Consistency: The not-so-secret ingredient to building a strong brand

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If I were to ask you to name your favorite brand what would you say?  What metric or definitions would you use to acknowledge those companies whose brands rise to the top?

Brand building is big work.  Heavy work.  Time consuming work.  It takes patience, curiosity, interest, a willingness to listen, a willingness to act, a conscious effort to deliver what you promise day in and day out.  Yes, a brand is simply that…a promise.

Chances are your favorite brands may do many things well, but there’s one thing I bet they do better than all the others.  I’ll bet your favorite brands deliver what they promise consistently.  Not 70% of the time, or 80% of the time, but 10 out of 10 times you get exactly the experience you’ve come to expect.  It’s exactly the reason you keep going back.  It’s THE reason it’s your favorite brand .

Consistency is the little, but not so secret, ingredient of successful brandsDunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and Wawa deliver great coffee all the time.  Apple delivers quality products for home, work, or on the go, that are easy to use and deliver what’s promised.  The gym I go to is always so clean you could eat off the floors which says a lot for a gym!  I drive 23 miles to take my car to a Cadillac dealership when there is a Caddy dealer 4 miles from my home.  Why?  They always recognize me by name, their waiting area is ultra-comfortable with TV, work stations and high-speed internet, not to mention their  “Nordstrom-like” restrooms.  Speaking of Nordstrom, their service is remarkable each and every time.  Whether you’re buying a brand name shirt, or one that carries John Nordstrom’s name, you can rest assured you’ve purchased something of quality.

We all have examples of our favorite brands.  What’s funny is how many companies I’ve experienced where paying attention to those little things is viewed as more of a luxury than a requirement.  Dunkin didn’t get the reputation for great coffee by accident.  They didn’t say “it doesn’t matter where we get our beans from or what type of equipment we use to brew it”.  They are all about those coffee details.  Nordstrom’s didn’t develop its reputation as service workhorse by giving customers a hard time when an item didn’t fit, work, or hold up as expected.  And for those of you privileged enough to live in a city where Wegmans operates you know how consistent their delivery of remarkable service is.  Wegmans has been known to take back, refund, and provide other goodwill gestures for food purchased that the customer didn’t like.  Consistently consistent.

If you’re selling fast and easy, it better be fast and easy all the time.  Not just most of the time. If you’re selling fresh, it needs to be fresh at 6 am or 6 pm.  If you’re selling durable, it better last under the harshest uses or conditions.

Regardless of what you sell, think about how consistent your brand delivers on its promise.  If it’s anything shy of 100%, or Six Sigma, I suggest you reevaluate and understand not just why, but what you’ll do to correct it.  Nobody wants to buy “sometimes”.  In fact most people buy with their emotions, and as human beings our emotions are wired for a “forever” experience.  People don’t like change and if your brand is inconsistent you’re indirectly creating a situation that will bring a change to your customer.  Not a good thing.  Consistently consistent.  That’s the key.

 

 

Where To Look When Customer Attrition Ticks Up

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You’re approaching another quarter-end and your customer retention numbers seem to be headed in the wrong direction. You look around and come up with some quick explanations as to why you’re losing customers. The economy, your competitor that’s selling on price, Obamacare, and lack of sophisticated systems round out the top of your list of excuses. Hey, I get it. Those are the easy ones to point to. The excuses that you can’t control and those that make the blame game so much more tolerable. But if you really want to know why you’re losing your customers start by doing the following:

1. Ask a few that have already left. It always strikes me how apprehensive business people are to follow up with a former customer to inquire as to why they left. Doing this provides an opportunity to reopen the door and establish some goodwill in the form of listening to what’s important to them.
2. Walk the floors. Many executives still hide behind their glass or wood doors. They isolate themselves from reality claiming to work on the “important stuff” as they develop strategies to grow the business. The problem is that many executives don’t know what the issues are and therefore will never be able to develop an effective business strategy. The challenges and opportunities of your business are well known to the “rank and file” employees – the ones interacting directly with your customers. Talk to them and ask them what’s going on.
3. Get in the field. Another tactical initiative that is required to build effective strategies. Meet your customers, your suppliers, referral sources, and partners. Get involved, ask lots of questions. Focus on THEM. Listen. Forget show and tell. It’s not about you.
4. Establish a customer advisory council. Put together a council consisting of existing customers of different industries and sizes. Create a charter that tasks the council with identifying problem areas and possible opportunities. Bring the council together twice a year if possible and two other times during the year by phone. Listen.

The fact is that it’s probably an obvious reason why you’re losing customers. For most businesses and their leaders they just don’t want to listen. It’s easier to blame characteristics that are uncontrollable. But those leaders that roll up their sleeves, get in the trenches, and ask the tough questions are those leaders that have the best chance of reversing poor customer retention numbers.