In today’s retail environment, nothing is more important to your marketing program than the promised experience your brand makes. The performance of your brand promise is not just a catchphrase that trips off people’s tongues, but a fundamental and foundational part of the success of your retail business. Your brand promise is the experience new and prospective customers expect to have when interacting with your brand at each touch point. Unfortunately, some brands have fostered a very negative brand promise, and we inherently expect a lousy encounter when doing business with that brand based on our personal experiences or word-of-mouth information.
The key to a successful brand promise is your ability to deliver the same experience consistently and continually every time anyone interacts with your business through multiple touchpoints. The more and more often you can deliver on that promise, the stronger the value of your brand in the mind of customers and employees.
Customers and prospective customers should have the same experience with your brand when visiting your store, interacting with your staff, making a purchase, attending a store event, visiting or shopping on your website, following your brand on social media, reading your customer newsletter, even lodging a complaint, or making a request, and more. Most business owners cannot articulate their brand promise in terms of values or ethics, instead reciting who they are regarding their inventory, events, local or regional standing as a business, or financial success. A brand promise should be a statement of ethics and unique values stating the clear advantage to customers of doing business with you. It is rarely consistent with a company tagline. Your brand promise should distinguish you from your competitors in your market.
Remember that a brand promise is not a mission or vision statement. Mission statements tell an internal workforce what a company does, often to inspire and motivate them. A vision statement generally recites tangible goals a company plans to achieve. A brand promise, in contrast, is externally focused and should hold your business accountable for delivering a consistent customer experience to create loyalty and trust among your buying public.
What should you do to tune up your brand promise or create the retail experience you want your customers to have with your brand?
#1. Write down what you want your brand promise to be from your perspective. What would be the ideal experience you want your customers to have when bringing you their business? It might include new and inventive inventory, a consistently beautiful or welcoming atmosphere, a comprehensive selection within a particular category, knowledgeable and helpful staff, personalized service, events that are not ‘more of the same,’ loyalty programs, personalized recommendations from staff based on past purchases, inviting communication with your customer base, or other attributes can be delivered consistently across your customers’ experience.
#2. Conduct a competitive analysis of your closest or most important competitors, asking yourself and others their experience with your competitors’ brands. As your brand promise should be unique, taking an inventory of the promise offered by those most likely to share your customer baseis a crucial first step.
#3. Next, compare your desired brand promise to what your competitors offer as their customer experience. Where is there an opportunity for your brand to fill a gap in needs, to do something better or different, to create a distinct brand personality, or even to better meet the needs of your shared market? Add any values or ethics to your brand promise list.
#4. Identify or tune up your written brand promise with your staff members and a few longtime customers through a group conversation that invites candor and creative thinking. Hold the functional equivalent of a focus group where all ideas are invited without judgment. Be careful not to respond defensively if you disagree with their assessments. You are there to learn and to grow the health of your business.
#5. Once you and your group establish a strong brand promise statement, ask your most loyal customers where they believe your new or emerging brand promise is well communicated and where it might be lacking. As part of this, check each customer touch point and assess how you can improve in any area. This includes examining your advertising, store layout, employee training, pricing, inventory, shopping experience, purchase process, the content and management of your events, newsletters, and especially social media messaging. It might include store hours, your return policies, and even how you handle complaints or disgruntled customers. What are your customers and prospects experiencing in these touch points, and does it match the experience you desire them to have?
#6. Finally, implement any changes you need to make to improve the delivery of your desired brand promise. Examine how you are doing along each customer touch point by regularly asking your customers and employees their opinions and experiences with your business. Using your brand promise as a yardstick to measure your performance will increase the trust and loyalty of your customers over time, who will surely share that through word of mouth with their family and friends and the rest of the world.
Once you begin to incorporate your brand promise into all elements and areas of your business, always asking yourself if your decisions support the experience you desire for customers, all decisions about inventory, staffing, advertising, language, and core marketing activities will become easier, as you have developed a robust set of values as your yardstick and a consistent way to make decisions to support the prosperity of your business every day.