For better or worse, first impressions matter. People are aware of this in their day-to-day interactions and tend to act accordingly (ever double-check your own reflection before a meeting?).
Unfortunately, many businesses lack that same level of self-awareness we have in our personal interactions. What personality is to you, brand is to your business. To use Marty Neumeier’s words when talking about brand, "it’s not what you say it is – it’s what they say it is."
With this in mind, here’s a list of the things you’d notice about your business if it walked into the bar and sat down next to you.
So the door to your local swings open and in walks your business. What is the first thing you notice? Is it neat and presentable? Warm and casual or professional and formal? Does it strut purposefully in, or amble leisurely? Brand image is one of the strongest factors at play in the buying process and, unsurprisingly for anyone who has done their research, it is also highly emotional.
Customers understand brand image from various contact points of interaction like:
Online: What keywords do you use? How are you marketing yourself online?
Quality: What is your product or service like?
Media: Eye-catching graphics or a minimalist approach?
Your Tone: Just a like a person, this can be caring, knowledgeable, playful, etc. Is the message conveyed with a meaningful and consistent tone?
Of course if your business pulled up a stool and the first thing you noticed was a smell of body odour, you’re going to know it stinks regardless of what it says.
Look after your brand image and it will look after you.
Your business orders a drink and sits down beside you. Depending on your marketing strategy, it could reach out to you and start a friendly conversation right away. Or it might sit back, sip in silence, and wait for you to show interest. And hey, some people love mystery.
But what it definitely should not do is the same as for anyone else who has just met a stranger –only talk about itself. Granted, a brand needs to communicate to its audience if it is to have an effect, but this should be engaging and allow for input from the other party.
A truly great brand knows if you want to talk and it might raise a glass to you, or nod to test the waters. Similarly, you might reach out to prospects via a community in which they are active, perhaps on LinkedIn. Or you might publicise an event or video to give an idea of what people who choose to work with you can expect.
So you get to chatting and it seems like there might be a relationship there. Is it time to go for the close? In the early 20th century, when sales and marketing were getting their legs, there was a seller’s market – customers had fewer ways of informing themselves. With digital media now abundant, buyers are in charge and can pick who they want to give business to. This means that modern brands:
Keep the customer’s needs in mind
Use content to communicate their message
Have dropped the old rule of “Always be closing” in favour of “Always be helping”
How your business reaches its customers will colour its image. Customers gravitate to brands that actively engage with them on social media, offer meaningful help and give generously. Does your business do any free give-aways, or offer special treatment to its most loyal brand ambassadors who will sing its praises for free? If so, whoever is lucky enough to have gotten a seat next to it might find it offering to get a round.
The night goes on, you’ve shared stories, gotten some useful advice, and you feel you’re beginning to figure out this business in front of you. But when it comes down to it, is it genuinely interested in building a lasting relationship, or simply leaving with your money?
“Don’t be evil” is the famous mission statement for Google. In a buyer’s market, customers will go where they feel the most brand loyalty. When they see black hat tactics such as link-spamming, keyword packing, or dishonest content, they will steer clear. While a shady business might pull the wool over someone’s eyes once, they lose the opportunity to develop a lasting relationship.
When we deal with people we have met before, we expect them not to change drastically each time we encounter them. If someone is talkative and boisterous one moment, only to retreat silently into themselves the next, they may not make the best company.
If you say you’re going to do something, do it.
Have a plan in place for social media marketing and creating content. This should include topics covered, keyword analysis, and frequency of posting.
A useful practice is to create a “brand bible” which lays out what a business does and does not stand for. By referring to this often, you will be sure to build a strong and lasting identity for your business.
If you give someone your details, expecting to hear from them soon and receive no follow-up, your impression of them will be tarnished if you ever meet again. Don’t let this be your business and hold yourself to your promises.
Brand is the personality of a business and equates to everything your customers see and perceive of it. Effectively presenting an honest and reliable image to your audience will pay dividends in the long-run if you spend the time and resources necessary to do so.
Remember, “it’s not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is”, - and if a business operates believing the opposite then it would be no surprise to find them in the pub more than once.
Have something to add? Feel free to share your own tips and opinions with us!
About the Author
Oscar is the Marketing Master behind SameRock. He strongly upholds our mission statement: “Beautiful Media for Beautiful Causes” and is always working on spreading the good word.
"...we're all standing on the same rock"