The other day I talked about “Moments of Truth”. “Moments of Truth” are all those moments where the potential customer meets the business and its brand. Such a moment can be the interaction of the potential customer with personnel, the website, the product, advertising, news items, logo, prices, vending machines, uniforms etcetera etcetera.
During all these moments where the world of the prospective customer and the business collide, the business leaves an impression and the prospective customer forms an opinion. You want those opinions to be consistent with how you want your brand to be seen.
Of course that is easier said than done. The moments of truth are infinite; determined by the number of prospects and all the ways they can encounter your business during and endless period of time. Handling all those truths seems daunting at the very least, micro managing them an endless endeavor.
Know yourself, know your brand
Managing your brand is the easiest when the brand comes natural to you. By that I mean that your brand should be a natural extension of yourself as a small business owner. As a small business owner your brand starts with you and you and your brand should be true.
Do not brand your business on precision or eye for detail if that doesn’t come natural to you. Brand your business on the qualities that set you apart from others and that are both relevant to your business and your customers. Your brand expresses your promise to your customers. As your business starts with you, it is essential to have a good level of self-knowledge and to be honest with yourself as you want to make true on your promise.
Every now and then I come across small business owners who have an enormous blind spot for their qualities and their weaknesses. They lack a healthy dose of self-criticism and position their brand on exactly those things that are a weakness. An example would be a restaurant that prides itself on its exceptional food, while the clientele considers the food to be mediocre.
In situations like the one in the example you build up the brand expectations too high. Customers come to expect something (good food) and the business doesn’t deliver. The result is disappointment, a tarnished brand image, and bad word of mouth.
There are two solutions to this problem. You base your brand on other qualities or you have to make sure you deliver. In the example of the restaurant you could fire the cook, you could train him, or you make a menu with food that he can prepare. Or of course you position your restaurant differently.
Define your brand
Once you know yourself and know your brand, know what sets you apart and that it is relevant to your business and your customers, make it official. Write it down for internal use so it can serve as a guideline for building your brand and making strategic choices.
Prove your brand
Handle your truth and prove your brand by translating your brand definition to:
- the behavior of the people working in and with your business
- the symbols used in your business
- the communication of your business
Whenever a prospective customer encounters one of the employees, the customer forms an opinion on your business and your brand. If the employees do not behave “on brand” this reflects negatively on your business. Company culture is important exactly for this reason. Don’t get me wrong, employees shouldn’t behave like Stepford Wives, but a culture that supports the behavior that is “on brand”, is key to a strong brand. A solid brand culture prevents from having to micro manage every employees’ brand behavior (which is not possible anyway).
In light of this it is also important to choose your business partners carefully. They of course have their own business brand, but you do not want it to clash with yours. Especially if their employees interact with your customers.
Your business’ brand is also expressed by the symbols it uses. This can be the logo, or the look and feel of your store or website, the architecture of the building your business is housed, or the design of the office furniture.
If your business wants its business to have a serious demeanor, this should be expressed in its logo and website. The same if the business is all about being funky. When the logos of these businesses are build on their brands, it would be surprising if they would be similar.
Your business communicates with its customers and other groups that have an interest in your business. All this communication impacts your brand image as well. This could be a letter you send to your customer, a tv commercial, an ad, but also the posts on your Facebook page, and it is not limited to these examples.
The behavior, the symbols and the communication of your business should all work together to build your brand, manage your moments of truth, and deliver the promise your business and your brand make to the customer.
Consistency is important when it comes to branding. You want to be consistent in behavior, symbols, and communication on any given moment. Every moment of truth should exude your brand and deliver on your brand promise. Only then you can handle the truth…
By Pepita Bos