Think back to a first date experience that you have had. You probably considered everything from the clothes you wore to the location where you met and what kind of conversation you wanted to have. All of your thoughts were intended to create an experience that you and hopefully your date would want to repeat.
Think of this first-date scenario as reflective of the four steps in the branding process—four steps that, after the first date, clinch a second date, and ideally a long-term relationship. When you first meet a customer, consider the experience you want them to have that will compel them to reach out again and again.
Recognition: How do you want to be remembered? What emotion do you want to evoke? Think about the memory points of your first dates. Certain characteristics and mannerisms most likely stand out in your mind. Is your company’s essence traditional, modern minimalism, warmth, or are you avant-garde? Your brand design should dress you in such a way that your customers recognize who you are. What do you want their first impression of you to be?
Differentiation: How do you stand out from others? We all know the competition involved in dating, and it’s no different when establishing your brand. How does your competition define itself? How do you talk about how you are different?
Confirmation: Once you’re on the date, think about whether you are behaving consistently with the brand you’re designing. If your brand signals “modern and innovative” are you on the platforms where a tech-savvy customer would search for you? Can you be reached on multiple channels? How do you answer your phone? All these questions, in addition to the services you provide, must be consistent with the brand you are building. After all, if you want your date to think of you as social and connected, don’t take him or her to a movie where you won’t talk for two hours. Go somewhere filled with opportunities to interact.
Motivation: As your date winds down, have you set the tone for future interactions? Communicate how your professional goals and those of your customer—your date—intersect. Why would it be a good idea for him or her to court your business again?
Your relationship with your customer doesn’t end as you part ways after the first date; you want a second date, right? What happens next will determine if that first date turns into a loyal fan.
Communication: What is your customer—your date—telling his or her friends? Audit the communication around your brand online and through surveys to ensure a consistent brand message and promise is getting through to your potential audience.
Consistency: Create a common experience time and again with everything you say and do. Have you ever been on a first date and felt they had a great sense of humor with a lighthearted view of the world and then, on the second date, they were a complaining disaster of a person filled with negativity? You say to yourself, “What?! Where is the person from date one?” If your brand is warm and traditional, are your offices? Are both your personal and professional Facebook accounts delivering the same message? Are you living your brand essence when you network? Does the design of your logo, website, and other marketing collateral visually match with what you say in words? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” there is some work to do on your brand consistency.
Focus: As you learn more about the person you are dating you’ll begin to customize the experience. If you learn that he loves museums, you’ll offer opportunities to go together. If she’s a basketball fan, you could get tickets to a game. The same goes for your customers: first find out what their passions are, and then find a way to engage them with your brand.
Measurement: Did he have fun? Would she like to go out again? It’s easy to measure the answers to these questions because we can ask them while dating. It’s more complicated when measuring the results of your brand and marketing efforts. Was your message sticky? In other words, did it make sense and resonate with them? Is your offer converting? Is your audience buying what you’re selling? Without the answers to these questions it’s difficult to adjust to the needs of your customers and make sure they have interpreted your brand the way you intended.
Branding can be an intricate dance or like a fine wine; it takes finesse and an instinct to know when your customer is into you or not. Just like dating, each encounter brings the relationship closer, more information is shared, the tone becomes less formal, and the excitement level of an impending deal grows. Just like dating, it’s palpable. You can feel it. They like you and your widget and hopefully they will come back for more. Let’s drink to that!