What do your people do for your brand?
Just before Christmas I got all heavy and suggested that your customer has greater ownership of your brand than the business itself does.
Now I'll add insult to the injury by contending that the next biggest influence on your brand is your people. You know, those delightful folk you employ.
Consider this: Most of the time you're sweating over all those tasks that are essential to running your business – stock control, advertising, search, keeping the web site up to date when things change daily, rushing around to pay the bills, keeping the bank and everyone else happy.
The most natural thing in the world is for you to take your people for granted.
After all they're worked for you for years, they're with you every day, they know what you're thinking, they know what you want.
Well. They do don't they?
When was the last time you told them?
You know, sat everyone down and talked through the direction you want to take the business.
Got their views on what is working now and what isn't.
Discussed what you believe the company stands for.
Discussed what your brand is all about and how you want to deliver that experience.
If you're feeling a bit uncomfortable right now you won't be alone.
One of the hardest things in people management is actually communicating with the people who really matter. And doing it often enough.
Whether you're a small business with a couple of employees, or a vast conglomerate it's still hard. At least the big guys have people whose job it is to deliver the messages.
Yet your people are most likely your front line, particularly in a smaller concern. They are the guardians of your customer perception.
Believe me, most of them want to do better for you. But most won't ask how.
You have to show them, or better still, involve them.
Your people should be your greatest advocates, prepared to tell their mates in the pub that they work for you because they are proud of what they do.
And you can do that. Whether you're sending aid to some stricken nation, or making people's lives easier by collecting their rubbish there'll be a story to your business waiting to be shared.
Start with the simple stuff. It may be just changing a few behaviours, but remember to share your reasons and your faith – if you believe it so will your people, and if your people believe it, so will your customers.
Over the last week I've noted a few experiences that could easily be changed and would dramatically improve my experience, and thereby my perception of the brands in question:
- Staff in uniform smoking outside a food store (I smoke but I hate this), they even posed for me when I asked to take a photo!
- Offering a brew to the customer who will be with you for a while, even if they might not buy that time
- Good grammar. I received a (very) serious letter from my bank that had eight errors in it. I was more annoyed at the writing than the actual message.
- Acknowledging the customer standing in front of you, or responding to their email and telling them when you can reply properly (ideally not an automated response).
- Smiling at the customer – for heaven's sake this is so easy, yet many need reminding
Notice not one of these is about the product, simply the delivery. These are all so easy to put right and are all genuine examples from just a few days this week. You'll have many others I'm sure, just think of the basics you’d change in your business.
Building a brand takes time, a long time. It involves more facets than we'd care to consider on a daily basis. But building a great brand doesn't necessarily demand the best brains, it just demands good ones working in harmony.
Harmony comes from understanding.
Talk to your people.
It could the first stage of a wonderful new thing. And it gets easier every time you do it.
Do share your thoughts on the easy wins.