Who's Minding Your Brand Perception Gap?
Many companies large and small spend a boat load of money on outbound marketing communications that tells prospects and customers why they are better than the competition.
However, when the company's brand promise isn't aligned with market reality, it causes a brand perception gap.
The bigger the gap, the less likely it is that your prospects will buy from you the first time or that your past and current customers will buy from you again.
In many ways, it is better to lose a sale to a potential first time buyer than to lose a current customer. This is because the negative word of mouth (WOM) originating from a disgruntled customer can spread like wild fire and that WOM may be the very reason you couldn't close the deal with that first time prospect - it's a vicious cycle.
Here are four common "ifs" that you will need to address:
If your marketing communications say that you make the highest quality widgets on the market, they better be pretty friggin' good.
If you offer a "no questions asked guarantee", there better not be any hurdles put in place for getting a refund.
If you claim that customer service is your top priority, your phones better be answered promptly by a helpful, knowledgeable and courteous customer service rep.
If you advertise that you will beat any advertised price, beat the price or watch potential customers beat a path for the door.
No matter how match money you throw at it, a false brand promise will never be true.But what if you've been honest in communicating your brand promise, are truly dedicated to creating a positive customer experience, but negative perceptions persist that may may be impacting your bottom line.
You may not be aware of these negative brand perceptions, but be advised that what you don't know will hurt your brand. For example:
It's hard to find information on your web site - and the lengthy download forms are a pain in kiester.
You are unaware of the one rude telesales rep that is causing customers to hang up in frustration.
Product instructions are poorly written and confusing to follow.
Your customers consider your product/service acceptable for the price point, but wish it had a particular feature(s) to make them consider your product/service amazing.
Loyal, repeat customers don't feel special and wonder why there is no "frequent buyer" program in place.
These are not issues that would generally prompt a customer to write a complaint letter, but any of them may may be just enough for them to delay a purchase, check out your competition or not be your strongest brand evangelist. That's why none of these scenarios are acceptable in this competitive and tenuous economy.
So what to do? To paraphrase Huey Long, "Survey early and survey often". There are several inexpensive online survey tools such as Survey Monkey and Survey Gizmo that make it easy for you to take the pulse of your customers and prospects on a regular basis to find out what they really think about your offering and what you can do to improve it. An online survey is much more than an opinion poll. It is guerrilla R&D that is invaluable for meeting and exceeding the customer expectations set by your brand promise. Back to Huey Long...
Survey Early - Meaning early in the customer relationship - Which is immediately after the first purchase. "Thanks for your business. How do you like our widget?
Survey Often - Touch base several times during the year. "How's that widget working out? Is there a way we can make it better?
Keep your surveys short (5-6 questions) and ask the tough questions that you need to know. Since the online survey can be anonymous, you will get more honest responses when compared to a telephone survey.
Also, offer an incentive to complete the survey - A gift card or better yet, a discount coupon for the next widget purchase.
Social media is another way to contact polls and increase engagement. People like to be part a company's decision process. However, due to the public nature Facebook or LinkedIn poll, the questions need to be fairly benign. For example:
We're thinking about adding a new prophy paste flavor. Which one do like best:
c) Boysenberry/Bacon Swirl
Does you company have a brand perception gap? Find it. Face it. Fix it.