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  • Writer's pictureChris Ward

The one thing every business needs to know about building a strong brand!

Hint: It involves ripples!

Let’s start by being crystal clear about what a brand is all about. Having spent years studying brands and advising clients on how to build the best brand possible, I have a very simple definition, …it’s a promise of performance. A brand is simply what customers, clients, members or donors believe an organization (a person, product or service too) can do for them.

Planned communications ­like advertising, brochures, websites, and so forth can help create a positive impression of what that brand is. But it’s really the impressions an organization is unable to plan that have the greatest impact on what people think about it and about buying, joining, or donating. And every one of these can be tied back to something an employee does or says, and the impact of these actions or words on customers.

Our employees know what’s expected, don’t they?

For the most part, employees know how their performance will be assessed and perhaps what objectives the company is striving to achieve. But when it comes to decisions on how to treat customers (and other employees for that matter) all too often it’s left up to each employee to make the call. And guess what, …in the absence of some idea about what constitutes ‘appropriate’ behaviour, they can only guess. Some will get it right; others won’t. And that’s just not good enough. It’s very much in an organization’s best interest to provide whatever information and training they can to ensure that every employee understands what to do, …and understands why it’s so important that business organizations adopt a shared approach to dealing with people both inside and outside the organization.

Bottom line…

A strong corporate brand is the ticket to the kind of success every business – for profit and not-for-profit – is striving to achieve. An inspiring vision, a focused mission statement, a winning corporate personality and a solid strategy for promoting your products or services in the marketplace are all essential. But their value is so much less without employees who are onside and working together to deliver on the organization's brand promise.

Building a Strong Corporate Brand: The Power of One.

As a former chair of ad agency J. Walter Thompson once said, consumers build an image of a brand as birds build nests, from the scraps and straws they chance upon. From music on hold, to the ease or difficulty of navigating your website, to comments passed form one customer to another, corporate brands are the composite of everything consumers hear, see, experience, read and so forth. And of real significance, each impression can be traced back to something an employee has said or done (or didn’t say or do).

Every employee, regardless of title or seniority, has it.

That’s what The Power of One is all about. Every employee, regardless of title or seniority, has the power to influence what clients think of your organization. Each has the power to influence whether prospects buy, and customers return to buy again. Each can influence referrals as well as other employees’ job satisfaction. Some exert their considerable influence directly through their dealings with customers; others indirectly, through their interactions with other employees.

Beware the uncontrollable ripples.

Let’s say two employees work in a department with no direct client contact. One does something to cause the other to miss a deadline, leading to a customer service representative being unable to deliver critical information to a client when it was promised.

Not only has the client been inconvenienced, she is unable to keep a promise she had made to one of her customers. Needless to say, this client is upset and, for the first time, is giving serious consideration to going with another supplier who has been aggressively pursuing her business.

To make matters worse, this disgruntled client shares her experience with several business associates, causing one who was about to select the same supplier to direct his business elsewhere. Due to the actions of an employee who is nowhere near the frontline, the organization’s promise of performance has been tarnished and business has been lost.

The moral of this little vignette is pretty obvious: When it comes to branding, the ripples can extend far beyond the department in which a problem originates.

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