In our last blog, I presented how crucial it is to the customer experience that you build trust, and how trust is built through creating a more personal experience. Trust and the customer experience are intrinsically tied to your brand.

If you are like many small business owners, you don’t spend much time thinking about your brand image. That’s a terrible mistake. Many retailers convince themselves that their customers know who they are and what they do. What else do customers need to know?

Here’s what I believe. What makes your business unique and more successful than your competition is your brand. Branding is about the total experience. If that sounds familiar, it should. Brand is the result of a consistent customer experience; it’s about how you engage your customers so they clearly understand that you deliver more than simply products and services.

The old school concept of branding is often defined as a name, slogan, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers.

But today, brand is not just a clever tagline or pleasing logo. It’s what former advertising exec David Ogilvy called: “The intangible sum of a products’ attributes.”

Your brand is your promise to your customers and what they should expect every time they visit your business. That brand promise can only be delivered from a position of trust. And, again, that trust is created by building a personal relationship. Build a personal bond with your customer and they will develop a relationship of trust with your brand.

Over my career, I’ve had numerous discussions with retailers who’ve been in operation for decades and they state, matter-of-factly, that their customers know who they are and what they do. That may be true, but do you want to be known just for what you do? Or, do you want to be known as the only place to go if customers need your products and services. There’s a world of difference.

Last fall I experienced a completely new customer engagement approach that to this day has stuck with me. When leaving a local retailer, the door was opened for me by a young employee who politely asked, “Is there anything we could have done better for you today?” Wow!!! After processing the question, I replied, “No, but thank you for asking.” His response: “Thank you for your business!” Make no mistake; your brand is you and your people!

Why engage your customer and create expectations?

Consumers go out of their way for brands they trust. You want your customers to become your brand advocate because, as humans, we do business with people we like and trust. And, people influence people.

Doing business with those we trust is built into our DNA and part of our evolutionary process. We feel first and think second. This is supported by the fact that the emotional brain processes sensory information in one-fifth the time that it takes our cognitive brain to assimilate the same input.

Simply stated, all human decisions are made using both our hearts and our heads. Emotions, trust, love and hate play an integral part, and branding helps customers understand how they should feel when shopping at your establishment.

Brand

What is your Brand?

Consider the following before you declare what your brand is:

Why do your customers currently do business with you? If you haven’t given any thought to your brand, your customers certainly have. Understand why they come to your store and what’s in it for them to shop there.

Who are your customers? You need to know your audience. Younger consumers expect different things out of a relationship than older consumers. Understand the demographic (age, income, education) and psychographic (lifestyle choices) needs of your customer. Then exceed those needs.

What makes you unique or different from your competition? Rethink and reinvent how you can bring your brand to life. Elevate your customer’s experience, be disruptive in your thinking!

Don’t be afraid to stand for something. Research suggests that consumers share their values through brands they associate with. They connect with brands that are meaningful to them and reflect what’s important in their lives. Ask yourself: am I important to my customer? If not, make yourself important!

Next step

Become obsessed about delivering your brand experience. Look through the eyes of your trusted customers to better understand how you can make their experience the best it can be. Then exceed it.

The next step is to share your branding strategy with staff. Empower your staff to leverage your brand so they can better serve the needs of your customers. Remember, your staff are often the first point of contact with your customers. Make sure they understand what your brand is and why it’s so important they deliver the same experience every time.

Store colour, logo, name and national affiliation pale in comparison to employees as brand advocates.