thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Branding Your Outperformism

By on May 13, 2009

The new competitive advantage is in outperformism, built around delivering the passion in your organization for being customer-centered. Because that fresh way of thinking is really, really valuable today, it should be viewed as your new brand.

The old paradigm was to brand your product, then throw in your customer-centered behavior as icing on the cake. That product-centric approach, however, is missing huge opportunities. If you have a highly differentiated culture that is empowered to provide customers with value, users will say "I have discovered something remarkable and I want to tell you about it." Your customers should be your spokespersons. Give them plenty of reasons to talk about how customer-centered your entire organization is, how it continuously makes your products better by thinking like a customer. Bring your employees along with this movement, as well, by encouraging them to walk the talk on this new, different brand promise.

Name a company that immediately comes to mind as delivering a customer-centric brand. You might mention a few famous ones—Nordstrom, the Ritz-Carlton—but not many more. That is not to say that other companies don't provide good transactional service to their customers, because many do. But where's the buzz about them being customer-centered? The point is that these other companies are still known for their product offering and the relationship they have with their customers is an "add-on".

What if, alternatively, you chose to brand your outperformism for customers? You have developed your organization significantly beyond being satisfied with good transactional (reactive) service to a status that is driven by a culture of pro-activity and fresh ideas which creates higher value for your customers. This is differentiation that can be branded. It is a promise to continue to outperform for those customers every time they do business with you.

This new brand would be powerful. Customers know they will never be disappointed or betrayed. If it is part of your intrinsic value, then communicate it.

One caution: This branding cannot be done in name only. It has to be authentic and be instilled in the heart and soul of your organization. It also has to be noticed, to "register in the brain" of your customers. (Lynda Resnick in Rubies in the Orchard:). But, if you are committed to world-class customer performance, then it will benefit you. "As often happens when you opt to do the right thing, in the long run it is probably good for business" writes Resnick. Branding this customer-focused change in your culture is the right thing and promoting it as your brand will show how serious you are about delivering it.

Outperformism—developing a one-voice corporate culture that is intensely focused on your customer—will create an identity that is unforgettable. Transform that identify into your brand and distinguish your company from its competition. Parlay that into an image which can be marketed as "breaking away from the pack." Use your customer-centricity as you would anything of prestige value to differentiate your brand.


2 Responses to “Branding Your Outperformism”

  1. Mark Price says:

    Bill -- this is an outstanding post. I completely agree that customer experience is so essential to the brand promise that it should be considered an integral part of the brand itself.

    The one thing I notice is that you equate branding with the buy-in of customer-facing staff. In my experience, gaining commitment, not just cooperation, of the customer-facing staff is critical and difficult to achieve. Old habits, processes and compensation structures all conspire against you in motivating employees to "step out" of the company guidelines to provide a memorable experience to their customers.

    You must start with vision, as you have outlined here, but you cannot stop there. Enlisting early adopter employees, gaining quick wins and marketing internally all are critical components to achieving success at such a meaningful change.

  2. Kenneth Dodd says:

    Bill: I agree with Mark. Your position with establishing a customer centric brand is extremely valuable.

    I believe it has to begin with owner or CEO in the company. I often consult within the manufacturing sector - medical device and electronics to be more specific. So often the owner or CEO considers cost cutting over experiementing with brand marketing. I say, experiementing, as this is how branding is often looked at by those who don't have brand marketing as their passion. I express the fact that committing to a brand strategy, as your "outperformism" will most certainly lead to a significiant competitive advantage.

    My joy is working with those who welcome a better path in building relationships over taking orders.

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