Aside from advertising, employees are the first contact customers have with your brand. Making sure employees deliver a consistent brand experience goes beyond well-documented processes and checklists. Consistent brand delivery is a product of an intentional internal brand development process which helps employees to hear the brand, see the brand and ultimately live the brand.
So what exactly is Internal Brand Development?
Internal Brand Development is the process of training and educating your employees to properly deliver your brand values, products, and procedures. In other words, you are aligning your employees’ actions to that of the brand and what the brand uniquely offers your customers.
Why care about internal brand development?
When your entire staff (top to bottom) is pulling in the same direction, it yields several desirable outcomes, such as:
– Consistent delivery.
Visit any Chick-Fil-A restaurant and every “Thank You” is followed by a “My pleasure.” It’s a small token, but this memorable reply is distinctive – and consistent.
– Employees are more energized and it shows through a better brand experience.
When Bernie Marcus was CEO of Home Depot, employees were constantly reminded of the Home Depot difference, and associates were passionate about helping the “DIY” customer. This spirit revolutionized the category.
– Customers are willing to pay more to get “more”.
Starbucks charges more than anyone else for a cup of coffee because of the way the baristas make customers feel. Staff is engaging, welcoming and always willing to “make it right.”
So how do you get started?
First, a strongly defined brand promise and core brand values must be discovered and settled upon. What differentiates your business, and what promise are you willing and able to make to your customers?
The “brand” starts at the top. If the CEO of the company doesn’t find value in this initiative, it will be D.O.A. The brand development process (both internal and external) will only succeed if the CEO consistently verbalizes the importance of the brand and its values to all constituents – shareholders, employees, and customers.
Once leadership is on board and communicates the initiatives, hire people who get it – fire the ones that don’t. Employees come in contact with the customer on a daily basis, not management. If they “buy-in”, the customer will notice. The employee must understand the “why” behind what you do – what your company stands for, what makes you different, and why the customer needs the brand.
Once the employee understands the “why”, they need to be taught the “how.” This is when the processes of the business are installed. Keep in mind that every process you have should support and reinforce the brand promise and values. How do you handle returns? How long does it take to checkout? How do you greet customers? Every customer touchpoint should be examined. Once again, consistency is the name of the game.
After leadership and employees are performing in unison and processes are in place, reinforcement and recognition need to commence. This helps buttress the long-term success of brand adoption and remind employees how important consistent brand delivery is. How will you recognize and reinforce positive brand delivery? Words of encouragement, company awards, and employee perks are just a few of the many ways you can reward employees. Reinforcement reminds employees of the importance of good habits.
Internal brand development is a long-term strategy. Done correctly, it can take your business to unparalleled heights (as in Starbucks’ case). Done poorly, it provides lackluster returns and opens the door for focused competitors (think Home Depot).
How will you begin your path to better brand delivery?
Brant Kelsey is principal and founder of Kelsey Advertising & Design, a brand marketing and strategy firm in LaGrange, Georgia. He is a Certified Brand Strategist through the Brand Establishment. You can find Brant on Google+ and Twitter.