re a service business, what’s a small touch you can add that will make a lasting impression? How often do you communicate with customers after a sale? It’s hard to ask for a referral or expect a good review if you make the sale and they never hear from you again – and not just to try to sell them something new.
If you’re a service business, how do your employees look when they show up? Are uniforms clean and crisp? Are all the pieces branded or are they adding their own baseball hat, etc? What about company vehicles? Are they clean and well-branded? Your company vehicles are driving billboards – what do they say about your company? That we are meticulous and detail-oriented or sloppy and don’t care. And related to that, how are they driven? Are your team members polite drivers or do they go too fast and cut people off? That all goes into branding and the perception people have of your company. If you’re a retailer, what is the appearance of your store when people walk in? Are they sincerely greeted or is it a perfunctory “hello” without looking up because the employee has to share a greeting? If you’re online – does your website load fast, is it easy to navigate, does it work well on mobile, and does it give enough information for customers to make an informed decision? Again – it’s hard to do but you have to look at these things objectively – through a potential customer’s eyes and be honest with yourself. You can also ask for critiques from people who will be honest with you, not people who work for you and may be tempted to tell you what you want to hear.
You’re also missing out if you don’t treat all your employees like customers. You need to continue to “sell” them on the company and its mission. You have no greater source of ambassadors than those who are working for you – not just the people in sales and marketing, but at every level. They need to stay informed, excited, and engaged. Great customer service will naturally flow from team members who feel appreciated and who understand why things are being done. This can be overlooked or left behind as companies grow, but it’s imperative, especially if you want to keep your key people and those who support them. It’s expensive and time-consuming to have a big turnover and if that’s happening within your company you need to find out why. But just because people are staying it doesn’t mean they’re happy and giving their best either. Periodically take their pulse – see what you can do better. Sometimes it’s just small things that can make a big impact.
It can be hard to stop and focus on items that don’t feel like they are directly related to sales – but good branding and creating positive perceptions of your company out in the world pave the way for sales and speed up the process. It also leads to more referrals and better word-of-mouth in person and online through the use of reviews on sites such as Yelp. And since people are still more likely to share bad experiences online, it’s imperative that you strive to create the best impression you can at every opportunity, so if/when a bad review hits you’ll be insulated with a lot of good ones and it won’t make a dent in your score.