By Henrietta Pepper, president and founder of the pepper group, ltd.
At a time when business moves at lighting speed, technology is king. Every day it seems we hear about a new and “better” way of communicating important messages to customers, co-workers, employees and the world at large. Yet, regardless of the newest software, cloud-based application or social media tool around the corner, there are some principles that should never change in business. At the heart of your company is one thing—the soul of your business. Working to identify this “personality” and living true to its meaning in all aspects of business operations will help keep a company mission on course and steady through tough times.
While many business leaders may not have considered it from this perspective, working to fully understand the true personality, or “soul,” of an organization will help unlock a strong brand strategy. Once this central theme is established, everything else under the branding “umbrella” may unfold in a way that helps inform proper messaging, customer service policies, internal culture, advertising, identity and much more. Employees also tend to become more dedicated and focused when understanding they, too, are a critical part of a company’s soul and its mission to deliver exceptional products to customers.
Of course, this process of “personality discovery” can be daunting. Much like therapy or psychological testing, the process can be somewhat painful and arduous. Yet in the end, the hard work is all worth it. When a well-designed discovery process is in place, a rewarding and powerful result is likely to emerge.
The Brand Discovery Process
Brand discovery is the first critical step in this process. The pepper group, ltd. works closely with clients to unlock leadership teams’ perceptions of a company’s strengths and weaknesses. Much like the questions a person may pose to themselves, a brand discovery process begins quite simply with the following questions:
Who are we? What do we do? Why does it matter?
Often, companies most in need of this type of discovery are generations-old firms entrenched in “This is how we’ve always done it” thinking. Equally as common is a company that is beginning to decline or lose favor with customers. So often, after years of success, innovation and financial reward, a business hits a slump that company leadership cannot seem to explain or resolve. Sometimes, you just have to go back to the drawing board and shake out a lot of those long-held beliefs about “who you are.” Enter the initial discovery process—it can help uncover the root of the problem—much like therapy!
The Five Rs: A Foundation for the Future
The process of working through the brand discovery “formula” is a multilayered one. Most often, it is critical to capture the perceptions, beliefs and ideas of both long-held employees and new members of the team, who bring a fresh approach to the future direction of a company. While you may not need to include all members of your team in the brand discovery process, it is critical to consider a core cross-section of your team. Building a solid brand and making it part of the fabric of your organization is the foundation of any strategic marketing plan. This is where the “Five Rs of Marketing” come into play.
- Re-envision your company’s strategic direction. It is important NOT to be myopic. Engage employees and customers across all departments.
- Refine your customer experience focus. It is important to take a “deep dive” into what is most important to your customer base. Opinions and attitudes shift. What was important 10 years ago may not be so in today’s market.
- Resonate your message with customers. Communicating your organization’s message and value proposition consistently across all vehicles is critical. A “brand promise” will communicate to customers what they may expect from your brand in any circumstance.
- Re-energize your company’s culture to reflect your brand. Reward employees, celebrate success and foster communications among sales, marketing and operations functions.
- Re-evaluate success metrics. Instead of focusing exclusively on end-results measures, look instead up-stream. Measure and manage activities that deliver your brand’s required customer experience and drive customer advocacy.
In the end, it is all about transforming your company into one that is continually led and informed by its customers’ voices. Embarking on this journey begins with a critical first step—revealing the true soul of your company through the brand discovery process.
Henrietta Pepper is president and founder of the pepper group, ltd. Learn more at www.pepperltd.com. She is also president of the NAWBO-Louisville Foundation. She is proud to serve a two-year term in this role through December 2017.