We have talked about the importance of branding in this column before. In “What is in a name?” we discussed how we present our brand with our logo and our name. Now we are going to talk about how branding becomes the entire experience our customers have with our organization. It becomes how we operate as a business each day. It is the basis for the decisions our employees make.
Calculating the equation that incorporates your customer’s experience and how they think of your ecommerce business into your brand strategy starts with examining several marketing and sales activities you are probably already doing and thnking about how they influence your brand perception. The following is the beginning of a checklist you might want to follow when doing this:
• How do your customers find you? This can drive whether you are viewed as current with technology or more traditional in nature. Traditionally we would be in a phone directory or go knocking on doors. Word of mouth is always a good tool.
• How do you market to your customers? Your methods of marketing to your customers also reinforces your brand. Are you using the traditional methods or more higher tech methods? Traditional being mailings versus higher tech being email blasts. The way you market is the way your customers come to expect to hear from you about promotions, new information about your products, etc.
• How do they interact with you on a daily basis? Do your customers walk in your front door or pick up the phone to call you? How about USPS or faxes? This is how you customers view you. Do you want to be viewed as traditional like this?
• How do they view you? Your customers have created a perception of you based on these elements and so much more. You have the opportunity to renew that perception by incorporating high tech methods that show them you are staying ahead of curve operational. If they know that, their perception will be that you are staying ahead of the curve with your printing technology as well.
We have thought about this over the ten years that we have been in business and continue to ask ourselves, “Does our brand really represent who we are and where we are going?” The reverse of that is true as well, “Are our decisions about methods, operation systems, equipment, and processes reinforcing our brand?”
James Lowry is the general manager of Lightning Labels, an all-digital label printer in Denver, CO, USA. He is a 25-year veteran of the printing industry with experience in digital, flexo, offset, and commercial printing.
I think anyone who is ready to think about branding their ecommerce building as more than a memorable name and logo would do well to ask themselves the questions James just listed. Below you will find some of the same questions. The potential answers to these questions, however, are a little different. They accomplish similar, if not the same goals as the traditional ones James mentioned, but are digital marketing and sales activities. They were only in their infancy or didn’t exist at all when Lightning Labels was founded in 2002.
• How do your customers find you? Your website is a given, but how do you lead them there? Possibilities include putting QR codes or simply your website address on everything from business cards and product labels to billboards and trade show swag. More common methods include paid advertising, such as online display ads and pay-per-click ads that show up in internet search results.
• How do you market to your customers? Building relationships and brand trust through online networking is a possibility. You probably use one or more social media sites if you are doing this. Social media sites can also be vehicles for getting the word out about a new product or special offer, and social media sharing is the equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing. What about email? It’s been around for quite a while, and it still works when not abused. (You know what a spammer is, right? Don’t be one!)
• How do your customers view you? Online tools, as discussed in previous columns, make it easier than ever to monitor brand sentiment. Setting up Google Alerts for branded terms is free and easy. You can set it to send you an email every time your name is indexed by the world’s most popular search engine. Review sites such as Yelp! can be gold mines of customer feedback for local businesses.
I encourage you to examine the marketing and sales activities James and I have mentioned that you are already doing and ask yourself which ones are helping your brand. Sometimes investing more resources is the answer, sometimes not. Keep in mind that increasing activity is not synonymous with increasing brand value. What activities aren’t working? It may be time to retire them. Finally, consider adding some of the activities we’ve discussed that you haven’t tried. Are they likely to be a good fit for your brand? Are you not sure, but the potential payoff is great? If so, why not consider taking them for a test drive?
Christy Correll is the online marketing specialist at Lightning Labels, where sales are driven primarily through eCommerce activities.