Building and sustaining a brand takes work. Continual work. However, it's much easier to achieve if two key elements are in alignment: how you treat customers externally and how you treat your team members internally.
What is a brand to begin with?
So much has been published on the topic of brand-building but for my money a brand is best thought of as a set of expectations.
When we see the name or logo of one of our favourite brands we immediately bring to mind our expectations of the service, pricing and product...and if we don't get what we expected, this often leads to disappointment.
How you treat customers externally - YOUR BRAND PROMISES.
To begin to set the expectations of your customers I recommend a set of brand promises. A small set (three is recommended) of standards that you commit to, each and every time a customer transacts with you. Here are three quick brand promise rules:
Make promises that matter to customers
Make promises that you can keep (and be prepared compensate for if you don't)
Make promises that you can measure
How you treat your team members internally - YOUR CULTURE
Your culture is essentially the answer to the question "what's it like to work here?" and it's derived directly from your values.
Do you have an agreed set of values that govern the behaviour within the company? Not some nice-sounding words copied from elsewhere, but a set of guiding principles that make sense for you and your crew. If you do, are they alive and well and driving all of your key decisions?
Alignment is Crucial...
I hope it's clear that if we wish to maintain and extend our brand over the long term, it's so much easier to sustain if we have alignment between our brand promises and our culture. Treating our customers one way and our team mates another, wont work well for long!
Time to take Stock?
If you're not sure about these two, start by doing an audit of how your are perceived in the market: Why do customers deal with you? What are their expectations? What would they look for in addition to what you already provide?
Then...Do you have a set of brand promises that deliver on these?
Ask your crew how they feel about working in the company. What do they love? What do they dislike? What do they wish existed in the team?
Then, are your values (if you have an agreed set) matching up to what you want the culture to feel like?
Your brand promises should transition to the heart of the company and be sustained by your culture.
Even companies with a strong set of brand promises and a healthy set of values need to continually work to make sure they're maintained. You're never "finished". However, when you're able to keep aligning culture with brand promises it creates real momentum in the business and is so much easier to sustain.
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