Your reputation is arguably the single most valuable asset in your company. It can take years to build a good one, yet just hours to damage it. Because it’s intangible, you can easily lose sight of it when you're buried in the day to day operations. You will have a reputation whether you cultivate it or neglect it. Strong brands don’t get there by accident. It takes intentional, consistent effort to build the reputation you want.
Understand Where You Are
Do you really know how you are perceived in the community? Do you understand how your customers or potential customers view you? Do you understand why your loyal customers keep coming back? Do you know why some first-time customers never come back? This kind of knowledge is invaluable, but not inaccessible. You can’t improve unless you understand exactly where you need to improve.
Perceptions are very delicate. They can be formed from just a snapshot of the reality. If the bathroom is dirty the one time a new customer walks in, that will always be their perception. If an employee handles something poorly one time, that will always be their perception.
Here are a few ways you can gauge your reputation:
- Customer Surveys
- Employee Surveys
- Gather Existing Reviews from Google, Yelp, etc.
- Website & Social Media Audit
- On-Site Brand Audit
- Review The Competition
- Analyze Results
Develop Your Brand Strategy
By understanding where you need to improve, you can begin to work towards solutions. Your brand will be communicated to customers in countless ways. A few of those are employee culture, leadership, design, online presence, interior design and cleanliness, exterior presentation, and so much more. The purpose of a brand strategy is to be able to bring the right message to the right person through the right touch points.
If you are going to communicate your value and shape perception, you need to have a plan. You cannot accidentally communicate a clear, consistent message throughout all of your touch points. Your employees and leadership need to understand the brand and what it represents.
Here are a few of the elements that should be part of your brand strategy:
- Brand Character
- Brand Personality
- Target Customer
- Positioning Statement
- Positioning Supporting Actions
- Value Proposition
- Brand Promise
- Brand Handbook
Once you develop your strategy, you need to be able to stay focused on daily, weekly, and monthly tasks to execute it. A brand strategy is only profitable if everyone is on board and you put it into action. Investing small, consistent deposits is the best way to build a stronger brand.
By developing a brand handbook, you will have a foundation for decision-making and communications that build the brand. Every action you take and all of your marketing touch points should support the core strategy.
Here are some of the ways you can execute your strategy:
- Identity design elements
- Strategy-driven social media posts
- Community events
- Contests, giveaways
- Partnerships with complementary brands
- In-store communications
- Website verbiage
- Email communications
Every brand is different. Different target audiences will require different methods, but the point is to make a plan that works for you. Don’t make the mistake of just floating downstream like the competition. Make adjustments when needed and keep investing in your greatest asset.
Taking steps to shape your reputation will require effort, but the payoff is well worth it.