Thursday, January 3, 2013

What Brand Are You Delivering?

Given the opportunity to recite your 30 second elevator speech, what words would you use to describe the service you provide? Typically, these 4-5 bullet points would be your core values for your business, the beliefs you have for the level of service you provide. The brand you portray will align with the values you have for your business.

Defining Brand
Bill Leider, in his book Brand Delusions, defines brand as "a widely held set of beliefs and expectations about what you deliver and how you deliver it." Bill goes on to say that the agent's brand is validated by the customer's experience.
In Ken Blanchard's book Raving Fans, Ken says the first step is to define your niche. Simply stated, what level or type of service do you want to provide? An example of this may be to help sellers who have had a difficult time getting their home sold. Another example may be providing a level of communication that keeps the consumer informed of events before they happen. The next step is to ask the question, "How do I deliver the service I want to provide?" Now brainstorm a list of steps necessary to deliver.

Build around Core Values
Continuing with the last example of providing a certain level of communication with the client or consumer, perhaps a chart or graphic representation of upcoming events would help or weekly phone calls.  Typically, though not always, the real estate agent is the first person the customer reaches out to when considering a real estate purchase. The agent, for example, through the initial buyer consultation interview can easily ask the customer what method and with what frequency the customers wishes to be contacted. The agent can easily communicate with the lender, title company, and any other party involved in the transaction the contact preferences of the customer. This just one example how an agent can increase the efficiency and raise the positive emotional experience of the consumer. It's this positive experience that creates the agent's brand. The goal in these two steps is to build your organization around this singular definition of what you want to deliver. All your planning, all your actions are focused on this value so it may be done beyond the level of expectation of the customer. Delivering a singular or set of core values is a company-wide effort. The company brand isn't departmentalized. The receptionist answering the phone is as important as the agent who is as important as the brokerage. One blown interaction can leave the customer FEELING undervalued. Each person has a significant and vital role.

The Corporation
The corporation's job in delivering the company brand is the development of name recognition. The corporation has to make consumers feel that this company has presence everywhere. The corporation also sets standards and performance levels.

The Brokerage
The brokerage has a key role as well. It's job is to set the tone and develop the image and expectations within the local markets. The brokerage recruits agents based on their desire to follow the company's core values. The brokerage completes performance evaluations of staff and agents. It also develops the local business plan setting short and long term goals based on patterns, trends, and projections of future market conditions.

The Agent
An overused but poignant phrase is where the rubber meets the road. These are the agents and staff members who come into contact with the customers. They represent and deliver the brand. Looked at differently, they are what the customer experience. It is the agent and the receptionist who will cause the customer to determine whether they will refer the company to their friends and family? It's the agents skills to listen, ask relevant questions, show up on time, return phone calls promptly, responsiveness, and accuracy that insure the quality of the service the customer receives. It's how the receptionist greets the customers on the phone or when they walk into the office that determines the quality of the experience the customers have. When these three key components, the corporation, the local brokerage, and the agents come together and deliver the consistent service, the brand is received with positive results. Failing to work together to deliver the core values of the company will also lead to the delivering of brand just not the one the company wishes to convey.
Customers buy experience and results. It's our job to determine within our niche what our customer needs and then deliver the service that keeps them coming back.

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