In the first two installments of this article, I discussed the importance of branding your company as the “energy-saving experts.” That’s because if your customers see you as the “guys who save energy,” that really means they see you as the “guys who save money.” Next, I discussed some of the things you need to do to align your team internally so your brand message is clearly defined, and your employees are aware of it and ready to act on it. In addition, it’s important to have a process in place to regularly review and update your brand message to take advantage of new opportunities or fix inconsistencies in your message along the way.
The third leg of the brand stool (defining your brand and aligning your internal team around it are legs 1 and 2) is communicating your brand promise externally and aligning all of your outward activities with your brand. Truly, no matter how clearly you define your brand message, if you can’t communicate that message clearly to your customers, then you’ve wasted your time.
Take the following steps to make sure your brand message is a success externally:
• Carry your brand message through superior customer service – More than anyone or anything else, your front-line employees have the greatest positive (or negative) impact on your brand message. If your technician walks in a house and isn’t viewed as an energy-saving expert, then your company will never be viewed as such. Superior customer service that focuses on your brand message will make a huge impact on how your customers think of you. When your team makes the company’s brand come alive, they will build brand equity and they’ll develop customers who judge you on the strength of your brand.
• Integrate your brand into every marketing/communication that you create – Just as we discussed in the last article the importance of having every employee on the same page as far as what your company’s brand is, so should you make sure that every communication piece be aligned with the same brand message. Consistency is key. You need to weave your brand message expertly into every communication piece. That means your website, your trucks, your newsletters, your direct mail pieces, etc. It’s crucial because a) this is how your customers will eventually come to recognize you, and you don’t want to confuse them with mixed signals or messages and b) the only way to brand equity so you reap long-term benefits is communicating your message consistently in every part of your marketing plan.
• Remember K.I.S.S. when communicating your brand – Your customers won’t remember everything you tell them, whether it’s a tech in the basement talking about a system, the newsletter you send them or a billboard. They are increasingly likely to remember what you tell them if you Keep It Simple. You don’t need them to think of you as the “energy-saving experts that do a really good job installing central air conditioning units and have 5 different payment options with 3 types of financing for new equipment.” They won’t recall all that information from one conversation or one billboard anyway. Get them to think of you as “the guys who save energy,” and you’ve got a winner.
Remember, your brand is the collection of experiences or associations that your customers and prospects associate with your company and your employees. Without a strong brand that sets you apart from the other contractors in your market, your company is just one of many that do all the same things. Strengthen your brand as the energy saving experts in your market, and reap the rewards – in the short-term and the long-term.
Next article, I’ll be discussing merger and acquisition communications, and retaining customers when ownership changes.
Blaine Fox, Vice President of Warm Thoughts Communications, is a recognized expert on the residential mechanical services industry. He is currently working with some of the nation’s leading HVAC contractors to improve their marketing, fine-tune their operations and grow bottom-line profits. Previously, Blaine was general manager of ServiceMark, a $32 million HVAC contractor with more than 25,000 service agreement customers. Blaine oversaw 160 field employees, 30 install crews, 12 sales people and a call center that handled 140,000 calls per year. Blaine is a sought-after speaker, and will be presenting at Comfortech 2009. He is also a frequent contributor to HVAC industry trade publications. He can be reached at [email protected]