Small Business Branding: Developing A Belief System
Cathy couldn't believe it. Len, one of her long time customers was now getting her mechandise from a competitor. “I knew Len hadn't been in for her usual purchases. I thought she had just been out of town or something.” Cathy thought, now looking back on the months that she had gone without seeing Len.
Through their talks together, Cathy believed that Len was one of her loyal customers. And indeed Len was a loyal customer. But as Cathy found out the hard way, loyalty is a two-way street and one not built only on good deals. Apparently a lifelong customer takes something more. Len had been Cathy's customer for years and now her she was not only going to her competitor, but also telling others about the good service, quality and selection that she had found. Cathy thought again, “I don't recall her ever telling anyone about my store.” What happened?
If you find that customers who you thought were loyal or are trying to get customers loyal to you, one thing that you have to do is go beyond, price, service, quality and selection. Those are givens. You have to give your customers something to believe in. What is it about you and your business that helps people to get involved in something bigger than themselves? In short, what is your actual brand?
Branding goes beyond marketing, basic customer loyalty and top of mind recognition. Branding goes to the soul of a customer. Whether it's the understanding and demonstration of your vision throughout their purchasing experience, the genuine concern that's shown to the community that is the home of the establishment or the causes that they support – again out of genuine concern. These elements help to create people who will be with you for the long term. Yes, these people are your customers, but above and beyond that, they are people.
Brands that have been around for years have been able to tap into that understanding of people's need to belong and be a part of something lasting. Brands are not brands because they have a nice logo, a memorable jingle or a cute spokesperson (or creature). Those things are part of marketing both the company and its branding labels. But, the brand is what touches people after the commercials have gone off, after the purchase is made, after the years have passed. What part of their experience have gone beyond the memory and into their emotions – into their emotions enough to make them act... again and again and again? When that happens, you are building your brand. That's when you start having “customer evangelists.”
As Cathy thought about her customers, she realized that there were several long time customers who she hadn't seen in a while or who would stop in on their way to somewhere else. One thing that Cathy realized was that her customers came to her mostly out of convenience. There was nothing that she was doing that excited them enough to go out of there their way to utilize her services and purchase her products. Cathy was starting to understand that her logo and her pricing was not her brand.