Branding is everything. It keeps customers coming back due to the association of a product with quality, quantity, price competitiveness, trust, or any other perceived virtue. Unfortunately, most people associate a brand with a tangible item…say a shoe with a swish on it or a restaurant with golden arches. In doing so, they are doing themselves and the individual businessman (or better yet, woman) a great disservice. Why? Because people are brands in and of themselves. When they do not properly build their brand and associate quality with it, they lose in many ways. Namely, in the world of commerce, they lose clients, customers, repeat business.
o Thank an employee for an outstanding job or a special event (birthday, baby, heck, one year of service will do it in this day and age). Result: you increase workplace satisfaction and build your company’s brand – or your brand as ‘boss’ – as one that treats its employees well. (After all, don’t we all secretly want to be featured in one of those ‘Top 10 Places to Work For’ lists. Of course we do! Free PR.)
o Thank a client for choosing you, or better yet, switching over to you from a competitor. This applies to just about any business: banks, insurance, mortgage, finance, realty…the list goes on. Result: Positive reinforcement for the client = brand equity and great word of mouth. Real-life proof: At my ripe age of 30, I have been told I need braces (help me!). I am considering a few orthodontists. Surprisingly, even to myself, the one dental office that sent a flyer in mail advertising a free iPod for new Invisalign users is on my call list. Just like Pavlov’s dog.
o Thank a friend, client, colleague for referring business your way. We’ve all heard it – word of mouth can make or break your business. Let’s go for the first option. Thank those who scratch your back. They’ll scratch it more.
And for a tad lengthier real-life example:
My husband and I bought a lovely house with the help of a very lovely real-estate agent. We were happy (with the service she provided), she was happy (with the commission) and we were all happy – well maybe just my husband and I – with the mention of a gift certificate for the store of our choice as thanks for our business. Realtor suggested we choose a store where we could purchase home furnishings or building material for the renovation we were about to do (purple walls, no thank you!), as Realtor would love to see her gift reflected in our beautiful new home. Lovely!
Considerate as always, Realtor wanted to drop the gift off to us personally rather than pop it in the mail. And so, husband and I moved in, unpacked, and started the renovations. Finished the renos, held a dozen dinner parties, repainted. Got pregnant, had baby, got pregnant again. Okay, slight exaggeration. After nearly four months of living in our new home and getting periodic emails from Realtor – “I’ll be stopping by soon with a little something :)” we were actually quite disappointed with the lack of sincerity and also with the fact that if ever said gift certificate did materialize, we never wanted to see a gallon of paint again, never mind park at the big-box store on a Sunday afternoon to retrieve it.
Finally, 6 months into our new home, the Realtor came by with a lovely bottle of wine and a hardware store gift certificate. A very kind gesture, but a bit untimely to say the least.
Moral of the Story:
The real-estate agent tarnished her brand (if she had ever bothered to build one). She would have been much better off using a pro for gift services for every house she sells. She could develop a number of gift options in varying prices ahead of time, and even have gift company include a small gift certificate. It would be stress free, done in the span of a phone call, and delivered the week the client moved in. And it would promote repeat business, not the opposite, as with us. We conveniently switched realtors when we sold said house. Not because of the gift or possible lack thereof, but because of the poor time management and lack of professionalism. If you can’t deliver a promised gift to my door within a reasonable time frame, how can I rest assured you’ll show up for the open house?
It comes back to the same old adage…quality branding equals business rewards. Make use of quality corporate gifting to reinforce and strengthen the brand you’ve worked so hard to develop. And while you think about that, I’m off to get my free iPod.