Have you ever had a meeting with a vendor where you were fairly certain that their entire goal in life was to “sell” you? They didn’t care if they lacked the best product, or the best price, or the best customer service…they were bound and determined to “spin” it and convince you they did.
They probably talked fast and glossed over key details (the “your firstborn child is ours” kind of detail). They probably made things more complicated than they needed to be and hoped you wouldn’t ask clarifying questions. Maybe they got defensive if you did.
Not a super remarkable experience, I’m betting.
That’s because they’re missing a key brand trait – the final in our list of five traits that make a remarkable brand:
Number 5: Transparency
People have been beating the ‘transparency drum’ pretty hard for the last 10 years, but it’s still such a critical piece that I have to touch on it.
Let’s first start by defining transparency since I think it has come to mean a lot of different things to different people.
First, it doesn’t mean you do all your meetings by hologram…although that would be awesome.
It also doesn’t mean that you share every last detail of your business with anyone who will listen. In fact, that’s part of Forbes’s “9 Things That Make You Unlikable”. So, please don’t.
In fact, there will always be information in your business that isn’t for everyone’s eyes, so I’m not sure “transparent” means you need to open up your financials to the whole world. However, I’d also challenge a brand that chooses to not reveal the financials with, “well, why not?”
What are the reasons for keeping that information private? Is there unnecessary or unfounded uncertainty that’s holding you back?
Clarity & Honesty
Transparency means building a culture of clarity and honesty. People should be able to “get” things easily, and they should have faith in what’s been communicated (that they got the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth). It means taking complex issues and making them as simple as possible.
When a customer asks about the details of their product warranty, they shouldn’t have to dig forever on your website and then sift through pages and pages of legalese. (Because, you know, who doesn’t love a little legalese?)
It should be clear to customers in the sales process what they’re getting – what’s covered and what isn’t.
Remarkable brands are confident in their clarity. The value of being forthright outweighs the risk of rejection. With the rest of your brand (the purposeful, authentic, responsive, and empowering parts of your brand) backing you up, you should be first in line to say, “Search me.”
Threadless (the t-shirt brand), does a fantastic job with clarity in communicating their return policy. Despite not allowing returns, they communicate why they made that decision and how they work to make dissatisfied customers happy. Take a look at their verbiage, if you want.
Internally, when an employee asks to better understand the bottom line (the one he or she has been asked to improve at some level) you walk them through it. You give them the reports and training needed to understand the financial health of the business.
Bonus: Brands that do this usually find employees are more bought-in and become more understanding of financially-driven decisions.
Mistakes & Missteps
Transparency means owning your mistakes and addressing them appropriately.
Own your domain of expertise – don’t try to BS areas of ignorance.
If you’re focused on a particular industry, don’t make claims of expertise in others.
If you’re really good at making soap, be careful getting in to making computers. It’s okay to say, “we don’t really do that…but we have some good partners we can refer you to.”
That’s being transparent. And that’s the kind of clarity that everyone appreciates.
So that wraps up our series about traits of remarkable brands. If you need to get caught up, here are the shortcuts:
Are there more traits that you think go into a remarkable brand? Do these resonate with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.