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What’s Your Brand?

As a marketing consultant I call on 100 + businesses per week. After most phone calls and visits I can’t help but wonder “What’s their brand”? Most people think about Radio ads and TV ads when I say that. But I’m not talking about advertising, I’m talking about your companies brand. I’m talking about what defines your business to consumers when they think of you, if they actually do think of you. When they see your cars, employees and ads is everything consistant?  Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about.

I recently had a customer tell me they don’t advertise when I spoke with her on the phone. I told the business owner it was a good thing she didn’t. Confused she asked what I meant. I told her it took me 4 different phone calls to get someone to answer the phone. On the 4th time when someone finally answered I could barely hear what they said when they answered the phone. Once I figured out I had the correct business after having the young lady repeat the name 3 times (maybe it was an issue with a tongue ring) I was put on hold. Once on-hold there was no message selling their business, just SILENCE, oh and I was on hold for 10 minutes. This I told the owner is why they should not be advertising, not because she thinks they have enough business or a great customer database. I don’t care how great of an advertising campaign you have, if you don’t answer the phones, put people on hold without ever checking back and don’t attempt to spend a few hundred dollars for an on-hold phone system (The Original On Hold Company,www.omghq.com)

Next I visited a client to see how the experience was in-store. This was a Jewelry store witha few locations. No-one at this particular location knows me so I figured I‘d get the normal treatment. This particular client told me in prior conversations that “I don’t think the advertising is working”. I was actually in the market for a gift for my wife. I was dressed nice and I had my wife and kids withme. My wife looked at 3-4 rings and found the one she wanted. We got the price ($2,500) and I even TOOK A PICTURE of the ring with my apple iphone (for a good sales person an easy sign I don‘t mind spending money). I even told the salesman, who I later found out was the GM of that store, this was so I could come back the next day and buy the correct ring. This is where their BRAND fell apart. The GM never asked for my name, phone number or any other contact information. He didn’t give me his card or try and set up a follow-up appointment. He didn’t offer some kind of discount or reason to closee me. How about some sense of urgency “There’s only 1 left” to try and close me. HE NEVER TRIED TO SELL ME. Consumers want to be sold, especially salesman like me. Again, it does not matter how slick your radio ad is, how great the newspaper coupon offer is, if your staff can’t sell then you just wasted your money.

Next I was visiting a locally owned retail store with a large showroom. I walked it looking to buy a specific item. I was not greeted within 50 feet of the door. In fact, I was never greeted. I had to ask a guy I guessed was an employee for help. The reason I “Guessed” is because his hair was a wreck, his shirt was un-tucked and was old and not really recognizable with their company colors or logo. I did get it right though, but since he was carrying a scan gun it was somewhat a give-away. Next I asked where this product was, to which he pointed about 10 rows down and said down in aisle 15. I wanted to smack him. YOU DON’T POINT. You walk me to the item, see what I’m buying, find an item to up-sell me to and then take me to my next item. Needless to say I got lost, got frustrated and asked 2 more people. I ended up not buying anything due to this flawed process. Again, this BRAND was out of whack.

My last example comes to me from a friend in Florida who owned a boat dealership in the 80‘s and 90‘s. He used this example from his dealership during a training I attended in 2003. He was in the showroom watching the salesman close a deal. Everything seemed ready to go as planned, everyone was smiling, shaking hands and getting ready to sign the paperwork. As he watched from across the room he noticed the wife get up to go somewhere. Within minutes she came back, whispered in her husbands ear and off they went. The owner thought something was up. He asked the salesman what happened and he had no idea. So he hurried out to the parking lot and caught them as they got into their car. He introduced himself as the owner and said he could not help but notice something went wrong, “Can I ask what happened”. The young lady told him that when she went to the restroom it was horrible, it was dirty, old and to her a slap in the face. She said that she did not think the dealership deserved her business if they did not respect their female customers enough to spend a few dollars on a nice clean restroom.” WOW, this dealership owner was floored. He was widely successful and had been in the business for 20+ years. He apologized and wished them luck on their shopping experience. He had never been in the ladies room at his store, so he took a stroll. Once in there, he was disappointed “How could I miss something this obvious, how could I have not trained my staff to look for these type of issues” he told me. “We had a multi-million dollar facility and a $10 ladies room”. That night he called the customer and acknowledged her concerns and agreed. He let her know it would be remodeled the next few days and thanked her for telling him about it.

So to recap we just talked about the following items:

1. Answering the Phone

2. Clear Speaking when talking on the phone

3. On-Hold Systems

4. Getting a prospects contact info

5. Setting up a appointment

6. Closing a retail customer

7. Employee appearance

8. Pointing instead of showing a customer

9. Restroom appearance

I know, right now your wondering what any of these items have to do with your marketing. They have everything to do with your marketing of your business. These are all an extension of your brand. Your brand is how your company/product is perceived by your customers. In these situations, these were real life examples of how each of these businesses failed to meet the expectations on their customers, and they failed to build their brand properly.

When I ask my customers about their brand I usually get a response targeted to their advertising. When in fact, I’m looking for a statement that defines their company and how the public relates to it. Uniforms, phone-answering, sales training, clean restrooms, trained employees, consistent company colors, clearly marked showrooms, and more importantly a staff that understands exactly what your brand is and how they are to carry that out in their job EVERY DAY.

Next time I’ll talk about a few recent examples of how local companies did all the above right

Matt Plapp is a Marketing Consultant for Advertising Vehicles in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. You can contact him at matt@mattplapp.com