Let’s get the “brand” new year started right with six resolutions that will help get your brand into healthy fighting shape for whatever 2011 has in store for us.
1. Do a brand audit
This can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Start with your company positioning (if you don’t have a company positioning just write down what you think are the strongest aspects of your business). Then make a list of each of the main areas of operations (finance, marketing, sales, customer service, manufacturing or production, human resources, products and/or services you sell) and note down under each area the ways they either do or don’t support your positioning.
Fixing the gaps you find in the don’t support list and bringing them into alignment with everything else will be a great way to get your brand in shape. If there is nothing that supports it then you have a whole different brand resolution to look at!
2. Talk to some customers
Your customers can tell you a lot about your business, from what you are doing right to things you could do better. So have a chat – the number doesn’t really matter, but more than a couple and a few less than all of them is probably a good measure.
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And don’t just go for the people you know love you. Mix is up, old, new, love, hate, current and past. Ask them what they like about you. What they don’t like. What three words they would use to describe you. Don’t be shy and don’t be defensive – even if they have bad news it’s all good for your brand in the long run.
3. Talk to your employees
Once a year isn’t enough, but it’s a place to start and I’m not talking about a quick chat over the water cooler or coffee machine.
Get as many as you can afford to spare at one time together in a room for a couple of hours and have a frank and open discussion about what they see and what they would change and why (the why is the critical part). Even better do it once a quarter. What you hear will make your brand stronger.
4. Read your marketing
And I’m not talking proofread it; I mean read-read it, as if you were a customer or a stranger. Is it full of big claims and grand benefit promises? Are you sending mixed messages – a client of mine had a list of reasons to do business with them and the thing they claimed as their number one priority was number three on the list!
Is it easy to read or full of long sentences that you have to read twice to follow? Does it sound remotely like who the company is?
5. Get sales and marketing and customer service in the room together
Even if it’s only metaphorically speaking, this could be the most important brand resolution of all. But it would be best done in reality. In a lot of SMEs people wear many hats, but there is still often separation between these functions and no good reason for it (except the example set by big business).
Your marketing will be better if it targets what people want, your sales can tell you what customers are asking for and both will be better if they listen to the feedback that customer service can (and should) provide about what you are selling. It’s not the whole story but it is a good piece of it.
6. <Insert your resolution here>
You know your brand better than anyone, so what one thing would you do to make it stronger, more aligned and more authentic for 2011? Would be great to know how you are thinking about your brands for the year to come so post your resolution in comments.
See you next week.
Michel Hogan is a Brand Advocate. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia and in the United States, she helps organisations recognise who they are and align that with what they do and say, to build more authentic and sustainable brands. She also publishes the Brand thought leadership blog – Brand Alignment.