This is part two in a series. Click here for Part 1.
In my last post we talked about marketing and how it starts with you and your Brand Commitment. I left you with two questions to ponder: What do you want your customers to say about your business? And, how do you want your customers to feel in every interaction with your business?
While these questions are quite simple, something special lies beneath the answers. As I thought about this post and how I might deeper demonstrate the power of the Brand Commitment, I realized a further explanation would do it no justice. This is where your peer Don Kick enters the equation. Don has been the owner of Impact Shirts since 1993 and a client of mine since last October. It just so happened that while I was writing my first blog post, Don and I were simultaneously working through his very own Brand Commitment. Don’s willingness to never settle and his drive to always be his best, took the two of us on a remarkable journey. We managed to send 20 emails back and forth over a three-week time span while he created nearly the same amount of drafts of his Brand Commitment.
Right away Don sent me a first draft that was both creative and moving. He gave an example using two fictional clients who were polar opposites, Jerry and Diane. Jerry was stuck with the task of getting shirts made for an event and was dreading the deed. He had no experience, no support and was controlled by his own fear. Diane, on the other hand, had the same opportunity for her organization and was ecstatic about it. She had an excellent relationship with her dad, who founded the company and was helping her with the design of the shirt. This led Don to say that he wanted every interaction with his customers to be like the relationship between Diane and her father.
These were Don’s specific words.
We want to make our customers feel cared for and have fun with their projects, like Diane did when she designed her t-shirt with her dad...
Understanding: We take the time to understand why this project is important to our customers, the way a father listens to his children. Helping them achieve their goal with this project is important to us. We want them to feel like we understand what is important to them about their t-shirt project.
Reliable: We know how to get things done and we deliver as promised. We strive to convey this promise to them early in our conversations so they can feel confident in our ability to deliver.
Creative Experts: We want our customers to feel like they are working with the Walt Disney of t-shirt design.
Love & Hospitality: It sounds odd, but we need to have a degree of love for the clients we serve and the people who will be wearing the shirts we create. We show this through our willingness to serve them. We welcome our customers like a father welcomes his family. We want to make them feel comfortable and welcome. They must know we are excited to spend time with them and that we like them.
Don was so close to having his Brand Commitment after his first attempt. Realizing the impact this could have on his business if all decisions were rooted in those values, Don pushed on to find more.
“I got lost in the details,” Don said. “Conflicting thoughts about how to communicate it to our customers, how it would come across, or how unique or dynamic it was, led me further away from the simple brand.”
This is an excerpt from Don’s next attempt:
This is “why we do what we do:”
We thrive on the challenge of providing top-notch artwork. With unique requirements and limitations for each project, there are so many exciting solutions to explore in order to arrive with the best design. Similar to Olympic athletes, our expert designers are always pushing to get better. We know that our design work directly affects your success. We don’t think it makes sense to print something unless the artwork is absolutely top notch!
Awesome artwork = Awesome results.
We thrive on creating designs for free because we know that design is the multiplying factor in the effectiveness of any product we make. Top-notch design is beautiful and it moves people whether we realize it or not. Design conveys emotions where words alone fall short. Without a great design we are just adding noise to an already noisy world. Serving people this way connects us with them and we put their success before our own. If it’s ugly, we don’t print it.
While what Don shared is accurate and serves a purpose to his business, it was missing the mark on exactly what we wanted to answer with the two original questions. What did Don want his customers to say about his business? How did he want his customers to feel in every interaction? We were headed down a rabbit hole going further away from his original, nearly perfect first draft.
“I was getting caught up in the processes of 'what we do' rather than the feeling we wanted to create in our customers. I think I wanted it to be something really earth shattering, so I kept reaching for something that wasn’t really there.”
Don was stuck in describing the meat and potatoes of his business, but the Brand Commitment is more than that. When finished, your Brand Commitment should describe the feeling you want everyone—including employees and UPS drivers—to experience when interacting with your business.
Then it came full circle.
As Don looked back on our conversation, he recognized a common thread. He said, “The elements were all there, but they didn’t come together until the end when you reminded me several times to focus on the feeling we want our customers to experience. It’s actually a very simple question when you don’t over think it.”
Finally, he said, “I just started writing about how I want people to feel when they call us, and explaining that in detail. Then I wrote about how I wanted them to feel after they pick up their order or when they visit our website. I started writing paragraph after paragraph and not thinking so much about what I wrote until I felt I had written all I could. As I read through what I had written, the words just started to jump out at me. I noticed words that all seemed to be saying the same thing like: Professional, Experts, Pro’s, Skilled; Relationships, Ongoing, Friendly, Happy; Simple, Easy, Quick, Effortless. The theme of these three things kept showing up in those final pages I wrote, and all I needed to do was distill it into a concise statement.”
And then the magic happened! It was like we walked through the gates of Disneyland for the very first time.
We want people to feel PERSONALLY connected with EXPERTS who make an otherwise complicated process EASY.
Personal: They should feel personally connected. Not corporate, but like a friendship. They should feel that we are genuinely interested in their cause and it’s not just a job to us. They should feel like they are calling an old friend when they place their annual order. They shouldn’t feel like they need to help us remember who they are. It makes them feel great when we ask them about their past projects or questions that let them know we remember them. We don’t seem like a big company to them, because we keep it personal.
Experts: They should feel like they are working with experts. Experts give them confidence and peace of mind. They feel comforted by the fact that they are working with someone who knows the ins and outs of how this process works. Experts multiply their effectiveness, dollars, and time. They are pleasantly surprised by the great solutions our experts can offer them.
Easy: It should feel easy to them. Easy to get in touch, easy to get an answer, easy to pay, easy when things go wrong, easy delivery. They appreciate the fact that we don’t ask for information they have already given us. They feel like there is a good blend of technology and personal help to speed things along. They feel comforted by our willingness to accommodate their payment method, delivery date, refund, design request, etc...
“It was so simple and not really unique at all, but it gives us a great tool to communicate and make decisions going forward.” Don said, “The uniqueness is not so important, but rather how the brand is lived out and executed. This is what really makes the impact and is far more important than uniqueness. Everything we do focuses on connecting personally, being an expert, and making things easy for those we work with.”
Don may have been close in the beginning, but in the end there was no question. I sincerely believe the end result was only possible because he was willing to go on the journey and ultimately trusted the process. I challenge and ask you to continue on your own journey. Don’t be afraid to question your first attempt. You don’t need to find the answer right away. Don’s willingness to look at his business in a way he never had, created a tool that will serve all aspects of his company.