I recently worked with an executive team who had just gotten an incredible new account. Once the excitement settled in, they realized how crucial it was for them to begin to demonstrate their competence and expertise. It was, in their eyes, what would put them on the map relative to their future growth goals.
To me, their opportunity was to solidify their brand. They said they really hadn’t thought of it that way. While they should have been working to build their brand anyway (which to a point they had been) they never looked at their organization as a “Brand.”
When I referenced the opportunity for them to build out their brand, I wasn’t just talking about marketing. While important and probably on many levels synergistic, branding is so much more than tactical efforts to introduce what you do to the marketplace through imagery, logos, a website, etc. Instead, branding is a strategic endeavor that when done well can be a supportive catalytic mechanism to any organization’s growth trajectory.
Before you read the rest of this blog, take a minute or two to quickly take this abbreviated assessment (then the rest of the blog will have a greater context for you). Remember: No one’s watching you!—so be open and honest in your responses.
Use a “1 to 10” point scale:
- 1 = Low/Poor, needs more work
- 5 = Mediocre
- 10 = Outstanding, an area of excellence
On a scale of 1 to 10:
The degree to which…
1. …our internal operations run smoothly, like clockwork; very little (if any) logjams
2. …our internal culture matches our stated Core Values. I.e., our organization hires and/or fires using our Core Values, we’ll take a financial hit if needed to honor our Values (& we can give examples of when we’ve done this), key decisions at multiple levels are made using our Core Values, etc; all in all, everyone knows and then lives by our stated Values.
3. …leaders in our organization lead toward higher levels of performance (i.e., the overall leadership strategy is empowering, there’s a high degree of team orientation and engagement, there’s very little silo mentality, etc).
4. …our NPS (Net Promoter Score) or other such measurement tells us that customers want to keep doing business with us (i.e., we have customer loyalty)
5. …we retain A-Players (i.e., we are able to retain really great employees)
6. …we have a stated foundational strategy that our people know (i.e., we have a Core Purpose, we’ve identified our Core Customer, we use strategic goals as a roadmap for accomplishing our goals, etc.)
7. …we have stated expectations for how to build a strong internal corporate culture, and we hold leaders accountable for meeting those expectations
8. …we successfully lead major change initiatives with ease and little disruption
9. …our organization is seen by employees as a community (vs. a ‘business’ or an ‘organization’)
10. …we have a waiting list of applicants for most all positions (i.e., we have a very strong virtual bench of people who want to work for us)
11. …we’ve clarified our Brand Promise and our Brand Promise Guarantee (i.e., the promise we make to people who do business with us, and what we’ll do for them if that promise isn’t met)
12. …we have exciting Winning Moves (i.e., what we want to innovate and/or accomplish by the end of 3 to 5 years from now)
13. …the right hand knows what the left hand is doing
14. …the Executive Team has clearly defined roles and responsibilities
15. …others in the organization have clearly defined roles and responsibilities
16. …we are a disciplined organization (our Meeting Rhythm is established, meetings are well attended, meetings are purposeful, action items are defined, etc)
17. …we are an organization that does joint problem-solving
18. …it’s easy to do business within the walls of our organization
19. …it’s easy to do business with us from an external point of view
20. …we deliver Quality (as measured by our customers)
TOTAL (add up your rankings and place the total here): ________________
(Total Points Possible: 200)
What is an Organizational Brand?
Your brand is not what you are or what you do. Your brand is who you are. It’s a long and hard journey to get your brand right, but when you focus on developing it and growing it in the right direction, it will serve you back tenfold. It’s defined by every single encounter within your organization. It’s literally how you go about doing your work, because all those points of contact along the way (both internally as well as externally) come together to give people a glimpse of who you are. And there’s real value in that.
I once had a client that kept insisting that customer service was one of their core values. I asked them if they had numbers on their retention of their core customers. Response: Not really, “but we know it’s good.” I then asked them if they had an NPS score, or any other such measurement, that would tell them if their customers were referring other people to them. Response: No, “but we think they do that.” Had they ever had a facilitated focus group session to discover what they do well and what they don’t do well? Response: “No.” All the while, though, they kept saying buzzwords like, “The customer rules!” and “Everything we do is about serving our customers.” But, there were two really big problems here:
- They hadn’t defined their Core Customer(s), and
- Every single time I called their organization (which had been several times), a person didn’t answer the phone. A machine did—and I was asked to punch a number. (Problem: If “customer service” is a core value…then a machine doesn’t answer the phone, no matter how much it costs to have a human being answer the phone and greet, then direct, callers).
In time, this organization came to realize that their brand wasn’t strong. Whether it was for new customers, repeat customers, or hiring new employees, they weren’t the first organization to come to mind. Their brand wasn’t strong enough to pull people to them. And that’s the secret sauce: When you can get your organization’s culture moving in the direction of high performance, you get energy; you get synergy; you get movement. And more than loyalty, you get commitment.
Building your brand is what will add long-term value to your organization. My husband and I recently bought a new house. We made a point to tell our realtor about any updates, maintenance, improvements, etc., which we did to the home we were selling because we loved our home. Doing these things, though, also helped us maintain the value of our home. Neglect it and the overall value suffers. Nurture it and there’s value to be had. The same goes for your organization.
The Value of Your Organization’s Brand
Building your brand is an eclectic effort. When done really well, it’s done with conscious intent because a strong, healthy brand doesn’t just happen. If you build the right kind of brand, you’ll discover that it’s really a great competitive mechanism for the mere reason that it’s hard to simply copy a brand. I’m always asked for ways to measure corporate brand, and you can do that in several ways. As examples:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) or some other such score
- Your Customer Acquisition (i.e., Did they come to you or did you go to them? What’s your closure rate?)
- Customer Retention Rate
- Your Virtual Bench (i.e., We have a backlog of applications from people who want to work for us!), which reduces time to hire, etc.
- Our Quality (by whatever measure you use to measure the quality of your product/service)
- Lead Generation figures
- Market Share Increase
- Number of Referrals
- The degree to which your organization is spontaneously mentioned in Social Media chains
The brief assessment above can help you see pain-points relative to building your brand. To give you an overall glimpse; however, here’s a brief analysis of your total score.
1-40: Non-Existent: There’s very little, if any, energy around who you are and/or what you do because your organization lacks a core identity. In essence, your brand is not a competitive edge for you.
41-80: Weak: Your organization doesn’t really have a strong identity. More focus is needed to pull all the elements of your brand together into a cohesive (and living) whole.
81-120: Mediocre: Your organization’s identity is somewhat stable, but lacks development. There needs to be more translation (i.e., turn what’s written on paper into action) so that your brand can serve you.
121-160: Progressive: You have a core identity, but that identity continues to need work. Focus, specifically, on one area of improvement at a time.
161-200: A Center of Excellence for you: Your organization has a strong brand. Your brand is working for you in building your organization’s reputation on multiple levels. If needed, figure out how to let it work for you at a higher level. Strategically use it and leverage it. Your brand is working for you.
Your brand is your organization’s essence. It defines how the people within your organization collectively think. How people think then realizes its way into behaviors, defining decision-making pathways, communication avenues, and ultimately into every single customer interaction. Your brand, then, becomes your identity. It’s how people see your organization.
Once you get your brand where you want it, nurture it, because it’s the collective soul of who your organization truly is.
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images