By Norm Vallone.
Dayton Daily News, Ohio.
As the holiday cheer fades and another year beckons, all good men and women of business should make time for honest reflection. Not just about how well or poorly sales and profits fared in 2015, but also about the many threads that make up the fabric of a business.
Woven into that cloth are attributes that make up your brand identity and, therefore, your overarching marketing message.
However if some of those threads are missing, have become worn or even broken, your marketing strategies are likely off target. So whether you’re a business owner, chief executive or chief marketing officer, now is the time to ask yourself the difficult questions, especially: Is your company really what you say it is?
Regardless of the marketing tools you employ — from advertising and PR to inbound marketing and social media — your goal should be to create authentic customer relationships — and, yes, the key word here is “authentic.” That means you really have to be the kind of company you claim to be, and deliver all of the value you’ve promised your customers. Otherwise, with today’s instant social connectivity, you will lose credibility, no matter how warm and fluffy your marketing messages may be.
Abraham Lincoln is said to have responded to proponents of legislation he knew to be unenforceable by saying: “If I say a donkey’s tail is a leg, how many legs does it have?” They, of course, answered “five.” To which Lincoln replied, “No, it still has four legs. Calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”
In the same way you can make claims in any and all media that your company, for example, delivers exceptional customer service. However if your employees don’t live up to this standard, complaints on social media will likely go viral and erode the trust of your customers. Just saying something doesn’t make it so.
Few would dispute that today’s buyers are better informed thanks to their ability to quickly research and evaluate products and companies. Plus, with news coming their way instantly and constantly, they quickly become aware of such things as a major, German automaker cheating on emissions testing, when the CEO of a pharmaceutical company unapologetically raises the cost of a cancer-treating drug 5,000%, or if an automotive airbag supplier allegedly covers up evidence of injuries and death from its products for over 10 years.
These smart, informed people are your customers. They want a relationship with your company based on trust, transparency, and a sense that you share their values.
Further, they want to believe that you are in business not only to make a profit, but also to deliver the value you promise.
So before 2016 moves into high gear, take a good, long look at the quality of your products and services, how convenient you make it for customers to do business with you, how truthfully you communicate, and if you truly deliver the value you promise.
Are there some weak threads in your business fabric? Better make repairs before your entire enterprise unravels.
Norm Vallone works with organizations and individuals to help them achieve their professional and personal goals