The internal cultural fabrics of all businesses are built around their founders' visions and senses of duty (mission) and their ability to identify and communicate them regularly and often. This is the first step in establishing their companies' image – or how the public perceives them.
That's why leaders must be careful to develop their business's central purpose and ensure that everyone involved - such as, employees, distributors, and suppliers – can articulate it internally and externally. In other words, if employees are confused over their company's position in the marketplace, the public will be as well and they'll risk being lumped together with every other ill-defined company.
Excellent marketing plans begin with a summary of a business's "reason for being" – its vision and mission. Once developed, they should be communicated often - internally and externally - and every strategy and tactic employed should be consistent with the brand created. If not, the company's good name will be damaged.
The Power of your Reputation
Your reputation, strengthened or negated by word-of-mouth, can be one of your biggest assets or most damaging flaws. Furthermore, a stellar name is one of the most difficult and time-consuming things to build, and one of the easiest and quickest to destroy.
How do you develop and preserve an exemplary reputation?
It starts with a realization that you and your company will be judged by what you do, not what you say. Every time you do as you promise, your reputation will be strengthened and you'll move one step closer. Conversely, each time you say one thing and do another, you'll take three steps back.
Therefore you must be sure to:
- Behave honestly, credibly and reliably… personally and professionally.
- Consistently do as you say… no exceptions.
- Build and maintain positive relationships with employees, customers, prospects, suppliers and even competitors… regardless of the situation.
For example, in 1999, I co-founded a small, competitive long-distance company. As part of our service consultant-training program, we developed standard written customer care policies as well as specific guidelines and scripts for dealing with difficult situations.
And unfortunately, these occurred at least once every month when we were forced to terminate some of our customers' services, due to non-payment. Understandably, these folks would phone our call center to express their concerns, anger, frustration, panic, embarrassment and much more. Fortunately, we were able work out acceptable payment arrangements with most, but not all.
But regardless of the final outcome our consultants never used the situation to belittle, chastise or pressure these customers. Rather, they were treated with the utmost respect and often took great leaps of faith to serve them well. Sometimes we lost a few bucks. However, we gained something far more valuable because this one policy resulted in more positive testimonials than our other more formalized programs.
Additionally, since our behavior was in sync with our core principles (even when our profits were on the line) many of these folks became our best, and most loyal, customers.
Does that mean we carried non-payers indefinitely? Absolutely not… consistent non-payers were "fired." But no one complained about the way they were treated by anyone in our company and many even recommended us to others.
So, as you begin to develop your company's core philosophies, keep the following in mind:
- They must be based on honest beliefs… not contrived, meaningless and vague platitudes. Phrases such as, "world's best," and "friendly service," are trite and meaningless.
- You must be able to translate them into action… never promise what you can't, or won't, deliver – one of the surest ways to kill a business.
- Never lie, or even exaggerate… particularly about the core of your business. Do not underestimate the intelligence of consumers; they know a fake when they meet one.
- Make sure that everyone associated with your company – particularly customer contact personnel – know, understand and embrace them.
- Be prepared to demonstrate the attitudes and behaviors that support your core beliefs… and tolerate nothing less from others.