I just finished listening to Howard Schultz, the CEO and founder of Starbucks, discuss how Starbucks built such tremendous brand equity without ever paying for advertising. Mr. Schultz’s overriding message is that the most important factor in creating excellent brand equity for your business is a direct result of providing both your customers, and your employees, with a positive and enjoyable experience. He spoke at length about the philosophy of balancing the issues of making a profit and being a benevolent employer and a benevolent part of the community. Mr. Schultz was speaking to a group of business students, at U.C.L.A., in 2008. To listen to his talk visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kAiEO6jP48&feature=related
Even though Howard Schultz was speaking about building excellent brand equity for a business with many employees, and while being a solopreneur myself, I have seen that the concepts are essentially the same for a business of one, a small company, or a huge corporation with thousands of employees.
All human beings want to be treated with respect and be valued for who they are; we’re innately wired to desire it. Our customers are human beings. They are seeking respect and being valued in all of their interactions, both business and personal. When deciding whether or not to do business with us, potential customers weigh how we treat them, how we make them feel, and how much we value and respect them as people. They look for these qualities in their interactions with us at least as much as, and usually far more than, upon the quality of our products and services.
When we combine excellent customer service along with the very best products and services we are capable of providing, our positive brand equity will increase dramatically.
Our mission is to create our brand equity based upon two foundational principles. These foundational principles are our commitment to providing consistently excellent customer service and offering consistently excellent products and services. Imagine the quality of your brand equity when this is what you’re known for?
So, how do we go about doing this?
1) To become known for the brand equity of providing consistently excellent customer service:
a) As Howard Schultz states, “relentlessly focus on the customer.”
b) Schedule a series of times to sit and focus deeply about how YOU would ideally like to be treated when YOU are the customer. Hint: other people want to be treated exactly the same way.
c) Write down your ideas; take your time and really go deep with this.
d) Even more importantly, write down your feelings. Remember, we are far more emotional beings than we are logical beings.
e) Spend significant time figuring out how to best deliver the highest quality customer service you are capable of.
f) What changes do you need to make in order to treat your customers exactly the way you’d like to be treated?
g) Create a written plan to make the necessary changes.
h) Implement the plan.
2) To become known for the brand equity of consistently offering the highest quality products and services:
a) First and foremost, realize that you can’t possibly be everything to everyone. However, you can definitely be the very best at providing one specific type of product and service to the right group of people.
b) Determine whom you serve and how you serve them. Develop a target market and a niche. To do this, focus on your passion, your expertise, your struggles and triumphs. This is where you’ll shine. Make these your people; the people you’re truly meant to serve.
c) Give your clients and customers what they really want. As my mentor Michael Port says in his best-selling book, ”Book Yourself Solid”, don’t offer your customers what YOU think they need, offer them what they’re asking for, the very things they’re telling you THEY really want and need.
d) What are the best ways to know what your customers need? By having conversations with them and, most importantly, by really listening to what they’re saying. What are they telling you they need? What are they asking you to provide?
e) Once you know what your customers want, focus relentlessly on providing it. Make this your calling, your mission, your reason for getting up in the morning.
Can you even begin to imagine the level of positive brand equity you’re going to build when you offer this quality of commitment, dedication, respect and service to your customers and clients? Your positive brand equity will become an enduring asset for you, all of your customers and your business