RISMEDIA, June 4, 2007-In our fast-paced world, many business owners view their customers as widgets on an assembly line. They move them through the line, take their money, and make way for the next one. They reel their customers in with flashy advertising and marketing plans, and then leave them less than satisfied with their overall experience. But marketing and advertising expert Scott Deming says this is no way to build a business if you want to be successful in the long run. You must brand and you must do it right. “The almighty customer” should trump “the almighty dollar” every time.
“When you are working to create a brand, you are working to create a belief for your customers that they’re extremely unwilling to part with-a belief that has lasting value,” says Deming, author of the new book The Brand Who Cried Wolf: Deliver on Your Company’s Promise and Create Customers for Life (Wiley, April 2007, ISBN-10: 0-4701271-2-0, ISBN-13: 978-0-4701271-2-4, $24.95). “Creating beliefs in the hearts and minds of your customers about you, your company, your values-your brand-is the core element of success. That means keeping the promises you make . . . and even the ones you imply.”
Serving as the Aesop of the business world in The Brand Who Cried Wolf, Deming uses children’s stories and fables to communicate cutting edge principles of sales and service. This book is set up in a way that keeps readers thinking about the very simple values and beliefs that they learned as children. It explains how to build a powerful, lasting brand by involving the entire organization-including sales, customer service, shipping, product design, marketing, and so forth.
Deming sums up his lessons through branding morals, by sharing his extensive experience in the field, and by taking a look at the successes and failures of other companies.
If you’re skeptical that following these simple lessons will really help you build your brand and create the ultimate experience for your customers, read on! Here are nine morals that can help any company live happily ever after.
Moral 1: Advertising, marketing, and branding are not the same animals and can’t accomplish the same thing. The differences may seem subtle, but to be successful, you must recognize that they are there. Both advertising and marketing are mechanisms used to connect customers and businesses. Branding, on the other hand, is the creation and support of a powerful perception and image of someone or something based on unique, emotional experiences-so powerful that the perception or image becomes a belief. “Branding, as I conceive it, is a feeling,” says Deming. “You feel trust, loyalty, comfort, love, need, desire, and happiness for brands because of beliefs derived from very precise experiences. Maybe the advertising or marketing efforts of a company got you interested in the product, but they’re not the factors that are going to build brand loyalty. That requires interaction with the people and with the brand, and these differences shouldn’t be overlooked.”
Moral 2: Be careful what you promise. When individuals and companies don’t deliver on their brand promises, they fail to create or maintain uniqueness in their brand categories. That means no brand loyalty among your customers. They’re just as likely to go for someone else’s widget over yours. In the reverse scenario, when a company over-delivers on its promises, it is able to create a feeling of belonging, of culture, and of family. “It is this delivery that amounts to the ultimate customer experience,” says Deming. “In turn, the ultimate customer experience creates just the sort of customers you want: ones who bring you more business. You want them to feel married to your company. When you marry someone, you expect that person to remain monogamous, and that’s the same feeling you want someone to have about your brand.”
Moral 3: Separate yourself from the pack. As mentioned above, when businesses get mired in sales quotas, short-term goals, statistics, and so forth, the people inside those businesses become robotic. Their eyes are focused not on how the brand is doing, but on what the numbers tell them. Both you and your employees should actually be focused on exceeding your customers’ expectations. You can start by getting rid of impersonal customer service techniques such as email or automated telephone services. You should always be proactive. If your customers aren’t happy, focus on rebuilding your relationships with them. “You must consider what you can do to differentiate your business from all the others that offer the same services or products,” says Deming. “The differentiator must be the level of service, the unique experience you offer each of your customers. You have to engender loyalty in customers so that they will go out of their way to shop with you, regardless of how far out of their way they have to go to get to you.”
Moral 4: Perspective is everything. To really know how things are going at your company, you’ll have to step out of your own shoes and take a walk in those of your customers and employees. You need to look at your customers and say to yourself, If I were one of my customers right now, what would I love to have from me? Then, do it! Step Two in your “perspective walk” will be taken in your employees’ shoes. You’ll need to gauge their loyalty to the company because loyal employees provide the ultimate experience for customers. When you see what work needs to be done, get started immediately. Create loyal employees who stand behind your company’s brand. “When you walk in your customers’ and employees’ shoes, you enlarge yourself,” says Deming. “Your perspective widens, and so does your concern about what’s important. The benefits you receive from changing your perspective will far exceed those reaped from a narrower vision that includes only the bottom line.”
Moral 5: You (and your brand!) are probably not as great as you think they are. You may or may not be aware of the Lake Wobegon Effect, but it is a phenomenon from which many of us and our businesses suffer. It’s the human tendency to think we are better than we actually are. The implications in your personal life are obvious-maybe you alienate people with your superior attitude-and in business the effects can be just as devastating. The problem is when you think your business is the best, you don’t work as hard to keep making it better. “Always keep part of your gaze directed outward,” says Deming. “And always be ready to re-evaluate your brand. Constantly ask yourself how you can improve upon the experience you offer your customers. Finally, focus not only on what’s working, but find aspects of your brand that are not succeeding and do everything you can to improve them.”
Moral 6: Understand your company’s “reach of influence.” Think about the ripple effect. You throw a rock in the water and ripples radiate out in all directions. Even after the water at the point where the rock was dropped returns to equilibrium, ripples continue. Your actions can create a similar ripple effect with your customers. You need to focus on actions that show you acknowledge and understand their needs. Doing this will help you create a brand whose promise creates a far-reaching, positive ripple effect in the form of evangelists who are ready to sing your praises near and far. “Be aware the ripple effect works both ways,” says Deming. “Just as happy customers sing your praises, unhappy customers will be quick to spread the word about poor service. If you break your brand promise, you will suffer the effects of negative word of mouth, which can be more damaging to a business than a direct negative experience. Your brand promise is inextricably tied to your reputation, and you want to make a big enough splash that delivering on your promise ripples indefinitely!”
Moral 7: Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. You are your brand, and your brand is you! Everyone has a brand identity, but they don’t all understand their own brand correctly, or even know what it is. You cannot develop an authentic, sincere brand without this understanding. And you cannot create brand evangelists. Branding is not a matter of putting on a persona that others will like. It’s not playing a role, putting on a mask, or pretending-all that is superficial, a veneer that covers up the “real” you. And a veneer can be quickly spotted. You don’t want your customers to feel like they are being “sold” based on a false business persona. “When you are sincere about trying to understand your customers’ needs, desires, and what they’d truly love from you, a genuine connection is made that is the foundation of trust between you and your customers,” says Deming. “And customers who trust a business keep coming back to that business over and over again.”
Moral 8: The easy way isn’t always best. Technology has made communication so much easier. But if you’re not careful, too much of a reliance on technology can erode your brand. All of these great ways to communicate-texting, emailing, instant messaging-mean a loss of personal contact. Essentially, you lose the opportunity to create emotional connections and build your brand. Technology should help you streamline your operations, create new opportunities, reach a broader customer base, and reinforce your carefully developed brand. Effective use of technology is achieved, in large part, through mastery of your brand. “Regardless of whether or not your business is brick and mortar or Web-based, remember to use technology to transcend, not replace, your brand,” says Deming. “In the final analysis, don’t let technology be the end of your brand; let it be the beginning of expanding, extending, and sustaining it.”
Moral 9: Don’t drive your customers to a flawed service. A common mistake for many business owners is that they drive customers to a business that does not already have a brand identity in place that welcomes and encourages those customers. You can’t figure out what your service is after the fact. You can’t put a message out that is not reinforced and transcended by the brand experience. Appearance without substance-advertising and driving people to your business, without a powerful brand identity-leads to failure. “Here’s what businesses need to understand,” says Deming. “Your values and sincerity are your brand, and any marketing or advertising efforts need to be based around that brand identity. Your brand can be created only by you and the relationships you develop.”
“All of these lessons work together to bring us to one critical conclusion: if you want to be successful, you must build a powerful emotional brand,” says Deming. “You must stop looking at customers with dollar signs in your eyes and start creating relationships with them. This may seem like an expensive proposition, but believe me, it’s less expensive in the long run than neglecting customer relationships. When your customers see that you truly value them and care about the service you can provide them, they’ll be customers for life-and that’s the real secret to long-term success.”
About the Author:
Scott Deming delivers high-energy sales, marketing, and customer service presentations to clients across the globe over 100 times a year. Before devoting himself to public speaking full-time, Deming grew his own marketing and advertising company, RCI, into a multimillion-dollar organization servicing Fortune 500 companies and many other medium to large corporations across the country. RCI received The Business Journal’s “Most Inspiring Business of the Year” before Scott sold it. His high-energy presentations teach customer-focused sales, marketing, and branding techniques to corporations like Verizon Wireless, Wells Fargo, 3M, USAA, GlaxoSmithKline, Delta Faucets, John Deere, Prudential Real Estate, Wachovia, Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, and many others. His programs and unique presentations have appeared on television and radio shows, in newspapers, and in regional and national magazines and trade publications.
About the Book:
The Brand Who Cried Wolf: Deliver on Your Company’s Promise and Create Customers for Life (Wiley, April 2007, ISBN-10: 0-4701271-2-0, ISBN-13: 978-0-4701271-2-4, $24.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and direct from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797.