Branding, culture, reputation . . . getting it right

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frustrated contractor

ConstructionIn several other posts, I’ve observed that branding — that is, client trust — is the key to marketing success, and that this is earned through client experience far more than external marketing. You can spend a fortune in advertising, design the most wonderful logo, and make your marketing materials look professionally brilliant — but if you and your employees/contractors cannot deliver the services in a manner that leaves clients at minimum satisfied but ideally enthusiastic, you have failed.

My recent experience with our back-up Internet Service Provider shows the challenges in getting it right with service and communications. In some respects, the contractor has done things right — we have used his services for a supplementary email management system designed to allow some flexibility in news releases, announcements and newsletters. He has provided the service with reasonable innovation and responsiveness, so I agreed to extend his responsibilities — especially when he quoted a service fee significantly below what we were paying.

Then the four-letter word hit the fan. I should have seen it coming, but didn’t. We had dead websites and emails for 36 hours. (Fortunately the damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been, because the outage occurred on early Sunday morning, and we were able to restore our systems by Monday noon.)

I only discovered my ISP’s somewhat shady background  as we were in the  dark, and I scrambled to reach the guy to find out what was happening. I suppose if I had searched him through Google before contracting with him in the first place, I would have headed far in the other direction and avoided his services. His negative reputation lives on in several postings and references. He has a major branding problem.

The other side of the story is where we get it right. I wish I could say we provide a blow-y0u-away wow, wonderful client experience, but we cannot claim that marketing excellence level. Few do. Yet we can all respond to calls, requests for information, and solve complaints/concerns with efficiency, courtesy and respect.

(Here, we had a win today. An occasional client, frustrated by the email outage and my failure to respond to a communication late last week, phoned to make a request for some information we were not currently set up to provide. I looked into the situation, and discovered all the information the individual was seeking was available on a public, municipal website, and forwarded it to him within a few hours, realizing the data there has enough value for us to include from now on in our monthly local publications.)

The point here is that, before you think about external marketing, consider your overall business processes and how you relate to your clients. You don’t want to be like my floundering ISP. I won’t add to his pain with more negative publicity, because he has his share. You’ll achieve the greatest return for your marketing budget once you have your client service in order. (Just don’t brag about it, let your clients do that for you.)

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