A company’s success can rise or fall depending upon the validity of the thing giving rise to its existence. This is an unquestionable reality in business, in which to succeed over time is dependent upon the product being appropriately vetted, proven, determined to be reliable and fulfilling a need within a given market.
But then a question arises: Is the secret to a successful business the actual product, the perceived value of it, or a combination of the two?
A great product or service is a vital business fundamental, so it is understandable why so many entrepreneurs and companies place a significant amount of focus on developing a strong product or service. If you have been in business long enough, you undoubtedly have heard companies say, “We are going to beat our competitors by having the best product.” But it ultimately begs the question as to why many businesses fail or find themselves in the land of mediocrity. Turns out, this narrative is not a competitive advantage and puts a company’s hope falsely in the wrong perspective.
In 2011, after quitting our jobs, my father and I started a firm in the spare bedroom of my parents’ house. Our competitors were grossing millions in annual revenue while the two of us were not sure when we would see the first dollar. However, we were experts in the industry, and we had enough connections to stir up some interest. We knew more about our industry and the services we provided than our multimillion-dollar competitors. But as we sought business in the months to follow, we realized we needed something more to be successful.
Our strategic objective was to develop and put personality into our brand. Though the objective was simple, the action took time. From the onset, we began acquiring clients from our long-standing competitors because we were able to effectively communicate a feeling and an experience. Essentially, we were able to create a client-based perception that the goliaths commanding the market had long ago forgotten.
As entrepreneurs, our products and services are the backbone and take priority. But are we setting ourselves up for exponential and sustainable growth? Consider the most important question every business owner should routinely evaluate: How do my clients and customers view our brand? If the answer to that question is — for lack of a better term — boring, then you have work to do.
Consider a companywide focus on brand personality. Brand personality is the creation of a company persona that transcends the services or products sold. This is the difference between companies that make it and those that fail. Sure, some companies just have bad products or provide a lousy service, but those businesses are irrelevant to this discussion. The assumption is you have a solid product or an expert service team, but you cannot get to the land of sustainable and exponential growth.
Here are the steps you should take to get properly develop your brand’s personality:
- Humanize your brand – When it comes to marketing your brand, put your people in front of your static logos and service descriptions. Whether buying a product or service, customers and clients want to do business with people, not companies. They want a face, a name and a smile.
- Fun over IQ – Professional companies have a problem with assuming the best hire is the person with the best resume or the highest GPA. While this is not discounting the value of those metrics overall, the emphasis should be on personality and the right fit between the company’s persona and the individual being evaluated. Do not hire boring people. Personality comes first as it is usually the first thing customers and clients experience.
- Sell the experience over the product or service – We all have competitors. In most cases, those competitors have very similar services. What are you doing to be different in the eyes of those you seek business from? What value are you providing? Business is tough, difficult and challenging — if you are not prepared and thinking ahead, you will be forgotten in a very competitive market. A market has complete control over the businesses they chose to buy from. Ultimately, success comes in selling something other than what people are buying. Yes, that is counterintuitive, and the purpose is to rethink how we market ourselves. Sell the value of a partnership, not a deliverable. Sell an experience, a relationship, a trusted provider — not a one-time transaction.
Less on product and more on experience
In three short years, we amassed one million in cash without hiring an employee and we began conducting interviews to answer the question: Why are our clients are choosing a two-person firm versus our nationally recognized competitors? The common answer was simple — they enjoyed the banter, the relationship and working with enjoyable people.
As you think about how your company can differentiate itself from competitors, think less about the actual product or service and think more about your brand personality. Continually consider whether your company is doing enough to not be boring. Create a following and consider being known for something other than what you sell. If you hire correctly, then the best place to find brand personality is in the people you hire.
A company with a great brand personality often advertises the experiences they provide versus the products they sell. Think about which companies you know and trust. In many cases, you are not entirely sure what they are selling in a given commercial, but because of the fun factor, you do not even care.
We know there is a fine line between success and failure in business. Focus more on your perceived value versus the functionality of any given product or service.