Why should anyone deal with you?

branding Jan 07, 2016

(How to construct a brand promise…)

Even if a prospective customer doesn’t ask you the above question outright, that’s what they’re thinking! It’s natural for us to behave this way. We want to get value and don’t want to feel foolish if we’ve bought something that didn’t serve us well.

If you were to ask your staff the same question, would you be confident they would all respond with exactly the same answer? Further, would their answer make perfect sense to a prospective customer?

It has always been important to give customers a good reason to deal with you but it’s all the more important now given a crucial factor that has taken shape only over the last ten years or so: supply has outstripped basic demand – for everything we commonly need!

Between the end of World War II to around the year 2007 there was enough basic demand to absorb supply. There was competition, but you could usually find someone, somewhere in your local market to buy what you were selling. Not so today! With some technologies advancing exponentially, increased connectedness (internet) meaning many services are available overseas cheaper than those available locally and huge efficiency gains in manufacturing and the supply chain as a whole, there is an almost bewildering array of choice for just about anything we need to buy!

So the question of why anyone should deal with you is more important than ever? Put another way, what do you commit to delivering each and every time to a customer that will set you apart from other options? Or more precisely, what is your “Brand Promise?”

What you want is a high volume of customers that come back for more and more. Your brand promise answers the question: how, specifically do we achieve that?

How to choose your brand promises?

A good place to start is to list your prospective and current customers’ biggest frustrations in dealing with suppliers in your industry. Talk to them and try and discover what drives them nuts. Then ask some ‘what if’ type questions: what if we could do this, what if we could remove that, what if we could speed this up, what if we could cut that cost out…

If the answer to any of those questions would make the customers’ lives better or get rid of a key frustration, that could be one of your brand promises. Choose a small number that you can deliver repeatedly. Here are a couple of examples from super-successful companies.

  • Southwest Airlines’s brand promise is their three “LFs”: Low fares, Lots of flights, Lots of fun. (Southwest is one of the world’s most admired corporations).
  • Rackspace’s brand promise is “Fanatical Support”: Specifically, get a level 2 technical support engineer on your first call and have the problem solved without call transfer. (These guys were 2015 Microsoft Hosting Partner of the Year!)

No promise is worth much unless you can keep it!

The best companies have metrics measured frequently to ensure they meet their promises. Each promise needs a KPI: A kept promise indicator to ensure that things are not slipping and you are nailing your commitments.

What to avoid in a brand promise…

Avoid using the words “quality” and “service.” They are generic, vague and just about everyone uses them! Your brand promise is exactly what you do to deliver quality and service.

And don’t try to solve all of your customers’ frustrations. You can’t be all things to all types of customer and you will lose your differentiation if you try. Southwest don’t allow you to reserve seats or book a meal (which might be frustrations for some customers). They are so good at the other promises, customers love them and come back for more.

Will your brand promise be copied?

Almost certainly! Or more correctly, if you are successful many will try and copy you and some may succeed. Take Federal Express. They became super successful when they promised overnight delivery by 10:30am. This was ground breaking in the industry and FedEx-ing something became a term (like Xerox-ing was a few years ago and Googling is today). Nowadays if you want to be a serious player in the courier business you need to be able to provide overnight services as a minimum! FedEx then spent a billion dollars on implementing technology that allows you to see exactly where your package is during it’s journey, supported by the slogan “Relax it’s FedEx”.

In closing

Will arriving at a brand promise take time? Yes. But it’s worth the effort. Get it right and it will drive your business forwards in an ever more crowded marketplace. Get it wrong and you’ll struggle to differentiate yourself and melt into the background. Yes, if you’re successful others will try and copy you, so like Federal Express, always be on the lookout for the next promise you will have to make.

Ian Homer

Ian is a Gazelles certified coach and is based in Singapore. He’s spent nine years helping executives improve performance in marketing, sales and execution. He also loves sports and stand-up comedy

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