The chances are that you have discussed branding, what it is and whether it is important. You’ve probably agreed to ‘look into it’ and assigned someone from marketing to research brand consultants.
Marketing will probably google something like ‘brand consultants’ or ‘how to build a brand’ or ask friends or associates if they can recommend anyone. If your marketing department is staffed with ex advertising agency personnel, they may get on the phone to ex colleagues.
Unfortunately, advertising agencies is where many companies start the development of their brand. Senior management and the marketing department together with an advertising agency and often without any input from other departments such as sales, will spend a considerable amount of time developing the “marketing mix.”
A tagline will be created, colours discussed and so on. This is important but not at this stage. A good brand is built from the inside out. Before the creativity starts, carry out a brief internal brand audit. Ask yourself questions such as, “Do our employees know what we do?” “Do our employees believe in the product/service that we offer?” “Do they understand the role they have to play in the brand mission?” “Do they understand the importance of our customers?” “Do our staff ‘live the brand’?”
Here are 10 other initiatives that will help you lay the foundations for a brand.
Step 1: Review your organizational structure
Customers control relationships with businesses like never before. Manufacturing costs have fallen to record lows. Transactions are cheaper and faster than ever. The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate and do business. Yet despite these cataclysmic changes, companies continue to integrate in the same old traditional ways.
Employees report to superiors and information is channeled up and down hierarchical chains not across departments, hampering coordination and improvement. To succeed in the future, brands must understand that the customer is king, focus on processes not functions and develop a retention based not acquisition based culture.
Step 2: Recruit talent not bodies
Too many companies leave recruitment to the last minute or try to save money by increasing the work load of already overburdened staff. Look to recruit people that will enhance your organization based on your long term vision.
Step 3: Build a credible corporate vision
In collaboration with staff, create a vision that benefits employees, shareholders and customers. And make it realistic! Brand values must be based on providing value to customers. The reasons for and the role of the organization and individual staff in providing this value and the benefits to the organization and staff must be crystal clear to all.
Step 4: Train new and existing staff immediately, consistently and regularly
The only thing that all brands have in common is that customer loyalty is a result of employee loyalty. The foundations for any internal branding initiative must therefore start with personnel understanding the importance of the role they have to play in the evolution of the brand. In addition to improving skills, training also gives staff the confidence and attitude the organizations requires.
Step 5: View staff as an investment not an expense
Too many companies see staff as an expense and as a result do not invest in them because they are frightened the staff will leave. If you create an environment that is rewarding and encourages personal growth and has clearly defined career paths, your staff will not leave.
Step 6: Give personnel room to grow
Everyone makes mistakes but few people make them deliberately. Once you’ve invested in the right people and trained them, show them you believe in them by supporting them and trusting them to get things done, even if they make mistakes along the way. And if they make mistakes, give them the responsibility to correct the mistake.
Step 7: Encourage freedom of expression at meetings
If you only want to hear people support what you say or agree with what you have done what is the point of them attending meetings? To build a great brand, individuals will contribute and good managers will need to be open and aware of those individuals and give them the freedom to benefit the brand by challenging senior management.
Step 8: Understand that in general the sales department is the frontline of your company
No matter how much you spend on advertising, the first touch point most prospects will have with your brand will be via the sales force. It may be in a shop, a showroom, at an exhibition and so on. If that first meeting with your sales force is unsatisfactory, the prospect will not return. Train your sales force to represent your brand and reward them for doing so.
Step 9: Think long term
Whilst it is possible to build a brand more quickly than perhaps twenty years ago, building a profitable brand takes time and commitment. Take a long term approach to your business rather than a short term deal making mentality.
Step 10: Measure all activities
Wherever possible, measure. But before you do, ensure measurement definitions are standardized to ensure consistency and communicate them corporate wide. And when you measure, share the results across the organization and seek feedback and recommendations for improvement from staff. And then help them implement those recommendations and measure them.