By now, you’ve completed all the steps in part 1 (previous post) and have a mountain of data…. random bits of impersonal knowledge. Next, we need to add some human insight to the data, season with some business sense and a dash of intuition and we’ll develop actionable information.
Talk to your customers. Especially your best ones. I don’t like lengthy, impersonal surveys for this. Customers are valuable and you should treat them (and their time) as such. Call up, go see, take out to lunch (depending on your business) your best customers and just ask them why they do business with you. Tell them you’re in the middle of trying to quantify who you are as a brand and that you value their opinion. In fact, you’d love to find more customers just like them. Ask them how they’d describe your company to someone looking for the service you offer (if they were selling your company to a connection, what would they say or do?) Encourage honesty… and look for telling information. Do you have a web site, but your customers don’t think of that as a way to tell people about you? If not… then perhaps how they think of your business isn’t reflected well on the web site. This happens when you THINK your market position and brand image are all about (A), and (A) is splashed all over your site (or brochures) but the perception in the marketplace is really (B).
Talk to your employees. Ask them how they describe who they work for… how they characterize your company. Ask them why they think customers buy from you. Don’t just ask your sales or marketing people. At one company, one of the guys out on the shop floor showed us a nondescript (to me) metal part. “These,” he said. “We use these. No one else does. At least, not in their regular line product.” I asked for some clarification… and found out that the company routinely uses a metal part two grades better than specs require in this particular product. It fails less often than comparably priced products. And this part shows in the product exterior. I talked further with sales, service, dealers…
The company was (attempting) selling itself on service… how they took care of customers and any problems that happened. Their service WAS good. But the real selling point, the reason customers recommended their products to other people, was that part. It meant (to the marketplace of people who actually USED the product daily) something to see that quality… though every part and bolt isn’t an upgraded version and the customers knew it. The product was a quality piece through and through, even so.
In their marketplace, long-lived equipment mounted to your truck was a badge of honor. Toughness and all that. Their peers could see the quality of their equipment and their investment… and that meant something to this market. Owning this brand meant you cared about how you did your job.
Service is great and all, but it’s even better to not need to call because the thing doesn’t break.
So the company’s web site, stuffed with service messages, and brochures with maps of authorized service locations, etc., weren’t helping their front line sales force (their current customers) sell. They needed to step back, go through the brand audit process and align their public messaging and touchpoints with what the marketplace told them was true… And arm their sales force, their employees and their customers with the right tools and information to share the message that toughness mattered.
So… now you are ready to sit down with the data from part 1 and the human insights from part 2. Really think about what all that stuff can tell you. Even if at this point you decide you want professional help or insight (let me know), you’ve already done a great deal of work and saved that time, effort and dollars. If you’re game to tackle it yourself, just remember that sometimes the biggest insight comes from the smallest details. Be not afraid. 🙂