Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Much Ado About Branding

The Travel Channel recently aired an episode of Hotel Impossible that featured a struggling hotel in downtown Corpus Christi.

The hotel was in disrepair, filthy, understaffed, and branded with the previous hotel’s name. Hotel Impossible provided customer service, product quality, and management recommendations. Their branding recommendations appeared especially simple and easy to follow.

After the show, I couldn’t wait to drive by the hotel and see positive changes first hand.

Although the hotel’s entry way looks better, only one sign was updated with the hotel’s business name.  Two large and prominently displayed signs with the wrong hotel name remain.

Branding is essential because consumers don’t like surprises.  They want to know who you are and what to expect when they do business with you.  They want to make associations about you that reflect professionalism and quality.

The hotel featured in Hotel Impossible is literally facing a branding crisis that negatively impacts its bottom line.  Locals and visitors are unable to locate or name this hotel.  Those who can don’t have good things to say. Hotel owners have not developed or implemented a branding strategy.  The marketplace has developed a brand for them.  That brand, unfortunately, reflects chaos, confusion, poor service, and a bad product. 

As small business owners, we must think about branding and develop a strategy for reinforcing it.  We don’t necessarily need to be fancy, but we must be strategic and consistent.  If we aren’t, the market place will establish our brand and reputation for us.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Business World is a Stage

This past week I attended a conference in Orlando with my husband.  One morning, though I’d rather have been frolicking around the happiest place on earth, my husband encouraged me to attend a presentation by a speaker who shared what he learned during a 20 year career at Disney.  One of the speaker’s key points was viewing business through the perspective of the customer.

We always hear about the importance of customer service. Yet countless examples indicate forgotten and neglected customers. Employees act like they don’t want to be there. Repairmen require you to be home for a crazy length of time in the middle of the day. Restaurants are dirty. Business representatives are rude and unresponsive.

Such businesses are not focused on the client. Their employees have not bought into the idea and importance of customer service.

But what if we were different?

Walt Disney mastered the art of perfecting the customer’s experience. Most cast members (employees) at Disney work by his example. They smile, pick up litter, and do whatever it takes to set the stage for an amazing and memorable experience.

Although most of us aren’t running theme parks, we can still focus on the customer. We can make them feel that their business is wanted and appreciated. We can be respectful and responsive. We can create an office environment that is comfortable, clean, and professional.

In the end, we are all like Walt Disney. We are selling experiences too. And good experiences keep customers coming back.