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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Simple things, really

These short sleeve dress shirts are available from Great Price, a division of Uniformalwearhouse LLC in New Jersey, online for less than $13.00 each. You can build your brand by buying a stack of these (and at this price, compared to a Yellow Pages ad, they could be disposable and still save you money!)

Yesterday, in an exchange of comments with Sonny Lykos, I asked for some industry-specific suggestions to create "Brand Harmony". I asked for the suggestions, because Steve Yastrow's Brand Harmony book (which Lykos graciously gifted to me) is full of examples from the airline, hospitality, and car rental industries -- but a little short on examples from construction.

Lykos, in his comment, wrote

Branding is simply what the customer thinks of you. It's that simple. It's not a logo. It's not a discount. It's not "only" the caliber of your work. Their perception is based upon a compilation of every single contact anyone from your company has had with them, and believe it or not, that includes how those in the company answer the phone, what they say, and their manner. It's the opposite of what one specialty contractor said to me when I called him for the first time: "Yea!"

I simply said: "I have the wrong number." and hung up. "I'm semiretired, yet even while working only part-time, my prices continue to be double to triple my supposed competition.

Your readers would be very smart for starters, to buy and read "Brand Harmony." And if they really understand the contents of the book, they will incorporate what's in it and begin to enjoy substantial increased margins, while reducing aggravation and time, in the running of their business.

The key is to not just "satisfy" a customer. Many business do just that, merely satisfy them. The key is to WOW each customer. Treat them in a manner that is the opposite of what they expect, and the opposite of what they expect because what they expect is the public's knowledge of the lousy reputation of our industry.

Or don't bother and keep the status quo - fighting for every job, and at less than you desire. Understand that "branding" brings the customer - and sales - to you, instead of you having to continually advertise and market while trying to sell yourself to them.

Remember, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target, Big lots, Family Dollar Store, and the like are all in the same category, the low end, and there are many of them. But how many Dillards exist? Don't brand yourself as a Chevy, but as a Cadillac or Lincoln, and with each hour prove that you're worth every dollar.

In an email exchange, I noted:

Sonny, thanks for your most recent comments. I will expand on these (and quote from them) in my next blog entry tomorrow morning. It is interesting how the simple things are important to establish the basis of brand – but it is scary to think that dressing neatly, answering the phone, and doing little favours is enough to create ‘wow’ reactions within the construction industry – of course it has always been my contention that just a little common sense marketing will go miles within this industry simply because it is so unsophisticated about marketing principals.
Lykos's response:

Correct. You would not believe just in the comments that I, a tradesman, wears short sleeve, button down collar, white dress shirts (Wal-Mat $12) and kaiki pleated pants ($15), and shined brown shoes. And people are surprised when I call in advance even if only think I might be 5 minutes late. I get the same "No one does that any more" nearly every time.

I deliberately 'broke style and have enlarged the last quotes from Lykos here. Look. Wearing neat clothes costing $27 at Wal-Mart, and calling in advance when you think you might be late (Priceless), are the sorts of thing that create your brand. And are rather easy to implement systematically -- you can insist your employees follow these rules. The fact remains, the construction industry is so far behind the rest of the business community, you only need to be mediocre in business/branding practices within this industry to assume a leadership role and reap the rewards of effective branding. And this is especially the case if you find yourself a much-maligned, exploited and frustrated sub trade contractor scraping for bidding opportunities!


Sonny Lykos said...

Mark, in the excellent book: "The Experience Economy", one learns that "Branding" is really all about the "experiences" one "perceives" they have had with a company: One of their staff, or one of their associates, or their staff.

Well, that about covers anyone that comes in contact with "your" customer. Think about it. What have your experiences been with your favorite restaurant, car or truck, or dealership, coffee cafe, anyone?

And what experiences do you provide for your customers? Negative, so-so, or WOW? Obviously only the WOW experiences contribute to the "Raving Fans" (a book title) each of us consciously seek - or unconsciously drive to our competitors.

Remember, net profits, gross margins, sales stats, customer retainage, employee moral, and Oh yea - "experiences"- all start and stop, like the buck, at the top.

So start with the attitude of the person at the top - you. That's critical because your attitude, like an infection, or the antidote, is disseminated downward and sideways. You set the tone, or as business consultants call it - culture.

Do you know what your culture is? Exactly?

Once more: Branding is the result of customer perceived experiences. And again, it's that simple. But still, there are always some still can't, or refuse to acknowledge that reality.

Construction Marketing Ideas said...

Sonny's observations are causing me to think of my own business -- of creating the right experience for our own clients.In the advertising business, of course, the ideal experience is results -- but realistically most of our ads don't get the phone to ring -- they simply enhance existing supply chain relationships. We are working on initiatives to deliver more value, but I sure would like to make the entire experience more rewarding and positive. Somethings to think about as the Holiday Season approaches.