Your brand is the identity of your organization. It is a unique and identifiable symbol, association, name, or trademark which serves to differentiate competing products or services. No one element makes up a brand. It is both a physical and emotional trigger to create a relationship between consumers and the product or service.
Whether you are a physical retail establishment, conduct your business online, or both, the first interaction any customer has with your company defines your brand. Are you friendly and helpful like L.L.Bean or self-service like Priceline? Are your products high-end like Garnet Hill's or bargain basement like Overstock.com's? Do you offer something no one else does like Red Envelope, or are you competing on price in a competitive market like KB Toys?
Communicating the Company Brand
Whatever you decide, be sure to consistently communicate company brand values. Don't just assume your employees know what your organization stands for. Tell them and tell them often through regular training activities.
New-hire training, new-position training, and quarterly update training are important to put in place. Reward personnel for behavior that exemplifies the values of your company, and be sure to correct those who do not follow the appropriate course of action. But beyond that, build your call center or in-store service centers around those values to enable your employees to carry out the brand that has been defined for them.
Building the Brand Cost-Effectively
While companies can spend millions to build their brands across all aspects of their organizations, it can be done cost-effectively. The first step is to provide all frontline sales personnel with the tools necessary to build the corporate brand successfully.
These tools include templates of marketing materials such as presentations, direct-mail pieces, and company literature that can be customized and personalized according to target market. They could also include special customer promotions, new product or service announcements, and even birthday or holiday card wishes. Presentation folders, letterhead, and business cards should also be provided.
Beyond the basic tools necessary to protect the brand, consider arming your sales force with gifts for customers. Appropriate giveaways can make a strong impact on brand communication, ensuring that your customers think of you when they need to purchase.
Consistency is Key; Evolution Natural
Regardless of brand choice and implementation, consistency across the board is the key. You must ensure that every aspect of your organization, from the marketing materials and websites to the customer service personnel, maintains the values outlined in your brand. Reaching brand nirvana is not a difficult task; it is just one that needs focus and attention.
Once clearly defined, communicated, and practiced, your brand will likely evolve over time as your organization grows and expands. Perhaps you will expand your product line or refine it, or maybe you will even want to target a new market. Do not be afraid of the growth. Simply make sure it's communicated appropriately and practiced through delivering on the promise. The investment will pay you back in spades.
About the Author:
Janet Holian is the chief marketing officer of VistaPrint, a leading online supplier of high-quality graphic-design services and customized printed products to small businesses and consumers. She has been helping small businesses grow since joining the company in 2000. A customer-focused organization, VistaPrint offers toll-free customer service and free design services to its customers.