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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

More on Brand Harmony


Steve Yastrow's "Brand Cafe" site offers some useful insights and additional articles -- while of course promoting his book and consulting practice.*

This morning, I woke up with one of those disturbing insights that might be insignificant, but could represent an important change in perspective. My question: "What are we doing about Brand Harmony for our own business?" raised a second question: "Are we practicing what we are preaching?"

These points touched home as I reread a portion of Steve Yastrow's Brand Harmony book, where he discussed "touch points" -- the places where our clients interact with our own business. As I've noted several times in this blog, marketing is NOT all about the front end -- getting clients to call and creating sales leads for the business. It is in fact the entire client experience, leading (if done right) to so much satisfaction, enjoyment and value that the clients enthusiastically return for more -- and create word-of-mouth positive awareness. To be successful, brand harmony needs to be consistently applied to create just the right degree of client respect and personalization. Little things mean a lot -- failures in some aspect of our process, like a voice mail system that doesn't work properly, or the failure of our administrative employee to return calls promptly (perhaps because the voice mail system doesn't work) -- could mean more than any front end communication and messaging.

So how well is our own business doing with its own Brand Harmony? Here, I am not just a little concerned. The voice mail system we are using, for example, is it working right? Am I practicing my own preaching and returning phone calls promptly? If a client has a concern or is confused about our invoicing practices and methodology, are we responding quickly -- and/or do we need to improve our forms and processes.

These things are just the basics, however, areas where I sense we haven't lived up to the ideals. But what about the deeper issue, the entire picture of the relationship between client, business and employees. What are we doing -- or not doing -- to induce the real sense of connection and respect; of underlying value and positive spirit -- between our customers and ourselves? Are we falling into the way of what Yastrow describes as "entropy", the 'old ways' of "get the job done and move on". This is a real issue in a business where many of our sales are, frankly, transactional one-time events.

Yastrow's book advocates a systematic process to developing and maintaining Brand Harmony -- I've been (I fear) glossing over the parts of the book where the real work is required; the process of thinking through and implementing the structures we need to use to create a much more meaningful experience. I don't want to use "customer satisfaction" -- it is a cliche. I don't want to get trapped in the horrendous "measurement" process where surveys are foisted on clients and become intrusive ordeals, to generate the numbers we are seeking in our own minds but which really mean little to our clients. (Take for example, the awful audit survey call someone made to me yesterday from a trade magazine I had never requested but didn't mind receiving. She started asking question after question, telling me the call was being recorded. Rote questions, rote concern, "just get the numbers" -- no, I wasn't playing her game. I gave answers which would be useless for any positive audit measurement. She didn't even ask me at the beginning: Is this call convenient for you?")

So, I will look inwards now; and ask my own questions. Right this moment, at 6:00 a.m. on a winter Wednesday, I'm not exactly happy where I am at. "Brand Harmony", eh. Maybe before telling anyone else to do this, I should put my own house in order.

* Aha, so I go to the site, and there is a link "Buy the (Brand Harmony) book" and the link doesn't work. It is a dead link. I don't feel so bad now. Even the organization which has the leadership role in the Brand Harmony concept has failed to practice at the key execution touch point, at least when I checked this morning. You can purchase the book at Amazon.com, though.

3 comments:

Sonny Lykos said...

Mark, a lot of what you said goes on in most companies, large and small. It's also to easy to rationalize our internal bad habits, of which the longer they become entrenched, the harder to recognize and break. That said, reading your comments reminded me of what I read many, many years ago that's appropriate here:

"When you are up to your ass in alligators, it's easy to forget what you were in the swamp in the first place."

Mark Buckshon said...

Today, I took some small (but important) steps to fix some of the more glaring deficiencies in our processes -- like the phone line used by our part-time accounting/collections person which had sat unanswered (without anyone checking messages) since before Christmas! Embarassing, sure, but the systems fix is easy enough once you look at the problem. (The part-time employee, ill over the holidays, is returning on Friday, and a second administrative employee will check messages in the meantime; with a minimum 24-hour-turnaround.)

Steve Yastrow said...

Mark - Bullseye to the heart! Thanks for the comments, both the good ones and pointing out the link problem. Changed the website over to a new design a few days ago, and we missed that one. As Eeyore says, "Thanks for noticin'". Steve Yastrow