For small businesses the process of establishing a niche or value-add to distinguish ourselves from others starts with focusing on what you do, and how you do it. What is it you do absolutely better than anyone else? What do you do faster, or more efficiently, or with better results? How is your product or service distinctive from others in your industry?
If its not, how can you enhance it by working in the processes that make you better, faster, more successful so that you can re-package your product or service so that the unique experience of using your company are crystal clear to prospects?
The solution? Be distinct.
Differentiation is the key to branding your business, to elevating your products and services and ultimately, to developing your highly focused, tailor-made customer experience. McDonalds had the first fast food hamburger chain, so to compete, Burger King had to adopt a different marketing strategy to distinguish itself... And it worked! As a kid, we never could go to McDonalds because my mother labeled it "junk food", but we did have Burger King. Apparently she felt that 'having it her way' somehow translated into better quality for her family, or maybe it was the flame-broiled cooking method that sold her. Either way, the brand development BK employed helped them carve a niche in the marketplace - both through product differentiation and customer experience.
For small businesses the process of establishing a niche or value-add to distinguish ourselves from others is very similar. It starts with focusing on what you do, and how you do it. What is it you do absolutely better than anyone else? What do you do faster, or more efficiently, or with better results? How is your product or service distinctive from others in your industry? If its not, how can you enhance it by working in the processes that make you better, faster, more successful so that you can re-package your product or service so that the unique experience of using your company are crystal clear to prospects?
Let's say you can't possibly find a distinction between your business and Company B next door. What options remain?
Well, overall customer experience is one. Improving the entire process of doing business with you will differentiate you from the pack.
Focus on these areas:
1. Employee Satisfaction (happy employees spread good will toward customers)
2. Consistent Delivery (product/service quality, process, and timeliness)
3. Accentuating the Positive (focus on CAN instead of cannot)
4. Accessibility (customers must be able to get information or reach you)
5. Effective problem solving (when a problem occurs it must be fully and completely resolved)
Notice that price is NOT on the list? Why? Because if you build customer loyalty via consistent branding and excellent customer experience, they'll pay more for your product/service than they will for your competitors. I'll say that again rephrases... customer loyalty means you never have to compete on price - because you've set yourself above the rest, and your customers recognize it.
An unnamed figure once said that: “Branding is the promise that you make to your customer.”
Let's get back to branding specifically and address the five points above in terms of your brand:
1. Employee Empowerment leads to Employee Satisfaction... everyone needs to feel valued. A valued employee working in a company culture that encourages idea sharing, iniative and drive (training is critical first), will exude onto your customers naturally. Company culture is definitely part of your brand development process.
2. Branded Products and recoded procedures are key to Consistent Delivery (insisting on product look/feel and quality that is consistently excellent is a direct reflection of the work you've done on your brand).
3. CAN vs Cannot = Accentuating the Positive... Listening to the client's real needs is huge here - and adjusting your product/service deliverables puts you in an easier position to say YES, rather than no.
4. Technology is required for good Accessibility...yes, you must have a website, and yes, it must have phone numbers, email addresses, contact forms, and they all must go to someone who responds!!
5. When Problems occur, and, yes, they WILL occur, what processes have you put in place to quicky and effectively resolve the problem to the customer's satisfaction, not yours! Are your procedures written down, are your employees trained well and have you tested the processes?
Yes, of course, branding still involves a distinctive logo, color scheme and slogan, but today branding represents an entire corporate identity and culture focused on customer centric models of differentiation between your product and service and the next guy. Provided you've created a brand identity that's natural, realistic and truthful, you should have no problem living up to the mark you've set, and keeping your product off the commodities market.
More than ever before, customers consider the wider-ranging experience they have with companies, and they're quicker than ever to share them socially. Others take this into account before making purchases and consumers look at multiple sources for reviews online and pay a lot of attention to testimony from friends and collegues. This makes matching your branding strategy with excelllent results more important than ever before in history.