Defining Your Brand’s DNA

defining your brand's DNALast week, I featured ERA Strother owner Denise Strother and her bold, fearless and authentic approach to business. Denise has built big success by clearly defining her brand and telling stories about her company and the value her team delivers for customers.

But before you can start making YouTube videos and writing blog posts, it’s worth taking an important first step: defining your culture and your brand.

In today’s crowded marketplace, any business that’s going to be successful has to tell a story that is authentic, differentiated and compelling.

When I met Denise, I offered up a few key questions to consider: Who is your audience? What’s the benefit of working with you? What’s the value proposition you deliver to your employees and customers? Why should employees and buyers choose you over the competition? What is something you do, and your competitors don’t, that your customers absolutely love?

Her “aha!” moment came when she realized that the answers to those questions might not be perfectly clear and consistent. Developing those answers is the next important step.

Here are a few tips that should help any company initiate the process of defining a culture.

How to Define (and Deliver on) Your Value Proposition: 4 Steps

1. Understand what your customers value about you.

Your customers are full of insight about your brand experience. Ask your customers: Why do they work with you? What made them choose you? Why do they keep coming back?

The best companies grow and evolve in collaboration with their customers. They ask customers what they need today and help them anticipate the future. Companies that don’t evolve with that critical customer insight often miss opportunities in the market.

When we launched our new website, the team started the creative process by asking a group of customers a lot of questions. What did they expect from a speaker’s website?

What was missing from our online brand experience? How would they describe our brand experience? Would they look for opportunities to bring us back or refer us to someone else? We learned that my business experience, content and actionable take-aways are differentiators that we needed to emphasize in our new site design.

Ask questions to understand what customers value about you. Then, deliver that value and use the customer feedback loop to keep improving.

2. Understand what the brand means to employees.

It’s also important to understand what brand promise you’re making to employees. Why do employees want to work for you? What attracted them to the company? How would they describe your value proposition?

ERA Strother describes their brand as “Bold. Fearless. Authentic.” A real estate company is all about employees. Great brokers are ERA Strother’s brand, and they live the value proposition. The “Bold. Fearless. Authentic.” message has resonated with employees. Every agent knows what that message means, and they work to deliver that experience to customers.

I was blown away by the Facebook comments I got from ERA Strother employees when I posted about Denise. Here are a just a few:

Strother employee comment 1 Strother employee comment 2 Strother employee comment 3-4

Pretty good validation. Employees are the brand experience. Listen to their feedback, and work hard to deliver on the promises you make.

3. Focus your value proposition on customer outcomes.

Once you understand what customers and employees value, you have the insight you need to start creating your core promise.

Remember, the brand’s value isn’t what you say it is. It’s what customers and employees experience and say it is. It’s important to position your core brand message around customer outcomes. What results are you delivering to your customers? Why do they buy from you? How are you making their lives better?

4. Get specific.

I recently worked with a growing restaurant company. The company has grown from one location to 20 locations. Their current challenge: delivering a consistent brand experience to customers, in all 20 restaurants.

When you have one location, and you can talk to and mentor every employee personally, it’s easy to deliver a consistent experience. But when you grow, you have to get specific about who you are and what employees should do every day to deliver on your value proposition. My advice: Get specific.

For a restaurant, telling employees to “provide great customer service” results in wildly inconsistent interpretations. What does good customer service mean? What actions and behavior make up good customer service? The more details you give employees, the more consistent the brand experience can be for customers.

My favorite grocery store in the world, Heinen’s, uses four simple steps to create customer intimacy. The first step is to be “crazy friendly.” It’s important that each employee understands exactly how to delivery “crazy friendly” the Heinen’s way. The goal is for employees to serve as “trusted foodies,” because they know that’s the compelling differentiation in their brand experience. To support that goal, Heinen’s invests in world-class learning and development.

Getting specific helps create the consistent brand experience that keeps customers coming back.


Are you ready to tell your story?

What do customers and employees say about your brand?

How are you delivering on your brand promise?

To learn more about building and communicating a strong culture, download my white paper, Winning with Culture: How Leadership Drives Engagement and Performance.

Ryan Estis helps progressive companies embrace change, attack opportunity and achieve breakthrough performance. Delivering more than 75 live events annually, Ryan provides high-impact keynote presentations and professional development in partnership with the world’s best brands. Learn more about Ryan.

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