branding

Branding: Much More Than a Logo

brand management

There’s a good reason why we’re all familiar with the old saying “You get only one chance to make a first impression”: it applies to every single relationship and interaction we have.

Think about the last time you interviewed for a corporate job. You dressed in your best business attire, right? And you did your homework so you were prepared to talk knowledgeably about the organization and the position you were seeking. You knew that your first impression could go a long way toward making (or breaking) your chances with that company.

Now think about all the other sorts of “first meetings” you’ve had in your life. Remember your first date with your spouse (and—perhaps even more nerve-wracking—your first meeting with his or her parents)? Or how about the first time you met the new neighbors next door or your kid’s teacher or one of your company’s vendors? In each of these situations you developed a first impression based on how the other party looked, behaved, and presented himself or herself.

But although first impressions can be strong and sometimes hard to change, that doesn’t mean they’re permanent. Each time you interact with someone is an opportunity for your impression of him or her to be restamped in your mind—and vice versa.

This is especially important to keep in mind when considering corporate branding. Branding helps an organization catch the eye of top talent and get noticed by both current customers and potential clients. It’s the public face that a company turns to the entire world.

Unfortunately, few companies truly understand what effective branding entails. Too many think that all they need to do is hire a designer to create a logo, then use the logo and its Pantone colors in all their advertising and office decor.

But remember, impressions are made based not just on appearance but on behavior, too. So sure, your company should use its logo (and theme colors) as much as possible: letterhead, business card, stationery, social media profile images, e-mail signatures, etc. But that’s not enough. Your organization needs to be conscientious about every single way it interacts with clients and prospects.

Infusing your interactions with a relentless barrage of branding could actually turn people away if they feel that you’re wasting their time. So be sure that your branding efforts includes content that makes their lives better by giving them something (say, some knowledge useful for their businesses) useful that they didn’t already have. Good branding should also reach out to clients in engaging and innovative formats (after all how many generic-looking postcard mailers and e-mail blasts are catching your eye these days?). And the best branding efforts do both.

In today’s crowded branding market, companies need to be extra smart to attract attention. Don’t just dump your brand everywhere indiscriminately! Take the time to target your audience and craft a branding message and presentation that appeal to their interests and needs. Being more conscientious about your branding could ensure that you’re not wasting your clients’ time—and not wasting your efforts—and instead making powerful impressions that can have big positive impacts on your business relationships.

 

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Brand Loyalty: Alive and Kicking—and More Important than Ever

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Last week, the Staffing Industry Analysts website published a blog post by staffing expert Hinda Chalew, who used her title to ask an important question:  “Is Brand Loyalty Dead?” She seems to think that it is, pointing out how review websites can undermine the power of a brand by shedding light on an organization’s negatives.

In her post, Chalew urges internal marketing departments to get involved in communication efforts with temporary staff. Not only can marketing help with recruitment and placement, she writes, but it can also help a company maintain its relevance and position among contingent workers. She’s absolutely right on this point.

That said, I disagree with her contention that a staffing company is only as good as its last placement. Such a narrow focus doesn’t consider the totality of a company’s efforts.

As I’ve mentioned before, the best staffing companies “recognize that selling people is much different from selling copiers, cars, or software.” They also plan for the inevitable failures, and they focus on adding value and building client relationships that go far beyond their last placement. In short, the best companies’ practices are broad in scope and incorporate long-term planning. Taken together, all of these practices—not just one by itself—can go far in promoting brand loyalty.

So is brand loyalty a thing of the past? Absolutely not!

Want proof that brand loyalty still runs strong? Just put an iOS user and an Android user in a room together and ask them to choose the best platform for mobile devices. (And be prepared to duck as the discussion heats up!)

Or you can simply reflect on your own personal experiences. Like many people, I stick with companies that earn my loyalty. For example, I have no problem paying a bit more for a product or service if I think I’m getting good value (such as when the salesperson teaches me something new before taking my money). Similarly, I’m more inclined to stick with companies that I’m confident will do the right thing (without forcing me to beg them for a replacement or refund) when something goes wrong with their products or services.

Getting back to the article I mentioned at the beginning, measuring a company’s success—and the brand loyalty it builds from that—in terms of just one moment or interaction misses the big picture. Sure, sometimes an isolated incident does have a dramatic effect on how a person regards a business. On a number of occasions, incredible restaurant service has transformed my average meal into a gourmet event that I told all my friends about. And I’m sure you’ve had the experience of feeling more positive about a company after finishing a phone call with a customer service representative who resolved your issue and was exceptionally helpful and friendly.

Most people build an opinion of an organization based on numerous factors. First impressions, for example, can lay the groundwork for a strongly developed opinion. Top companies also actively maintain connections with their customers by building brand awareness and staying top of mind. They constantly market themselves to all of their contacts through multifaceted campaigns that can include internal communication (which Chalew promotes), social media (which everyone is doing these days), and stand-out-from-the-crowd print publications—such as branded magazines.

So when it comes to building brand loyalty, staffing companies need to pay close attention to how they can shape the experiences of customers—both temporary employees and the companies they’re placed in. Brand loyalty leads to higher retention rates, repeat business, and possibilities for growth. The ability to develop and expand such loyalty is one critical distinction between the good staffing companies and the best ones.

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The Future of Temporary Staffing: Position Your Brand to Succeed, Part 2

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In last week’s post I discussed the recent (and ongoing) growth in the temporary staffing industry, pointing out that although many experts call it a trend, I’m convinced it’s a permanent shift with long-term consequences, especially regarding the number of participants in this arena. Are you prepared for the new competition that will soon be flooding this increasingly lucrative market?

Face it, your staffing company doesn’t differ much from your competitors. You may have higher-quality customer service, but they may have lower pricing. You may offer longer guarantees, but they may have better people. Every company shines in one aspect or another, and every company has its shortcomings. So how do you differentiate your firm from the competition?

The answer lies in your UVP (“unique value proposition”). Some people think that a UVP describes what a company does and what sort of value it can bring to its customers. That perception is only partly correct, because although a UVP does describe a company’s products or services, it includes much more information than that. A UVP clearly details your organization’s unique contribution to its market, particularly in comparison to its competitors.

An effective UVP absolutely must meet the following three criteria:

1. It must be important to your prospect.

In other words, understand what your prospect wants. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about what all clients want in any industry. Some surveys (such as this one), for example, indicate that buyers want quality above all. I’m certain, however, that there are also buyers who instead prioritize speed of placement (say, an organization that suddenly finds itself short-handed and needs employees right now) or price (as, for example, a company that’s just getting off the ground and doesn’t have much capital to invest in staffing).

I’ve written before about how my failure to understand what my buyer wanted nearly resulted in disaster. (Fortunately, the buyer gave me a chance to fix the situation, and we enjoyed a very successful and productive business relationship moving forward.) If you don’t want to find yourself in that same boat, do your research and figure out what your prospect is looking for—then make sure your UVP states that you deliver on this.

2. It must be unique to your company.

Before you decide to tout quality as your UVP, keep in mind that everyone in your market does skill-set testing and background checks. Your prospects already expect you (and all of your competitors) to perform these services. Instead of listing the same practices everyone else does, identify the elements that are truly unique to your company.

When I worked in the staffing industry, for example, my company had a three-step interview process that involved three different team members over three separate days. In our regional market (the Philadelphia area), my company was the only one that put its candidates through such a rigorous evaluation. The company’s UVP included this three-step interview process, which yielded higher-caliber placements. Unique to my firm, this practice was a selling point that made us stand out among our competition.

3. It must be defendable.

If you can’t back up your UVP with concrete evidence, you’re probably better off not having one at all. Any claim you make in your UVP must be supported by your actions—and the results they produce. If you fail to “walk the talk,” your UVP will be ineffective and unconvincing—and you may undermine your own credibility.

A company with a clear UVP that’s well communicated to its current and potential clients is a company that is remembered when those clients are in the market for its services or products. Any staffing firm that wants to be top of mind in its market needs to consider its market, its competition, and its audience when developing a UVP, and then work hard to incorporate that UVP into all its branding efforts.

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The Future of Temporary Staffing: Position Your Brand to Succeed, Part 1

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The temporary staffing industry has seen exceptional growth over the past several years, and it appears the trend will continue for the foreseeable future. In fact, in a just-published article (“Leveraging the 21st-Century Workforce”) in Contingent Workforce Strategies 3.0, staffing experts Kay Colson and Jim Halling point out, “The contract labor force is growing twice as rapidly as the traditional workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also added that this is projected to comprise more than 35 percent of all employees by the end of 2013.”

What’s behind this change? The pundits have plenty of theories on this topic, but many agree that the impending full implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is one likely factor. As I mentioned in an earlier post, when the ACA goes into effect on January 1, 2014, and all employers must provide health-care benefits, temporary employment will have increased appeal—and workers will be more inclined to see it as a viable and even desirable long-term option.

The cause of growth in the temporary staffing industry isn’t nearly as significant for most business owners as the long-term implications of the growth itself. It’s definitely no passing trend; rather, I see it as a permanent shift in the way companies plan for talent and staff their organizations. This is all great news that should have each and every owner of a staffing company jumping for joy.

But before you break out the champagne and start celebrating, keep this thought in mind: as your industry grows, your competition will grow, too. You’ll likely see your current competitors expand and new companies emerge. And there’s a good chance you’ll be undercut on price or outdone on quality—or both.

Fortunately, you can remain viable by establishing your firm as the market leader. Let’s be honest here: all staffing companies do basically the same thing. So how does someone who needs staffing decide which firm to hire? He or she often calls the firm that has the best reputation and comes to mind first. In other words, the firm with the best branding is usually the one that gets the job. With effective branding, you can make sure you’re top of mind with any client who needs temporary staffing services.

In previous posts I’ve discussed how to use custom publishing in particular to improve your brand. The key to success in any branding effort, however, is to tie it back to your company’s own unique value proposition (UVP). Next week, I’ll explain what a UVP is and how to make it work for your company’s brand.

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Boosting Your Staffing Brand Without a Million Dollar Budget – Part 1

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What if a client thought of you first every time he or she needed temporary staff in your market? You’d be thrilled for the attention, of course—and for the benefits to your bottom line.

The only way this scenario can come to pass, however, is if your clients know about you. And the only way your clients will know about you is if you’ve successfully engaged in branding, the process by which an organization actively builds and spreads its reputation.

The big players have mastered branding. When you think of administrative staffing, for example, Office Team likely comes to mind. Similarly, Accountemps may be your starting point in a search for accountants. National firms such as these and others use long-term, high-profile campaigns to develop and promote their brands.

Regional firms often lack pockets deep enough to fund multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns and may therefore feel that effective branding lies out of their reach. Not true! In fact, regional firms have the potential to enjoy similar name recognition in their target markets without spending several millions of dollars on advertising.

If you represent a regional organization that wants to increase its market profile, your first course of action is to determine two things: first, how your brand is currently perceived in the markets where you want to operate; and second, how you want to define your brand. Answering the following questions may help you get started with this process:

  • What type of staffing do you specialize in? (The word specialize is key here: if you present yourself as a jack of all trades, the market will recognize you as a master of none.)

  • Do you want to be known for having the highest quality personnel or the cheapest price—or both?

  • Do you have a tagline or slogan? If so, what message does it send to your prospects?

  • Do you have a well-defined company mission, vision, and values?

  • Does your company have a “personality”? (For example, does it have a reputation as innovative, sophisticated, creative, or energetic?)

  • How do you add value for your clients and prospects beyond staffing? (For example, do you offer free consulting advice or updates on employment law?)

Once you’ve defined who you are, it’s time to focus on publicizing your organization and its services. Several different, cost-effective means can help you spread your message, including website design, blogs, social media, and branded publishing.

In next week’s post, I’ll explore how to leverage branded publishing (in conjunction with all of the other media listed above) to connect with your audience and position your company as the leader in your market.

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