Imagine your brand as a person
Branding expresses the company’s personality as though it were a person. Without branding, we are left with type, colours and an icon, rendering a company static, impersonal and boring. As brand guru Marty Neumeier says, a brand lives in the minds of your customers. It’s what they think you are. Not what you tell them you are. Your customers will pick up on minor details of your interactions with them consciously or subconsciously and form an opinion. All you can do is try and influence this opinion in your favour.
Neumeier also states that your brand should ZAG, i.e. be different. Do something that your competition isn’t doing, because me too thinking doesn’t work as well as it used to. To stand out, you need to be a little different.
I agree with this assessment. However, it’s difficult to differentiate if you’re in a market where everybody offers the same service or widget. But at the very least, you could make your interactions with your customers as pleasurable as possible for them. In essence, treat your customers as you would like to be treated yourself. For example, if you treat the customer as a king or queen, they’ll likely give you their hard-earned money and loyalty.
You now have to decide what image you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the marketplace.David Ogilvy
But expressing brand personality is delicate; some trial and error is allowable. However, a business cannot sustain for long on the wrong path, especially if you plan on repeat business from your customer base.
How would you like to be treated if you were your customer
I once asked an old boss of mine what the client was expecting. He replied by saying imagine you are the customer, and you’ve paid that amount of money. What would you expect in return? Sound advice we should all keep in mind when dealing with our customers.
Strive when possible to exceed their expectations, and they will reward you by being faithful and trusting. Show your expertise and kindness at all customer touchpoints in both the big and small details. Give them what they have paid for and a little extra. We all like to think we are getting a bargain and being treated well, whether in service, product or politeness. I always return to a shop if they are friendly and treat me well, and I’m sure you feel the same.
Never make the mistake of being in a bad mood when dealing with a customer. It shows, and they’ll assume your mood is because of them. Don’t perceive your customers as a hindrance or an inconvenience. Customers giving you their patronage is a privilege that can be taken away at any time.
I once returned a DVD to a rental store (I know, it was a while ago now). The female assistant was in a foul mood, stomping about, grabbing the DVD from me, and slapping my change on the counter. The next time I was in the store, they informed me that I hadn’t paid for that DVD, and I still owed them. Being a quiet, shy individual, I’m not too fond of confrontation, so I placed my rental membership card on the counter and walked out without saying a word, never returning. No wonder video rental stores went out of business. Websites and apps are never in a bad mood and don’t usually ask for payment twice.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.Maya Angelou
Ensure you deliver everything you promise, and never promise what you can’t deliver
Customers have expectations that they rightly want fulfilled. If you can’t fulfil them, let your customer know well in advance, so they aren’t disappointed and unhappy. The sooner you can tell them what to expect, the better. The longer you leave it, the worse the backlash will be. So it’s always better to underpromise and over-deliver. Let down a customer’s expectations gently, gracefully, and with extreme politeness.
Don’t ever promise a customer something you know will never happen; customers, unlike man’s best friend, rarely forgive.
People value truthfulness, even when it’s something they don’t want to hear. Honesty builds customer trust. Customers trust you when you deliver what you promised when you promised it. So keeping customers informed every step of the way is good for business.
A few years ago, I brought a new oven the company texted me when to expect it and kept me informed every step of the way (when it left the depo, when it was 10 minutes away, for a review, when it was delivered). I hadn’t had this from a company before, and it was very convenient; I knew when I had to be there to take delivery and could get on with the rest of my day. Moreover, the delivery company knew I would be there and wouldn’t miss me and have to come back. These things are easy to implement and are highly beneficial to the customer and the company. So why not do it?
Keep an eye on the details
The way a business runs will change over time. Employees get replaced when they leave, and new employees have a different way of doing things. Products change, and suppliers change. All these things mean a difference that customers will pick up on and have an opinion on. It is best to ensure any problems or causes for concern are dealt with swiftly before they affect the bottom line. Customers need an easy way to raise issues. Make sure you monitor these complaints so your customers feel heard, and that their concerns are corrected. Details matter; keep on top of yours.
Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touchpoints.Jonah Sachs
Listen and learn
Inefficiencies cost time and money. Keep everything as lean and straightforward as possible for your employees and customers. The more complicated a process is, the higher the chance of failure. Listen to customers and act on their concerns. Talk to your employees and have a system in place so they can raise problems. Clear communication is vital in all aspects of a smoothly running business. When you’re talking all the time, you’re not listening. Listening is a critical skill in running any successful business.
How you talk to your customers and employees should express your brand personality. Build a brand dictionary of preferred phrases to say how you like to do business. Do you sign your emails Kind regards? Bye now? Cheers? See you later? How do you greet your customers? Hi there. How can I help? What can I do for you today, Steve? Each phrase creates its feeling and personal touch. These simple phrases speak volumes about the company behind them.
Create customer value
Create value for your customers, give them empathy and trust and overdeliver on expectations. Freely giving away help, advice, and small gifts will build an unbreakable rapport with your customers. These small things make us human and allow us to add personality to our brand or business. Reach customers on an emotional level, and you’ll keep their custom for life.