Monday, March 14, 2016

Put your best brand forward

What's your brand? A few years ago (or, last week) I would have answered, "Pepsi" (I drink their sugar-free soda) and Amazon (I repeatedly return there for digital books.) 
But over the weekend, I attended a Rotary conference and heard many important lessons that I could take away. One of those was the concept of branding. 
Branding, I take it, is a fairly new way of stating who we are and what people think of us. 
If we want a "good" brand we need to consistently put our best foot forward (to use an antiquated term) but we don't get to control what people think of us. 
That last part really grabbed my attention. It's true! 
The only things we can control in this world is what we can control. Let me use a sales analogy. 
A salesman can "decide" his first year he will sell 100,000 items. Guess what. That will only happen if his customers cooperate. 
So, his goal of how much he will sell is relatively pointless. 
Now, he can control his own activities. He can rise early, hit the bricks early, stay late, study the information available about his product; he can even study the competition. He can (and should) do all these things and more, but he cannot control his customers. You have heard the phrase, "Herding cats." That's true. You can't herd cats but you can "encourage" them by giving them food and water and maybe kitty treats once in a while. 
Now, the wise salesman will control what he can control (I've read and study sales quite a bit and all the literature and classes I've taken agree with this point.) 
He will learn to do the things I mentioned above and prepare himself before he approaches the first potential customer. 
Now, which salesman will have the better reputation or the better "brand" in his territory? 
Like you, I have bought many things over the years. Some were big-ticket items, like houses and cars, and every week my wife and I go shopping together for groceries and more. We laughingly call it our "date night." (In the name of full disclosure, we really do go out other than to buy milk and bread.) 
Guess which salesman I return to, what stores we frequent? The ones that consistently know their business, listen to my concerns and give great service. 
I went shopping for a new cell phone a couple months ago. I did not want to shell out hundreds of dollars up front, as I had done twice in the past 10 years, so I was determined to buy a dumb phone. 
I went to a certain store because they had treated me well and the sales people I met had known their products. 
The salesman listened to me when I told him what I wanted. He corrected my reference to a "dumb phone" and said his company prefers to call them "simple phones." 
Then he suggested an alternative. Because I obviously liked my smartphone that was dying, he showed me a less expensive model that cost a fourth of what I thought a smartphone would cost and it came with a brand name tablet for 99 cents!
He rang up my order and several weeks later I am still happy with the purchase. 
Do you think that company and that salesman have a good brand? It does as far as I am concerned and they will get my business in the future. 
What is your brand? You can't control what people think of you but you can control yourself. Put your best foot forward!