12 Brand-Feeding Approaches to Improve Your Sales
Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 12, Issue No. 2
By Dan Coughlin
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Sales are important. You have to make sales in the short term and over the long term in order to pay your bills, compensate your employees, and make a profit so you can stay in business. Selling is the lifeblood of every business.
However, if all you do is focus on selling, you may end up with a very weak brand as an organization. If that happens, then you have to start over each day from scratch and try to sell your products and services to someone new. When your organization has a very weak brand in the marketplace, it makes the act of selling exponentially more difficult. When your organization has a very strong brand in the marketplace, it makes selling exponentially easier.
Think of selling a Carrie Underwood song before she won American Idol and after she won American Idol.
Compare selling a ticket to a Los Angeles Galaxy soccer game before David Beckham showed up with selling a ticket while he played there.
Compare selling hamburgers at a startup local restaurant with selling hamburgers at McDonald’s.
The key to driving large numbers of sales is having a strong brand. A strong brand acts like a giant magnet where customers want to buy from you rather than you having to search far and wide to find a potential customer that you then have to convince to buy from you. Take time each day to strengthen your organization’s brand. One day you will look back and be amazed by the number of sales you are making to people who come to you wanting to buy your products and services.
Here are a dozen ways you can feed your brand every day:
Brand Feeder #1: Carefully look at what your customers see.
If your website is the first thing your potential customers see, then study it carefully. Does it easily explain what business you’re in and how you add value to customers? Is it clear what you sell and why those products and services are of value to other people? Do you have some type of free value on your website so people can gain a sense of what it is like to work with you? Is it clear how a person can contact your organization? To be honest, I don’t understand companies that make customers fill out an information sheet in order to be called back. Why not just put your phone number and an email address on your website? Why make it so hard for people to reach you? Would you have people walk up to your door and tell them to fill out a form and that you might call them back?
If the first interaction a potential customer has with your organization is at a retail location or at an office, does that physical space exude the type of look that you want it to project? Does it make the potential customer comfortable or uncomfortable?
You might not be in charge of your website or your facility, but you can at least look at it from the customer’s perspective. Then find a convenient time to calmly discuss your observations with whoever is in charge of the website or the facility. Be mature and professional and use tactfulness, but at least let the person know what you’re seeing.
Brand Feeder #2: Look at how you and your staff interact with customers and prospects.
Your brand is the value people think they receive when they buy your products and services. Do you and your staff members interact with your customers and prospects in ways that help them to feel respected and supported, or do you laugh at them when they don’t know something? Are you patient and pleasant or rushed and rude? Feed your brand today by being on the alert as to how you talk with your customers and prospects and make at least one improvement right away. Get your staff members to focus on how they interact with customers and prospects. We all get one chance to make…
Brand Feeder #3: Study the quality of your products and services and make one improvement.
When the customer unwraps that new product from your organization and tries it out is he or she going to be happy on the first time, the fiftieth time, and the five-hundredth time? Will the person brag to their friends and co-workers about the service they received from your organization? If not, you will end up with a weaker brand than you could have had.
Brand Feeder #4: Provide encouragement to your employees.
Your brand exists in the minds of your customers, but it is built through the efforts of your employees. Do they feel encouraged and supported by you to do their very best work? Somewhere down the road your customers are going to be affected directly or indirectly by your employees. Is there a way that you can affect your employees today that will increase the chances that they will have a positive impact on your customers in the future?
Brand Feeder #5: Do your prices reflect your brand positively or negatively?
If a person looked at your price today and compared it to the prices of your competitors, do you feel that your current price would enhance your brand or weaken your brand. Don’t be fooled into thinking that people always want the cheapest price. They don’t. They want an appropriate price. If a Mercedes-Benz salesperson told me I could walk off the lot with a brand-new Mercedes for $14,000, I wouldn’t trust him or her. That price doesn’t fit the brand. I would believe something was wrong with the car. If someone charged me $24 for a hamburger, I would question what I was doing there. Do you have the appropriate price for the brand you want to be known for? Your price can endear a customer to you or make them furious.
Brand Feeder #6: Take social media seriously or not at all.
If you say you’re going to blog every week or every day, then do it. If you say you’re going to post updates on Facebook, then do it. If you say you’re going to Twitter away with tips every morning, then do it. Some companies take social media seriously and have dramatically enhanced their brand. Others talk about taking social media seriously and then people question their brand because things happen only very sporadically. Either take it seriously, or don’t do it.
Brand Feeder #7: Consider what your brand says and what it doesn’t say.
The ultimate brand-killer is trying to be something different every day just to close a sale with a different customer every day. No organization is for every pocketbook. You can build a massive company with a very clear brand (Disney: entertain all members of the family; Ralph Lauren: selling the luxury lifestyle; American Girl Doll: in the little-girl business), but you can’t even build a successful little business without people having a clear understanding of the value you sell and who you sell it to. Take time today to look at your brand. How do people describe the value they receive and what it is like working with your organization?
Brand Feeder #8: Send a personal touch to a customer.
Rather than wondering what you can do today at work and just filling up your time with busywork, I suggest you pull out a stack of personal note cards and write a handwritten note to your Top 25 customers. If you do that once a quarter, think how much stronger your relationship will be with each of them. Don’t just write the same thing to each person. Make each note personal and unique.
If you don’t know your customers because of the role you’re in, then write a handwritten note to your Top 25 franchisees or suppliers or employees. The point is you strengthen your brand when you strengthen your personal relationship with key people associated with your organization.
Brand Feeder #9: Look at your advertising from your customers’ point of view.
If your company invests in tv, newspaper, online, billboard, email, and/or radio advertising, then observe that advertising as though you were a customer or a prospective customer. Does the advertising make sense to you? Is it clear how you would be better off as a result of using that product or service? Does it in some way increase your emotional desire to buy from your organization? Be honest with the people responsible for the advertising. In a professional, one-on-one conversation let the person know what your observations were like. Take ownership of your brand and at least express your opinion. Do so with tact and maturity, but let your thoughts be known.
Brand Feeder #10: Provide free value (otherwise known as The Santa’s Approach)
One of my favorite movies on branding is Miracle on 34th Street. That’s the one where the Santa at Macy’s tells the moms where they can buy certain toys that aren’t available at the Macy’s. In other words, Santa gave away free value and instead of losing customers he actually increased customers for Macy’s because the moms knew they would get good advice on where to find things. He was like an early version of Google, which also gives away tons of information for free and has built an amazing business.
What value that is relevant to your customers can you give away for free? This is important. People love the opportunity to try out an organization before they commit to a paying relationship. Can you put free advice on your website, can you give away free samples of your product, or can you let your customers try your service for free for thirty days?
A brand is based on a relationship. That relationship is based on a promise you make to your customers. When you keep your promises, you strengthen your relationship with the customers.
Brand Feeder #11: Look at your schedule and make sure your efforts support the desired brand.
This is the whole point of this article. Are you really feeding your brand every day in some way, or are the hours in your day being eaten up by stuff that won’t enhance your organization’s brand at all? Look at your schedule for the rest of today and tomorrow. What specifically will you do to enhance the brand? If you don’t have anything on your calendar, then you better look at what you can take off and what you can put in place to advance your brand in some way. You might decide the one thing you can do today is to let ten of your friends and family members know more about your company’s products and services. If every employee raved about their company to the people they know, it could be a tremendous step forward toward strengthening their organization’s brand.
Brand Feeder #12: Search for ways to improve the operational aspect of delivering value to your customers.
A brand is built, or ruined, by an organization’s ability to consistently and efficiently deliver the value it promised would be delivered.
Think of Apple, McDonald’s, and Wal-Mart. They sell an amazing amount of products every year and yet the consistency and efficiency of their operations are remarkable.
Look at the flow of your organization. From the time a customer requests a certain product or service to the time he or she receives that product and service to all the times he or she uses that product or service was there anything that could be done to improve the consistency and quality of the customer’s experience with that product or service? Is there anything that could be done to improve the efficiency with which the value was delivered to the customer?
All the marketing in the world doesn’t make a brand strong if the delivery of the promised value is poor.
Brand Feeder Bonus: Get away from your work so you come back with better mental energy.
Ironically, you need to stop working in order to better understand your brand. When you are away from your work, stay away. Give your brain a rest. Then when you come back to looking at your brand you can do so with fresh eyes. You might just see something obvious that you never saw before.
Take care and have a great month,
Republishing ArticlesMy newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.