The secret behind living your brand ~ April, 2010
By Kathleen Quinn Votaw
The statistics on why companies lose customers haven’t changed for years. Is anyone listening? A full 68 percent of customers who leave are turned away, not by dissatisfaction with the product, but by the indifferent attitude of a single employee. All the money you spend on perfecting your product and advertising its quality is wasted if your employees aren’t delivering what your customers expect. In other words, your entire brand comes down to the individual impression left by a single employee.
There’s a competitive opportunity here for companies that make sure every employee is living their brand. But can you trust your brand to anyone? That answer is no. The secret behind successful brand strategy, whether internal or external, is talent recruitment. The 68 percent of lost customers says loudly: “It’s all about the people.”
Jack Greenberg, Chairman and CEO of McDonald’s, gets it: "We succeed or fail, every day, in every restaurant, because of our people." What’s true for McDonald’s is true for every business, in any industry.
What is “living the brand?”
If honesty is a core value in your organization, and you ask the receptionist to tell people that you’re out when you’re actually in, then you’re not living your brand. If the plaque on your wall says, “We value our customers” and your menu says, “No changes or substitutions please,” you’re not living your brand.
Your brand is your promise, your commitment to customers. It’s your commitment to employees too. It represents everything your company makes or says – and what it feels like to do business with you. In a sense, your brand has a personality, and it’s reflected in the actions—and attitudes—of your employees, both in interacting with one another and with your customers. The best brands deliver on their promise no matter what the circumstances: a bad economy, a blip in production timing, or a bout of flu that leaves you shorthanded. Core values don’t change, and neither do successful brands. Employees of companies with successful brands find a way to do it.
Your brand is built on your core values, and when employees live it, it means that your brand permeates your organization’s culture. When your employees live your brand, they have passion around your product or service and pride in your company. Who wouldn’t want to do business with you?
Recruit for ‘brand talent”
Just as you look for certain skills and competencies to fill specific roles in your business, and assess each candidate for cultural fit, you need to consider how well a candidate “fits” your brand. People may qualify in every other way, but if they are not capable of enhancing your brand at appropriate customer touchpoints, they are not the “brand talent” you need. Every person you hire should have brand talent that will allow them to “live” your particular brand. If part of your brand promise is “fun,” for example, you wouldn’t want to hire an introvert to interface with customers.
If it’s truly all about the people, brand success comes only when your brand is an integral part of your culture and in an environment where employees bring out the best in one another. This means that brand talent applies to both internal and external customers. There can’t be one brand of behavior inside an organization and another brand for customers. Employees must be engaged with one another in understanding and interpreting your brand and in helping each other execute it at every touchpoint with customers.
Hire for role fit, culture fit and brand fit.
How to deliver your brand promise
Your brand shouldn’t live in your marketing department. It should live in the heart and soul of every employee. Here are steps you can take to ensure that it does:
- Define your core values. This should not be a wish list: What are your real values? How do they align with your brand?
- Understand the competencies that make your brand a success. List competencies in marketing, sales and service areas, and also in product development, quality, administration and every other area of the company as they specifically relate to delivering your brand.
- Hire the right people, with the characteristics and capabilities to live your brand.
- Train every employee on your brand and what your organization’s expectations are of every employee in delivering on the brand promise.
- Develop an integrated communication plan for both inside and outside the company and check for understanding of your values and brand. Employees can’t live the brand if they don’t understand it. Communicate in both word and deed.
- Establish a program for defining and sharing best practices and continuous improvement as they relate to delivering on your brand.
Whether your focus is acquiring new customers, or retaining customers; and whether you are starting your company, growing it or selling it, a strong brand is a key element in achieving your goal. The secret is recruiting the right talent to deliver on your brand. (Shhhhhh! Let someone else hire the indifferent employees.)