Becoming number one in your market niche depends upon your building a strong brand, and branding starts from within. Only through your employees having a consistent and widespread understanding of the unique value of your company can they represent that brand to the marketplace.
Branding is not just a great logo or a tagline. You build and reinforce your brand image at every point of customer contact, including with every telephone call, e-mail chat, IM message, Web page read, sales transaction, handling of a customer question, and fielding of complaints and feedback – not to mention your ad copy and conversations with the media. By creating among your employees and key business partners a common understanding about your brand and what it stands for, you will be investing in the long-term success of your brand.
Here are 4 keys to building a successful foundation for your brand through executing an internal branding strategy.
Key #1: Create a mantra: Guy Kawasaki, former key person at Apple-turned-venture capitalist, advises in his book “The Art of the Start” that companies create a mantra. A mantra is a short, 3 or 4 word phrase intended for regular, internal use by company employees. A mantra is not the same thing as a tagline and does not ever need to be heard by your customers. Rather, it is used to keep everyone in your organization on task concerning the real, unique value you offer your customers. Your mantra might be “We refresh you faster” or “Making the best plastics available anywhere.” Just put together a phrase that seems to express who you are and be sure every one of your employees knows it by heart.
Key #2: Link internal and external branding efforts: Ultimately, the value of your brand is a function of three main factors: the number of target customers who have heard of you, how your brand ranks in their minds, and the nature and depth of the value they associate with your brand name. In order to develop strong mindshare and contribute to your brand equity, however, your internal understanding of your brand must match your external advertising and PR efforts. Without such alignment, you will just be wasting your branding resources or worse, creating a gap between your daily actions (i.e., internal processes) and what you tell people you are really about (i.e., external messaging).
Key # 3: Make sure employees can articulate your unique value: Make sure your employees know not only your mantra, but also the specific ways that your company delivers value to your customers. A convenient way to help them conceptualize this value is to compare it specifically to that of your competitors. What do you do that your competitors do not? How can customers expect to benefit every time they do business with you? Find at least 2 or 3 specific value points that you offer and be sure your employees can articulate them.
Key #4: Reward employees for reinforcing your brand with daily actions: Knowledge and awareness are important, but action is golden. At least once per week or once per month, ask your employees to find at least one way to better reflect the value of your brand in your daily customer interactions. Ask yourself: how can you tweak or fundamentally change your internal and customer-facing processes so that they better communicate the value that your brand represents? Be sure to reward employees (and yourself!) when you come up with and implement these ideas. This is really where the rubber meets the road between your internal brand image and how your customers perceive your value.
Developing an internal branding strategy is the first step towards building a powerful brand. Be sure that your employees can articulate your company’s unique value – and then make sure that value is reflected at each point of customer contact. By doing so, you will be creating the kind of consistency between messaging and execution that will build unbelievably powerful brand equity with your customers. Fierce loyalty and better sales are soon to follow.