The sign at the street, the ding of the bell, the scent of the air when you first walk in.
Whether filed into the subconscious, or fully recognized by the conscious mind, these and all other interactions with your business combine to create the collection of perceptions that form the entirety of your brand. A lot of large franchises and chain restaurants understand this concept better than most organizations. They’ve done their homework and create processes and instructions for every element of the brand that they are able to control because they want their customers to have the same experience whether in Chicago, San Francisco, or Dallas. Now – don’t click away because you think this is only something that large corporations with a pocket full of dough can or should worry about. The nasty and wonderful truth is that all those elements will make an impression on your prospects and customers whether you control them or not – so you’d be better off to define them before they do.
Define your customer journey.
If you are a new business just starting out, this is the perfect time to define your customer experience from top to bottom. If not, start by taking the time to go through each and every twist and turn of the journey that one of your customers may venture down. Don’t just assume your employees and team members are doing what you would expect them to – go through the journey yourself. Be a secret shopper on every level and take detailed notes. It’s a great idea to sketch this out like a map and take notes of every single detail.
- If you’re a store front:
- sidewalk appearance
- door cleanliness
- promptness of opening/closing
- greetings and salutations
- smells and sounds (very important)
- bathroom availability and cleanliness
- family friendliness or gender neutrality
- check-out experience
- If you’re a service:
- phone number access
- phone or service personality
- background sounds
- greetings and salutations
- organization and branding of vehicle
- follow ups
- If you’re online only:
- look/feel/perception compared to cost
- ease of determining your business
- ease of locating their needs
- availability of faqs
- product or service research
- ease of finding service number
- check out process
- follow up
- return policies
There are hundreds of other details to examine as you go through the process. The more specific you are, the more you will control the collection of perceptions instead of letting them control and create your brand without you.
Be an engagement creator, not a fire fighter.
Look at your brand as an experience, not just a product or service. Create personas for your each of your customer types and think about how each of those personas would like to experience and interact with your brand….better yet, determine how each of those personas would interact with your company purpose, and how you can weave your product or service into that experience. It’s importance that your experiences always begin with the foundation of your company purpose, then your persona, then your product. If you go in the reverse order, or if you forget about the purpose entirely, your brand will become more disjointed over time and you will be less likely to create truly meaningful brand experiences.
Once you’ve laid the ground work for creating brand experiences that are meaningful and memorable, your customers will become more and more loyal, spreading the word about your company, not just your product. Their loyalty will be reinforced each time they see or feel that you are embodying your purpose.
If you skip the purpose step, however, you may find yourself in the sticky situation where your team members aren’t clear about the intention of your brand, event, voice, or product; leaving you to clean up the mess, fight the fire, and make excuses to your customers and vendors.
Don’t forget about your vendors, partners, and team members.
Building a long-lasting brand is not the same as creating a great product. Each of these ideas and practices depends on the other. Similarly, having a business that soars does not rely only on customers. In fact, if you create lasting and empowering relationships and opportunities for your team members, partners, and vendors, the customer relationship becomes almost easy.
“Your brand is a collection of perceptions”