For Luke Ouko, if you have a product, your product is your brand and can sustain you. If you wholly deliver services, you become the brand, and then it becomes necessary for you to learn how to brand yourself for success.
In this post, Luke Ouko emphasizes that product integrity is a bit easier to maintain than integrity of staff and the people who make up the business.
(TOP: You’re your own brand. Photo: Convert with Content).
Here are some tips that will help you brand your business for success:
Understand the three rules of customer attraction and retention
There are generally three broad rules of customer attraction and retention. First, you must apply adequate tools to gain visibility. This may take any shape appropriate for you — conventional advertising, social media advertising or alternatively, the one I personally advocate for – that is social impact advertising. Social impact advertising is when you carry out deliberate efforts that have positive societal impact. It often works best with businesses whose services are rendered majorly to customers in their immediate geographical location. However, with the advent of social media and content marketing, it can draw any number of customers from anywhere and retain them as well.
Secondly, you need to have consistency. Consistency is not very relevant if you have a weak brand. But if you have developed a strong personal brand, efforts should be put towards maintaining that brand through the consistency of customer interactions.
Treat data like gold
You may not have a physical commodity, but trust is the commodity you are selling — you are selling yourself. If your customers are required to submit sensitive data, they have to see that you have adequate plans to secure them. Limit the staff who have access to this information. It should be criminal for your staff to take work home and log onto your platform from a public server. You do not have to keep sensitive data for longer than is necessary, so as not to increase the possibility of loss. Put electronic data and electronics on lockdown; the contents of an entire hard drive can be saved on a flash disk the size of your thumb. Most importantly, if your customer data is serviced by third party vendors, ensure that vendors adhere to stringent privacy practices and insist they upgrade if they aren’t in strict adherence.
How you say it is more important than what you say
For product-based businesses, most of the customer’s focus is on what you have to offer, but with service-based businesses, how you offer it matters a lot as well. If you need to write proposals to prospective clients or investors or even just have to address customers, you have to pay more attention to your tone and content.
Concentrate more on personal branding than corporate branding
Research has shown repeatedly that customers trust people more than businesses. Understanding this will cause a shift in how you carry on your business. While you need the visibility that billboards, logos and conventional advertising will give you, to sustain the business in the long run, you need to concentrate more on personal branding and learn how to brand for success.
People are far more likely to follow you, talk to you, trust you and engage with you if they believe they are interacting with a real person. This is where the benefits of humanizing your brand really come into play. Personal branding is simply bringing down branding to the smallest component of a business — the individual. It starts with you as the business owner and then must reflect on your staff through training and mentorship.
Develop a system for both positive and negative feedback
Communication they say is not complete until feedback is received. When your business has to deal purely with services rendered, like a hair salon, telecommunications business, clinic, car wash or property management business, you need feedback much more than any other business. For instance, I run a property management firm and find myself susceptible to cross fire, from both the property owners and the tenants. While most people in my shoes listen primarily only to the property owners, it is wiser to listen to all parties involved. Getting feedback — and asking for it regularly, even if it is negative — is a strong move in protecting yourself.
Many businesses have faced litigation and even filed for bankruptcy as a result of little things ignored over time. Feedback helps you know what to work on or what to keep up. You can use feedback charts, boxes or provide room for feedback on your company app, if you have one. Make feedback avenues available and beyond that, encourage and ask for it. It protects you more than it makes your customers feel valued.
Luke Ouko also believes that a good product usually cushions the effect of bad service, but when service is all you have, you have to work twice as hard.
(Luke Ouko, a Kenyan IT professional with many years of experience, is the Technical Director at verve K.O, a business process outsourcing firm founded in 2012 by his professional colleague Karani Nyamu, who is currently the firm’s CEO).