Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Teanna Ross is the CEO of Kreative Eye. She partners with business owners who are ready to invest in their vision, in their brand and take both to the next level. Her no cookie-cutter approach to branding and marketing results in a sustainable Branding Experience. For more info: www.kreativeeyedesign.com.
SmallBizLady: Tell us why being unforgettable is something small business owners or entrepreneurs should even care about?
Teanna Ross: There is a lot of competition in just about every niche, just look around. But what is it that sets you apart? People don’t buy products they buy Brands, they buy you. You are your brand. Just think about your last purchase and why you tend to frequent certain stores or services… was it memorable and if so what was memorable about it? Strive to build a big brand with a killer branding experience. It’s a sure-fire way to help set you apart from the competition.
SmallBizLady: Tell us more about this Branding Experience. How does a business owner go about creating one?
Teanna Ross: A branding experience is all the interactions people have with a product, service, or organization.
AND the wonderful thing about creating a branding experience is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be something super simple, pleasant and memorable. Some of the greatest branding experiences inspire, engage, excite and empower.
SmallBizLady: How do you create a Brand Experience and what are the benefits?
Start from the heart, keep it simple, put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to remember? What do you want them to take away?
When brands focus on providing their customers with memorable brand experiences they create brand awareness, and ultimately a loyal following – which is the goal right? This is how Macy’s, Starbucks, Walmart and McDonalds have been able to stay in business. They have mastered their branding experience.
SmallBizLady: Most business owners think that once they have a logo they have a brand. Is your logo apart of your branding experience?
Teanna Ross: Your business has a name and logo and you advertise, but does that mean you have a brand? Successful CEOs and business owners know that branding goes deeper than a name and logo. Logos, tag lines and advertising campaigns are traditional marketing tactics that merely scratch the surface. Brands connect with customers on a much deeper level.
SmallBizLady: And then there’s that question… Do I even need a brand? I just want to run a business.
Teanna Ross: Branding a product or service differentiates you from your competitors. It’s the key to turning prospective fans, followers and clients into loyal customers. A brand is more than what your product or service does or what you communicate. Your brand identity is the total perception of your brand in the marketplace, including your implied promise to your customers that your product or service will consistently meet or exceed their expectations every time they interact with your brand. Brands evoke emotions, delight us, and feel familiar and reliable.
SmallBizLady: So, tell us a few characteristics of a strong brand?
Teanna Ross: Strong brands create customer loyalty, they make you less sensitive to competitive pricing, provide focus to marketing efforts, allows you to attract the resources you need such as talent and capital, allows you to easily develop strategic partnerships and acts as a powerful tool for guiding internal decision making. As you can see developing and sustaining a strong brand is powerful, it doesn’t matter if your business is large or small – whether you are selling a product or a service, selling to consumers or business-to-business. A well-defined brand strategy is key and essential for companies looking to expand.
SmallBizLady: What tips can you provide to business owners that are just starting out?
- Who is your customer. You must first and foremost know your customer. You must know what they like, what matters to them, why and the problems they have that you can solve. Furthermore, know and take stock of who your current customers are, and why they come to you over the competition. What void are you currently fulfilling and how can you get better and take it to the next level.
SmallBizLady: What are the next steps after getting to know your customer?
- Connect emotionally. Make your audience connect emotionally with your brand. Make them feel something. Find what matters to them and authentically connect with them in a real yet relevant way. This is how brands are connecting with their customers. Just look at how Insurance companies are competing for your business. They connect with customers who have gone through various tragedies: car, life, and health and proclaim that they will be there for you in your time of need and if the terms and price is right you will switch! They have connected with you on a deeper level and you feel safe. Mission accomplished.
SmallBizLady: What are some engagement strategies that can be used?
- Empower and engage. You are your brand and so are your employees. Make sure that with every interaction you leave a lasting impression. How you engage says a lot. Have you ever had a terrible experience and have been disappointed with how an employee handled the situation? However, the lasting impression is when the brand and they go out of their way to make sure you were satisfied and they exceeded your expectations. Remember, the customer is always right, especially if you want to stay in business.
SmallBizLady: What is the foundation of a long and meaningful relationship with your customer?
- Keep your brand promise. Say what you mean and do what you say. Always under-promise and over-deliver. Customers want to buy from brands they know like and trust. Every strong brand promise is marked by the same characteristics. Your brand promise must persuasively convey a real-world benefit. It must be seen by your customers as practical to their lives, and you must promise it in a compelling and convincing way that is authentic and believable. And, lastly, your brand strategy must be centered around its fulfillment. The roadmap you lay out for the future of your brand should never compromise your ability to keep your brand promise.
SmallBizLady: How should a business owner interact with their customers for an optimal brand experience?
- Yes, have fun. Remember that your customers are people who like to laugh, dream and live life. Create an enjoyable, memorable, and exciting brand experience. Get creative. The companies that over stand who their customers are and can relate to them in an authentic way will always win and be memorable. Think McDonalds – I’m Lovin it’ and my favorite Apple – Say hello to the future. They find creative ways to showcase their products, deliver on their brand promise and have memorable marketing campaigns of real life people using their products or add-on services that allow people to enjoy life.
SmallBizLady: Are there any specific rules of engagement, per sé, that provide a brand experience for customers?
- Keep your ear to the streets, make sure you listen more than you talk. The more you listen, the more you learn. Your target audiences will talk to you, but you must be willing to listen and to pivot when necessary. Engage, engage, engage.
Each expectation and experience is the product of a brand promise: which is the foundation of a deep and abiding relationship with your customer. Be unforgettable and deliver on that promise, it will help foster your customers’ trust. From trust comes loyalty, and with loyalty comes long-standing, mutually-beneficial relationships.