Brand Building - 7 Secrets to Adding the Human Element to Your Brand

Marketing for both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) is entering a new realm of connection capability as exciting tools for social media find their way into corporate marketing programs. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and many other tools are gaining acceptance and relevance as part of an integrated and broad reaching initiative to build or extend a brand.

It's important to remember, though, that face-to-face, personal connections are still essential to a successful brand building program, especially in today's virtually connected business environment.

Building a brand is much more than clever advertising, hot colors and cool fonts, or even the base content of your core messages. It begins with the emotional tie, or the loyalty that exists between your business, your staff and your customers. This means that your company culture, values, products and services, and every one of your employees plays a critical role in building, and more importantly, sustaining your brand.

Here are 7 not-so-secret ways to add the human element into your marketing brand every day:

  1. Answer the phone: Everything is automated and nothing irritates people, spelled c-u-s-t-o-m-e-r-s, more than calling a company and navigating through an endless and confusing automated phone system. If you must have one, make it as simple as possible to access a live person, quickly.

  2. Twitter if you must, but make a direct connection: Many people today are easier to reach via email. We're all getting more involved in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and new social media that pops up every day. What we all have to remember is that making a personal, direct connection is critical to building business. I've made a pact with myself to call at least three people I haven't heard from recently each week. The response is always, "Why did we let so much time go by?" and the result is often new work.

  3. Unleash the potential of your employees: Business is still done on the golf course, Little League and soccer fields, and at band concerts. Your employees, all of them, can be your best salespeople if you arm them with a solid overview of what you do and why it's unique and beneficial. Maybe the owner of a business you've been pursuing lives next door to your receptionist. Or, another's son is coached by your IT guy. Keep your employees in the know on your business so they can spot opportunities where you might least expect them.

  4. Do for others: Offer your core skills by selecting a non-profit with a focus that aligns with your business. For example if you're in construction, offer to help Habitat for Humanity. Or if you design websites offer to build a site for a local non-profit. Or, rally your employees to walk for a cause or answer phones for a telethon. Getting involved in your community builds relationships, and relationships build business. Getting your people involved builds pride and connection to the company.

  5. Reach out and touch somebody: Five years ago I would have said make it a hand-written note. Of course no one could ever read my writing, so I always typed or emailed them. With clever e-cards through Plaxo, Blue Mountain, or Hallmark readily available, email responses can be just as effective, and easier to read, than hand-written notes. The key is to respond personally, within 24 hours of a meeting, receiving a referral or reference, or just about any connection. Just say thanks and leave the door open for additional follow-up.

  6. Make time for face time: Get out with clients, employees or partners. Spend quality time sharing a ballgame, round of golf, or a casual lunch. Your clients or customers will often share more in a casual setting than if they're sitting behind a desk. Employees will be much more open at a picnic or an after hours mixer than in round-table meeting. It's amazing how much information or opportunity can be unlocked when you get out of the workplace and let your guard down. Just don't let YOUR guard, or hair, down too much.

  7. Shamelessly clever self-promotion: No one will promote you if you don't. If you're in business for yourself, or even in larger companies, making sure that you are noticed and remembered in a positive way is critical to your business. One of the most memorable self-promotion tactics I recall was a salesman whose last name was Lipton stapling Lipton tea bags to the back of each business card. While you might not remember his name when you came back to the store, you remembered to ask for the teabag guy. It's this type of clever connection that keeps customers coming back to you and your business.

Yes, you'll still need advertising, brochures and a Website, but it's the human connection that brings your brand to life.

Beth's 30+ years of marketing communications experience gets her focused and cranking fast on most any strategic marketing communications initiative - strategic communication planning, brand message development, website content and search engine optimization, white papers or case studies. Beth is a master facilitator who can herd the most unruly cats, after all, she was a Mom to twins plus one!

Beth S. Miller Marketing Communications:

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