Fact: Consumers do business, and will do business with, companies that share the same values and beliefs as those customers do. Think of it as “value congruence”. As long as companies align with customer’s values and beliefs and remain consistent when communicating the firm’s values and beliefs, those customers will remain loyal and potentially act as advocates for the firm. Face it, having customers and partners that act as advocates for your organization can be a strong competitive advantage. Because most companies lack the resources or experience to adequately monitor all marketing and communications channels, loyal customers are a must.
There are excellent examples of consumers not simply being loyal to a particular brand, but these same consumers will go to bat and defend particular organizations and businesses. Some examples are Harley-Davidson, Snap-On, Eddie Bauer, Nordstrom, McLendon Hardware, Umpqua Bank and Columbia Bank.
The easiest way to capture the beliefs and values of your customer base is to issue a survey. A survey can be completed by your customers and/or potential customers online, or provide the survey in the old-fashion way – either by mail or ask your customers to fill out the survey in your place of business. Here’s a tip – offer an incentive to your customers and potential customers to complete the survey.
Asking your customers to fill out a survey after a purchase is a very effective strategy as well. Attaining responses from customers after the purchasing process can give your firm insight into why your product or service is valued more than a competitor’s and what is important to your customer base. I suggest being up-front about the subject matter of the survey. Let your customers know that your company wants to know what is important to the people that use what your firm offers.
When striving to align with customer beliefs and values, creating your company brand naturally comes next – or at least your desired brand. Be aware that a firm’s customer base is the determining factor when defining your company’s brand. Once a brand is defined, then your company may align and incorporate the values and beliefs of your customers and potential customers with your business’ identified values and beliefs.
Employees Play a Role
There’s one last factor in this equation – your employees. Employee engagement with your company brand is absolutely essential. How is this done? Implement your brand through employee engagement programs. Yes, in a word, training. Real value can be realized by making brand familiarity a cornerstone of training at every level of your business. No matter how motivated or engaged your staff is, employees that don’t know the basics of the brand that most closely represent your company will never reach full potential – and employees can’t learn the basics unless someone with experience is there to orient and guide.
JetBlue teaches employees to “breathe life” into a brand built on fun, safety, and integrity. JetBlue emphasizes these core values in introductory training programs that are administered by mentors who have already demonstrated a keen understanding of how the brand proposition is best communicated in a wide array of situations.
JetBlue is an excellent example of a company that doesn’t fall for the myth that great customer service is simply a matter of common sense. Because JetBlue takes nothing for granted, the carrier has created a brand identity that possesses the resiliency to withstand the impact of one staff member deviating from accepted employee behavior (in a recent situation, a JetBlue pilot experienced an emotional breakdown during a flight).
Employees need to be taught not just the fundamental principles of the brand, but be encouraged to reflect the principles in every interaction with customers. These interactions should not be laid down in the form of hard and fast rules, rather be set in a series of guiding principles that empower employees to make decisions autonomously that in the end support the company brand.
Nordstrom, JetBlue, and Southwest Airlines don’t dictate to customers what the company brand is, these companies use each and every interaction to show customers that the brand isn’t just a symbol – it’s an on-going philosophy. Brand behaviors are powerful points of differentiation for companies that emphasize brand behaviors. Brand behaviors are what separate Nordstrom, JetBlue, and Southwest Airlines from other organizations of the same size. These same principles and strategies that large corporations employ concerning alignment of values and beliefs and brand development can be implemented by your firm or organization to secure long-term growth.Tweet