In a recent post, we talked about brand pillars and why they’re so important to have in a small business. Because branding is a multi-layered thing, we also wanted to touch on the topic of brand experience.
What is brand experience?
A brand experience is just what it sounds like – every possible interaction between a customer and your brand. This can include several factors:
The brand’s performance – If it meets customers’ needs and performs better than other options available.
The brand’s treatment – The way customers are treated when dealing with the small business.
The brand’s community – Whether or not a small business has a connection to its broader customer base.
Of course, as with many things related to branding and marketing, the feelings and emotions of the customer come into play. And for good reason, too – would you want to keep up a relationship with a small business that consistently made you feel dumb, or like a nuisance?
The brand experience is designed to encourage people to return to your small business gladly, to meet the needs and desires of your customers, and to increase customer satisfaction. Take time out to imagine your small business from your customers’ point of view – in what ways do you want to be treated? How do you want your questions answered? If you do have any complaints, what actions do you want your small business to take? Make sure your brand experience is consistent, while keeping up with customers and meeting new and emerging needs. It’s the culmination of all your hard work in developing your brand, so make it good!
What tips do you have for defining your small business’ brand experience?
All of us can likely list off a number of brand names off the top of our head, whether world-famous or locally renowned. Brands are seen everywhere, within every industry. A brand represents the emotional and logical associations that you make with a certain company, product or service. The interesting thing about branding is that it reflects internal and personal interpretations, which may differ between people and cultures.
So how do you design a brand for your small business that customers will react to positively? Creating brand pillars is one way.
What are brand pillars?
Brand pillars as the most important values and characteristics of your small business that you want to communicate in your branding. Your small business can have as many brand pillars as you like, but you should focus on the ones most important to your business’ image and values – for example, “Accountability” may be more important to your business than “Community Involvement.” And deciding not to include “Community Involvement” doesn’t mean you don’t care about the community your small business operates in – it just means it’s less critical to your image than other brand pillars.
When planning your small business’ marketing strategy, identify your brand pillars very early in the process, and empower all your employees to keep your brand pillars in mind with everything they do for your small business. You don’t have to expressly outline your brand pillars word-for-word in your marketing, but use them to guide your actions. If one of your brand pillars is “Community Involvement,” for example, you probably will want to partner with local associations to sponsor events. This consistency and dedication will help maintain a positive association in the mind of your customer.
An interesting start-up issue came up in the last The Pitch show on BNN. I was on the panel with Brian Kobus and Jeremy Gutsche (both pictured with me at the right, having a chat before we go on air). One of the Pitchers was Marina Prospero from Perfectore Canada – a company that sells a resistance device designed to improve posture while we work.
I was critical of Perfectore’s lack of sales traction in eight years when they referenced feedback from over 30,000 test subjects. At what point do you say “That’s enough testing! We’re going to market!”
There’s a lot to balance when it comes to beta-testing with real, early-stage customers to make sure your product is a winner when it hits the market and generating internal cashflow to keep your investors and bankers happy and your product development going. But how much testing is too much?
Normally, I encourage over-optimistic entrepreneurs to test, not to stop testing. So this was an unusual situation. If you are launching a new or innovative product or service, you must seek early stage beta customers to help you:
Work out any bugs or kinks in your product, delivery, pricing or marketing models.
Fine tune the customer value proposition.
Gain early sales traction – beta customers will pay – maybe not full retail but you should be able to generate some cashflow from them.
Gain brand awareness through their endorsement and testimonials.
At some point you have to hit the “Go!” button and take your little piggy to market. Going to market before you’ve done your homework with early-stage beta customers is often fatal. Going to market after you’ve spent too much time testing and not enough time building internal cashflow through sales is also often fatal in business. Just know that product development never ends. At GoForth, we are on the third revision of our small business and entrepreneurship education program – in 21 months. Will our product development ever be finished? No. I learned to put my perfectionism aside and go to market to great success knowing that our education program – like your products and services – are works in progress.