One of the most misunderstood marketing concepts is branding. People often think of it in terms of the brand identity—the logo, colors, font style, etc. Or, it is often perceived as a synonym for a consumer packaged good: Do you prefer the Tide brand or the no-name detergent brand?
In reality, the brand is absolutely everything, every touchpoint, every action, every message. It represents the entire company or organization—including the office, the staff... and, yes, you.
Many retail marketers understand how important their physical stores are to the customer's brand experience. Retail outlets that are successful at merchandising take steps to draw in customers and ensure their experiences are memorable, such as use attractive displays, pleasant scents, color, lighting, free samples, sales and promotions. Exciting the senses and offering product value, whether low or high-end, go a long way toward building brand loyalty.
Yet, imagine how this experience can be shattered in a flash when the salesperson ignores you, is rude, or gives you a hard time when you return an item. Or consider your impression when the store is dirty or products are strewn everywhere after excessive customer handling. End of memorable brand experience.
It's no different when a company or organization is housed in an office instead of a store. Whether a business is located at a single address or in multiple sites, customers are customers, and their impressions and perceptions affect their brand experience.
First Impressions Count
Whether your customers frequently come to your office or not, all it takes is one bad impression to set a negative word-of-mouth campaign in motion, or dilute the brand's credibility. One way to evaluate your physical space is to take a tour using a fresh lens. Come in your entrance and look around. What's the first thing you see? Take notes.
- Is the reception area dated and stale, or is it fresh and inviting? A simple coat of paint might do wonders.
- Is the reception area overstuffed or minimalist? Less is sometimes more.
- Is there comfortable seating and reading material? If so, is it neatly presented?
- Is the area well lit, or are there burnt-out light bulbs that haven't been changed in a while?
- Are your marketing materials well displayed?
- Is the receptionist professionally dressed and presentable? S/he may be the brand's first touchpoint.
- Watch others enter. Does the receptionist greet them warmly? Does s/he smile?
- How long do people have to wait before being led inside? Their time is valuable, too.
Train your staff to imagine that each individual entering has a huge order or check in his/her pocket and to act accordingly. You can never know who someone is based only on appearances.
Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, and a marketing and branding thought leader, speaker, writer, and MarketingProfs contributor. She is the author of the Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.
LinkedIn: Elaine Fogel