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People—The essential element of your company’s brand

By Jennifer Holland

rsz_brand_webIf you’re a CEO, ask yourself: When was the last time I had one-on-one contact with my customers? I’ll bet it was quite a while ago, if ever.

A brand defines your customers’ relationship with your company, and it’s an extremely valuable business asset that will ensure your company’s success. But do you know what your brand experience really is like for your customer?

A brand promise must be communicated and delivered every time someone comes into contact with your business. These touchpoints include when someone looks at an advertisement, clicks on a website, and, most importantly, interacts with any of your company’s employees.

Customers want what is promised. But when it is not there—or worse, when it is inconsistent—they no longer believe the company’s promise and will turn to a competitor who earns their trust.

Every CEO knows about the traditional four Ps of marketing—product, price, place and promotion—that must be considered in every business venture. Your challenge is to add a fifth P to the list: People.

This oh-so-important element of branding is a simple concept, but all too often, CEOs miss it.

When CEOs think about the final point of contact for generating brand loyalty, they usually focus on the customer. After all, customers buy your product and recommend it to friends, and they are less likely to switch brands if they are satisfied.

But I believe in what the Dale Carnegie Institute preaches: “The one thing that creates sustainable competitive advantage—and therefore ROI, company value and long-term strength—is the workforce, the people who are the company.”

customer satisfactionYour employees are critical to customer satisfaction and long-term loyalty. After all, your employees are the last point of contact with your brand, its public face. They must be engaged and on message with the brand at this crucial juncture.

No matter what your company does, or how you connect with your customers—whether at the cash register, as a voice over the telephone, or as a name on an email response—your employees must live and breathe the brand. In fact, in the eyes of most customers, people are the brand. It has even been said that people do not work for companies; they work for people.

Every time someone comes in contact with a business, whether that person is part of an internal or external audience, all efforts must be aligned for the brand to reach its full potential. Without a strategic brand development initiative that includes a company’s people, elements such as logos, websites and marketing plans will all be merely executions of the brand that lack real substance.

These common elements might attract people initially, but they won’t actually help you acquire customers. They’re tactics, not strategy. Putting tactics ahead of strategy will cost you much more in dollars, time, effort and resources.

That’s why we teach the Holland Helix, which integrates your company’s brand operationally. If your company’s business strategy is solid, this brand development model incorporates a methodology and process to systematically grow your business.
hollandHelixThis approach incorporates the three essential elements for increasing profits—aligning business+brand+people strategies in everything your company does, with the key component being your people.

Employees build a brand for the long-term because they are closest to the customers.Therefore, engaging your employees in every aspect of your brand in order to deliver on its promise demonstrates clear and consistent synergistic levels of commitment to both brand-building and people-building.

The Holland Helix model is not a one-time initiative, as the business+brand+people effort is always evolving. It is a top-down strategy that begins with uncovering the essence of the brand. This means that your people learn what is unique about your company. Then solutions are developed to link your people with your brand, controlling perceptions by using a model that acquires, connects and engages employees with the brand over time.

Many successful companies have effective and sustainable business and brand strategies, but too many neglect the people strategy. Apply a brand lens to select the right people to fit your company’s culture and deliver on your brand promise. Treat your employees as you do your customers, and you will reap the profits.

Gallup research shows that organizations with engaged employees enjoy 3.9 times the earnings per share growth rate. And, when it comes to customer loyalty, interactions with people matter most to 80 percent of customers.

Internal brand engagement separates successful brands from everyone else. Incorporating the business+brand+people strategy ensures there is no more self-sabotage of inconsistencies and contradictions in your company’s brand efforts.

Most companies have failed to emotionally connect with their customers, despite sometimes spending millions of dollars a year on advertising, celebrity ambassadors, loyalty programs, fancy websites and more—all in the pursuit of brand devotion. They fail to connect with customers because they are not doing enough to connect their brand with their own people.

So if you want to increase your company’s customer base, boost customer loyalty and empower your staff, aligning the business+brand+people strategies is the most assured way to go.

Business and brand strategy alignment are not enough. The people strategy must be the integral third element of the process. After all, happy employees make happy customers.

By Jennifer Holland

jennifer hollandJennifer Holland, CEO and President of Holland Creative Studios, has an impressive clientele from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Holland is the home of the “Build Your Brand DIY Workshop” (DIYbrand.com) that educates CEOs, marketing and HR professionals how to implement the Holland Helix™. She is a regular speaker at brand development seminars, educational conferences and internal adoption workshops. Holland People+Brands is a brand development firm with offices in Jacksonville and Charlotte, N.C., and its sister company, Holland Creative Studios, has been a multi-award-winning design firm in Jacksonville, Florida since 1997.

 


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