JKinslow's blog

Is your company brand a wildflower or a weed?

Posted on: August 28, 2009

Wildflowers are at their peak in late summer in Ohio. As I walk along the trails near my home, I wonder if the wildflowers I consider to be beautiful are thought of as weeds to others passing by.

Sunflower_Org

This difference in perception reminds me of a story a friend talked about recently involving his experience with a company.

Prior to losing his job, he worked at only a handful of other companies during his 40 years in business. He last job-hunted when resumes were sent by mail or hand-delivered. He never considered the idea of building a positive, one-on-one relationship with a company to be outdated.

A recent telephone interview he had with a corporate recruiter ended with her comment, “I will call you with the result, either way.” After some time passed without hearing anything, my friend tried various ways to contact her. Since he didn’t have her direct phone number, he decided to call the company’s main number.  He asked to speak with the recruiter and was told, “We do not forward calls to the HR department from people applying for work. She will call you back if more information is needed.”

Imagine a customer service representative from your company telling a prospective client: “Don’t call us; we’ll call you if we need you.”

It’s understandable with the number of unemployed workers these days, that companies use online means to filter candidates. And, granted, most job candidates understand the new rules (if your follow up e-mails are ignored long enough you’ll eventually take the hint). However, when your company does get that occasional call or person stopping by, wouldn’t you want to leave them (a potential customer) with a better impression?  How did this company brand itself with my friend? Not only was he put off by this experience, he told everyone he knows.

Wild Status_Org

Social media is all about building customer relationships and is the digital equivalent of word of mouth. We’ve seen how it can enhance a company’s brand or just as easily create a public relations nightmare. We all know bad news travels fast. We also know that word of mouth is now real-time information spread via social media channels. It is a steeper slope to reverse public perception of a company branded as a weed.

In short, anyone who calls on your business is a potential customer, and should be thought of as a relationship opportunity, not a problem.

This concept brings to mind a similar blog post by Seth Godin entitled “All I do is work here.” Employees don’t often see themselves as branding the company’s image to passersby. It’s easier for an employee to claim, “I just get a paycheck …” than to take any real responsibility for protecting their company’s brand.

As Seth so aptly put it, “You don’t just represent them, you ARE them.”

Considering the power of social media tools and the transparency of business these days, how do you want virtual passersby to brand your company — as a wildflower, or a weed?


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6 Responses to "Is your company brand a wildflower or a weed?"

Great blog Julia! We are in the beginning stages of starting a non-profit. You’re advice is definitely being taken to heart. Keep the blogs coming!!!

Thanks for your comments, Margo. It is probably even more important for non-profits. Let me know how it progresses.

Great post, Julia! I have seen up-close how this works with my own business. I’m a people-pleaser, so I’m always concerned about keeping my clients happy, and I took a lot of time to train my team to be very customer-oriented.

I used to think that was somewhat of a flaw (i.e., you can’t make everyone happy!), until I realized, just recently, that good customer service is a big part of what my business is known for…and that it defines part of my brand. When my clients tweet about me, more often than not it’s to compliment my customer service team.

I was lucky to sort of fall into this, but I think anyone can improve their image just by changing their mindset as you suggest: “anyone who calls on your business is a potential customer, and should be thought of as a relationship opportunity, not a problem.”

Terri, thanks so much for taking the time to comment. The information is not new, but I think that during tough times like these, it is even more important to remember who are customers are.

I think the golden rule is a great business model. If only companies taught their employees to treat clients/customers the way that they would like to be treated?!
Social media has taken this country by storm and with “hearsay” being so widespread so easily, companies should definitely heed your point here. If not, I think they’ll soon be left by the wayside.
I don’t think the need for people to feel appreciated for their business, patronage, etc. will ever go away. Everyone needs to feel appreciated at some level. There is so much competition for business these days, it’s not wise for anyone to turn a blind eye to a problem as big as customer dissatisfaction.

By the way, I love the look and feel of your blog. It’s definitely personal…and the little “wordpress” windows that pop up on the url links is great! Great job, Julia!!

Thanks so much for your insights, Haley. I’m sure being a realtor, you know better than most that how you treat your clients very much affects your referrals and repeat business. I think if everyone treated their interactions with potential clients as if it were their own business (like it is for you), everyone would benefit. It’s great to get your comments since you so effectively use social media to reach out to your clients and are a good example of how it can be used to grow your business.

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