Why is it that some companies have a more valued and appreciated brand than others? Is it all about their ability to consistently deliver the best product offering, their marketing prowess, their product’s unique features, their service strategies, or is it merely just a question of their image and position as a dominant market player? Granted, some companies just seem to rest on their laurels. These are the ones who dominate their market for a short period of time, only to see it all fall apart when a competitor usurps them with a better product offering. However, those that consistently build their brand do it by adopting some very simple strategies. While your company spends lavishly on providing a specific message to market, these other companies just continually raise the bar and allow their customers to champion their brand.
Some Companies Aren’t Aware of their Brand’s Importance
There are plenty of companies who don’t even attempt to dominate their market. Instead, they focus on simply building customer loyalty and they see that as the most important criterion to building brand loyalty. In fact, some of these companies aren’t even aware of their brand, its importance amongst customers, or its position as the choice of the market. They know they are a valued and trusted partner, but they have never moved forward with defining or adopting a brand strategy. They just focus on providing what their customers want, when they want it and they make sure they give it to them in ways their competition can’t or won’t. So, what do these companies do that yours isn’t doing now? More importantly, what can you learn from those enterprises, ones who make building their brand a simple process of building customer loyalty?
Our analysis will focus on five essential criteria to building your brand in your market. That brand can’t be dictated, can’t be controlled and can’t be forced upon your customers. It’s your customers that will ultimately define your brand, its importance and its value to them. Your job is to listen to what your market and your customers are telling you about your company, its product offering and its reputation. In this case, you must treat these five criteria as a continuous loop, one where the information coming from the market is what you use to tweak your product offering to build your brand loyalty.
1. Your Market: Companies have a tendency to dictate what their market needs, rather than listen to what that market has to tell them. Your market knowledge must be focused on more than just recent trends. It must be defined by your understanding of the role played by vendors, creditors, competitors, customers and market influencers. All have a role to play in how your company approaches your market and most importantly, with how it builds its brand. For instance, how do creditors such as banks and credit unions treat your industry? Do they make it difficult by being tight on terms, and if so, what can your company do to alleviate this as a going concern for your customer base? What are the standard service practices in your industry? Your company may be following your industry’s established service norms, but if your customers aren’t happy, and aren’t able to differentiate your brand from others, then it screams for you to change course and distinguish your product offering. Buck the trend and define your unique value within your market
2. Your Target Audience: Not all customers are the same, and therefore, not all customer segments are the same. You must come to understand the needs and concerns of your target audience by defining each customer segment buying your product. Use that knowledge to define how your product offering addresses your target audience’s needs and concerns. Start by defining your customers’ stress points and then define how your company, its product and its service, can help alleviate these stresses.
3. Your Value Assertion: Your message to market must be clear, concise and well-defined. It must outline how your company plans to service its customer base. A value assertion is much like a declaration, one your company uses to tell its market, its vendors, partners and customers, how it plans on providing that all-important product and service. Every aspect of your value assertion must be focused on defining your message, defining your core competencies and giving your customers reason to purchase your product. You need to build credibility through your value assertion. Ultimately, it’s about eliciting a buying response by removing all obstacles to securing that first customer order.
4. Brand Partners: Every successful product is backed by partners, ones who continually champion that product’s features and benefits. Don’t limit your partners to just customers. Instead, broaden your view by using vendors and existing partners. Remember, your market knowledge must call upon every important player within your market. There is an inherent value to calling upon existing strategic partners, vendors and customer to champion your product offering. Word of mouth advertising is still one of the most cost-effective ways to get your product out in front of new prospects. What you must decide is how you will use those references to build a network that will push your brand to the front of the market.
5. Your Incentive Programs: Your greatest tool in building your brand loyalty lies in building customer loyalty. For instance, how often are you willing to buy a product if the service is substandard? How often will you continue to go back if you never feel appreciated? No matter how solid your product is, if you can’t support it with excellence in customer service, then you’ll never be able to improve brand loyalty. Like those aforementioned companies who just seem to effortlessly build their brand, you too must make servicing your customers a top priority. Your greatest asset is your willingness to reward your customers for their business. Use incentives, discounts, price reductions and reward programs to lower your customer retention costs. Customers want to feel appreciated, and every successful brand is built on the premise of appreciating the customers who buy the company’s product.
Don’t overcomplicate your brand strategy. Your company could spend substantial resources and capital in providing a specific, tailor-made message to market. However, if you’ve failed to define what your customers want, why they want it, and how they want to receive it, then it’s all for naught. Keep it simple. Understand your market. Define your target audience in terms of what they need and what concerns them most. Provide a value assertion that addresses these concerns and needs. Use your partners to build your brand and finally, reward your customers for their business.