We’ve all had experiences that make us question if we really knew a person at all.
Perhaps you’ve worked with someone who was regularly vocal about what others should do but who remained strangely silent when given an opportunity to shape change. You might know a person whose social media persona is unrecognisable to the flesh and blood reality. Or maybe someone only gets in touch when they need something and you walk away wondering why they didn’t ask a single question about you (again).
“When people behave inconsistently with our expectations, it puts distance in the relationship and can erode our perceptions of credibility and trust.”
When people behave inconsistently with our expectations, it puts distance in the relationship and can erode our perceptions of credibility and trust. Smart business owners understand this and use it to their advantage.
Every touch-point with your brand is an opportunity to bring your client closer… or push them away.
It’s hard to maintain consistency across every part of the customer experience as you grow and the sooner – and more often – you make this a focus in your business, the easier it will be to manage over time.
Here’s 4 questions – and tips – to help you think about how well your consistency helps you stand out from the pack.
1. Do you always look like you? It’s easy for the visual identity of your brand to creep unless you have a dedicated resource (with a good eye) to manage it. It happens naturally because many of us tire of repetition and crave variety over time. In marketing, repetition works. Consistent visual cues help brands to be more easily and quickly recognised. It’s also more productive from an operational perspective as you’re not consistently reinventing the wheel.
TOP TIP: If you don’t have one already, it’s a great idea to develeop a visual brand guide. Start small (mine is only 3 pages) but be prepared to expand it as you grow. If you’re in a large or complex business, I recommend a two-part approach: the main document which is easily digestible for all, and an appendix for the marketing team who needs to manage the brand at a very granular level.
2. Do you sound like you? The words you choose and how you organise them communicates a lot about you. In fact, voice is arguably more important than visuals because it covers everything from collateral to tweets and texts.
TOP TIP: Take a broad sample of your content – website, welcome letter to new staff, payment reminder email, sales phone script and social media profiles – and read snippets out loud to yourself. What does it say about the business? Does it represent you? Is it too formal? Too chatty? Does it feel like there’s one voice across every sample channel or are there distinct authors with different approaches? Will the audience understand and relate to your message? Then ask a trusted associate and client to do the same. How well does what they read match how they see you?
3. How clear is your barcode? Some organisations put emphasis on credos and vision statements to engage their team in a shared vision. These have their place but in my experience, leaders who model constructive behaviours are the ones who get more from their team. Staying true to what you stand for and holding yourself accountable first for appropriate behaviours show your team what’s OK and what’s not. Say what you mean, do what you say.
TOP TIP: Do you tell people you care about work-life balance? Leave on time more often than not and when someone new starts, stop by just before knock off time to ask about their day, thank them and let them know it’s nearly time to pack up and head home. Do you describe your business as family-friendly? Encourage job-share roles, flexible working hours and don’t limit your thinking to believing only those who can work full time can fill senior positions.
4. Does your personal image match what you do? In the early days of my business, a trusted associate asked if I’d thought about how I planned to dress? She said she expected marketing people to show some flair. I hadn’t. And I’m no fashionista. While it’s still very much a work in progress, my choices these days are more considered and I have a few favourite pieces: a pair of checked pants, light grey felt heels, a statement necklace and even a more confident ‘blunt’ haircut.
TOP TIP: Review your your personal image every few years. Buy a good book on how to choose the right colours and styles for you (I liked “Colour me confident”) or for an affordable fee, you can get one-on-one support from a personal stylist (Adelaide-based Lizzy Eden does great work).
A brand isn’t a logo or a tagline. It’s living and breathing. The better you understand it, nurture it and step outside it to see it through the eyes of your customers, the more value it will deliver to you.