Say What You Do and Do What You Say
Your brand needs to be executing consistently, or you don't have a brand.
Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan by Thomas Gainsborough, 1786 (Wikimedia Commons, public domain)
"What you are screams so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you are saying." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Want to make it easier to have loyal customers? It's all about consistency—consistency in your actions and consistency in experiences.
Being consistent means that you create expectations and you deliver on them repeatedly.
You've likely heard the trope: "Your brand is not what you say it is; your brand is what other people say it is."
And it's true. You can't advertise your brand a certain way and then give people an experience that doesn't live up to what you've promised. Brand and reputation go hand in hand, and your reputation is the result of the things you do and the way you're perceived.
So if you want to build trust—and trust builds loyalty—you need to do the things that you say your brand stands for.
Examples of off-brand experiences
You're on the hook
When I visit hotels, I like the option of reusing my towel. It just feels so wasteful to have them launder my towel after a single use. Most hotels have a card in the bathroom that asks you to think about the environment and reuse your towels (although let's face it: it also helps keep their costs down).
They position themselves as pro-sustainability ("We're going green!") and give you two options:
A towel hanging up means "I will use again."
A towel on the floor means "Please exchange."
So far, so good.
But—when there are four towels, ostensibly for the family of four staying in the room, and there's only one hook—what message does that send?
Now I have to get creative, looking for doorknobs, chair or other things around the room to—ah, forget it. I'll just throw my towels on the floor.
Do you really want to talk to me?
Pretty much every brand has some sort of social media presence, if not for branding, then for customer service. Some even encourage customers to "Tweet us for customer service." The unspoken brand promise is that they're present on social media to engage.
But here's the thing with social media in recent years: It's become just another place to advertise. Social platforms are supposed to be about conversation, which Merriam-Webster defines as an "exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas."
If you end up ignoring customer service requests or feedback about how you're doing business, you're telling your customers they don't matter. So why put your social handle out there in the first place—to make the masses aware of how great your service is?
If you make your communications channels visible to the public, then use them. After all, you wouldn't publish an 800 number and not pick up the phone.
What's the deal?
Auto manufacturers are some of the most advanced in digital marketing and are among the largest spenders in advertising. From online influencer programs to virtual reality test drives and online configurators, they test the edges of modern marketing.
But if you step into an auto dealership when you're ready to buy, you're likely transported back to the 1990s (or earlier). That online configuration you just completed? You need to start all over again. The finance pre-qualification form you filled out on the web? Here's a stack of forms you need to fill out and sign in triplicate. And sadly, some dealerships treat women as second-class citizens and will talk to their husbands when the wife if the one buying the car.
And when I happen upon an online discussion among dealer-types who are ninety-eight percent opposed to letting customers test drive a car on their own ("feelings don't matter" and "control control control" peppered the discussion), I realize that the dealership portion of the auto industry is utterly, horribly beyond repair.
If you're spending untold amounts of money on building your brand online and at the corporate level, and an in-person experience tells the customer they don't matter, you don't have a brand. You have an agglomeration of questionable experiences.
None of this is rocket surgery, if you'll permit me a malapropism.
Oh, this might be a good moment to explain the significance of the painting above: That's Elizabeth Ann Sheridan, the wife of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who wrote The Rivals, a play that included Mrs. Malaprop, the famous mis-speaker.
If your brand is about sustainability, then it's your job to ensure that everything you do makes sustainability possible. If your brand is about customer-centricity, then spend time with your customers and experience the process through their eyes.
An uneven and inconsistent experience is going to tell your customers one thing: that you don't know what you're doing, despite what you say in your advertising campaign.
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.