Often when the word brand is brought up, it is thought of as a marketing tool. An image of a product, service or company. For companies that truly want to own their market, they often try to develop brands that build trust, loyalty, an image of strong growth with their market. Many of today’s biggest names in business have spent millions to cultivate such brands. Most of that money is wasted because the true nature of what a brand is, becomes totally ignored. Business processes are the ways to truly brand your business.
In today’s world, pricing is just another factor, someone else always has a lower price. Quality, easily changed and replicated. Customer service, sounds good in theory but it changes all the time. When I tackle a problem I always look at processes and the path taken to the end consumer of the product or service outcome. Each company is unique in this regard, because each process structure has been designed by the individual interpretations of the company’s clients and employees. This is why it is almost impossible and frankly a total waste of time, to try and replicate what another company has done because it is not achievable without real intimate knowledge. Building your brand upon your unique operation capabilities, is the key to success.
What is your brand, it is your identity. What makes you? Mannerisms, the way you do things, how you say things, philosophies and so on. It is easy for a company to make a commercial that says they care and then treat you poorly. But because most companies stop at the image level of branding, this is what happens more often than not. Insurance companies that claim to offer great insurance yet take forever to actually pay is one example. Department stores that are all smiles when you buy but treat you like a criminal when you return something is another example. When image and processes do not match, you have no brand because what you have claimed is proven to be untrue. Your processes are your brand end up being your brand no matter what you do.
When I say processes, I mean everything you do and why you do it. If you want to be known as the most trusted in your business, then you better make sure everything you do represents that and is expressed in your actions and intentions. Everything from your warehouse operations, hiring process, customer complaint process, you name it, it better prove it! This is where the mental trap is for many. We are taught how to run businesses to be efficient and productive and we set up systems that are efficient and productive yet all too often they do not deliver what the customer actually wants or felt they have paid for.
Processes ensure a clear message at every stage, when the message is clear at every stage, there is no confusion at the end point. Customers will buy what you are selling for the reasons you are selling. The business model itself is really what is your brand. A solid business model with a clear purpose and reason for processes at every level, means everyone knows why they are there. This clarity creates a unity within the company that can be expressed externally.
I remember one medical company, high sales, well known and has lots of ads about caring people looking out for you. Internally, very cut throat, medication often mislabeled and misinformation is the norm. The public image is great but the cracks are going to bring this company down one day. The first person to die from their screw up is going to open up an investigation and, hello to the new Enron! It would be nice to say this is rare but it is not. Part of the issue why it is not is because of best practice.
Best practice is taking what you learned about what made someone else successful and then using it in your own organization. As a learning tool it is great for generating ideas. But often the ideas are just put in place with the belief “if it worked for them, it can work for us.” If you really want best practice, create best practice internally that is unique. Being unique seems to be something most fear these days. In fact it is what will bring you the results you want. Unique means processes that are honest, and keep the customer in focus at every step and are not cookie cutter solutions found to work at another company.
Best practice takes away from your focus, a focus within. Too often companies look outside for answers, when all the answers are inside, but the culture is not one that allows for those answers to be expressed. My experience is that most companies already have their answers, but they are blind and deaf to them. Too busy listening to what others say outside, they don’t take the time to listen within. Some managers feel they need to be right and shun opinions that may not be in their best interest. This is really shooting yourself in the foot. Understand that branding is more than an image, it is the day to day activities of a company. Done consistently and on target and no competitor will be able to do what you do and therefore, no competitor can take your market. I know sounds simple, I did that on purpose. For each company is unique and the start and end point will be different but the basic philosophy will be the same.