The subject of client relationships came up in a recent business networking discussion. Specifically, how they begin. So let’s begin at the beginning.
We create brands for our businesses to tell the world who we are, what we do, and hopefully demonstrate a connection between us and our ideal customers. That last part often doesn’t get the attention it should, if we are too internally-focussed.
But let’s assume that part is ok and a potential client has perceived us to be a good fit as a supplier of the product or service they need. They make an enquiry, in some form.
Can that perception survive first contact?
The first test of brand comes with that first contact. If it’s electronic, how long does it take to get a response? If by phone, how many times does it ring before someone picks up?
Then, how does that response make the client feel? Valued by the speed, knowledge and enthusiasm displayed? Or that they are just another number in the sales target? This is where brand perception becomes reality and it can change in a matter of seconds.
Is the brand just a sales mask?
Let’s now assume the sales process is a success and the client agrees to a purchase. The perception has survived, promises have been made, and now it’s time to move onto delivery. Is the brand lived by the people who deliver and baked into the processes they use? Or was it all a mask, where the trumpeted values of service and innovation gave way to “over-promise and under-deliver”.
Perception vs opinion
At some point in time, our initial perception hardens into an opinion, which is more resistant to change. Where is that point for you and your customers? Does their perception of you survive long enough to become that fully-formed opinion, which will survive a few inevitable bumps in the road?
I ask my clients to consider this question in defining their brand. Because if we create a brand that cannot survive the stress test of reality it cannot succeed. It will not result in the positive reviews, referrals and repeat business that allow you to grow.
So next time you come to review your brand, use this method to create brand strength through the onboarding and initial delivery phases to ensure it fulfils its intended purpose.
Otherwise, why do it at all?