It’s hard to measure brand. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. As practical people, we know better. At Resound, we’ve worked with some pretty tough, focused brands who don’t like to waste money. So it made sense to us when we saw branding elder statesman Marty Neumeier describe his brand ladder. He insists — and we agree — that branding not only increases your value in the minds of your customers, but it’s measurable. Let’s talk about how.
Neumeier’s ability to create concrete philosophy around the value of branding helps everyone in business, especially B2B businesses whose rate of repeat customers and unpaid advertising by customers (free, word-of-mouth advertising), depend on their brand.
But even as you’re thinking about measurement, remember that no gimmick or measurement should be your primary focus. All these methods of measurement should lead you to actually deserve return customers and the word-of-mouth the experience generates.
How to Think about Measurement
First off, let’s remember that just because something’s hard to measure doesn’t mean it’s not important. And if there is a way to come close to measuring it or approximate measurement, that might be better than measuring nothing.
Let’s look at each one, using Neumeier’s terminology, for consistency.
Neumeier calls it “satisfaction.” You call it “returning customers.”
The truth is there are a few ways to measure branding. But what are the signs? Because if we know the signs, then we can measure.
Simply put, do customers come back? Do they show signs that they’re interested in continuing to build that relationship at least in the short term until something better comes along? This is your first sign that your brand is solid.
A strong brand works from the inside out, putting your team on the same page, singing from the same sheet of music, making success less accidental, and giving ownership to everyone at your company. This, combined with a great external message, both makes a promise and keeps it.
But maybe you think it’s a good sales team and a good customer service team. You might say “We don’t do branding. We just preach a set of values consistently inside and outside the company that’s more than talk, but turns to action, showing integrity in everything we do.” Dude, you just defined the most important part of branding.
But sometimes people just want confidence. Think about a big consultancy, like McKinsey. If you want to know whether your business strategy is sound, you ask for their mark of approval. Once you have that, it’s almost impossible for anyone to blame you for a bad business decision. There’s value in a brand name.
Measurement is simple. How many people return? How many consider you their go-to? The simple, plain-vanilla way: You can see how many people come back by keeping good records of customers and their return.
Neumeier calls it “delight.” You call it “referrals.”
What the heck is “delight” you say? It’s creating a pleasant surprise that the customer wasn’t expecting that’s in-line with your values and makes sense and extends the experience.
Why do you care? Because it means referrals. Delighted people tell others about you. They defend you in conversations because they feel they know you. And they like you.
Here’s where business-to-business is a little different. Although you can delight your customers by making them look smart and furthering their careers because of the great decisions they make, it’s not always such a personal experience as if you were an end-customer. In B2B, you’re more likely to get referrals because people want you to know they use you. It might be a status thing that reflects on the company.
- Keap (formerly Infusionsoft) and Salesforce users point to their use of the industry-leading software as a badge. They are the kind of company they use an advanced CRM.
- Mechanics are proud of the tools they use, because it makes them look serious. Consider Snap-on or Milwaukee tools.
Measure: Find out how many people are recommending you by looking at social media and then offering a discount to the person who’s the new customer if they can tell you who recommended them.
Apply it Here
These are examples. The chances that this list is perfect for your business are pretty small. The real magic is when you discover how to build your measuring tools from your strategy, creating bookends that both plan and then find out if it worked, allowing you to adjust and troubleshoot until you have the perfect system for your brand.
Build Your Strategy
So decide the following, this is your strategy:
- Who are we serving?
- What do they want?
- Satisfaction: What promise are we making? What are we telling our staff? Is it the same thing? Do they believe it?
- Satisfaction: What are we doing to fulfill that promise?
- Delight: What can we do to make them proud to work with us? What are our competitors doing in that regard? What about another industry? How can we implement it here?
Build Your Measuring Tools
How will we measure satisfaction?
- Are our employees and processes equipped to satisfy? How do we know (that’s your measure)?
- Are our customers feeling it enough to return at a high rate? How do we know (that’s your measure)?
How will we measure delight?
- Are our employees aware of what delights our customers and why it works? Are they able to recreate/support it in interactions with customers? How do we know?
- Are our customers delighted enough to feel they’ve been treated well enough to tell others about us? How will we know?
There are many ways to apply these measurements, but the best way will come not from an off-the-shelf measurement funnel or referral program, but from your brand itself. So let it originate honestly, through conversations that ask the questions above.
In the end, this comes back to this question:
- Have you built such a culture that moves beyond dollars and cents that create such a value that you mean something because you’ve decided to mean something different?
- Have you seen that culture generate return customers?
- Have you seen that culture create actions that delight customers to the extent that they recommend you to other people as measured by engagement on social media or and or referrals that you can measure?
Because if it comes from your values, it matches your personality and connects with your customers in a way that shows you “get” them, you’ll have the best chance to win their loyalty, because you’ll have earned it.
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