How paying attention to the ‘little’ things can make or break your brand.
For a business, there are few things more important than its brand. It tells customers who you are and what you stand for and it can have a direct positive or negative effect on your business and income.
Branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually do think about your company. You can either be proactive and manage your brand or you can leave it to the gods and goddesses – it’s up to you.
There are many components that work together to support your brand and I will be exploring many of these in detail in upcoming posts as part of our Brand Series.
Whether you have actively established a specific brand, or not, it’s important to make sure that you attend to some basic housekeeping items so that no matter what your brand is, you have a solid foundation to support its integrity. And that is what we will cover today.
Deposits and Withdrawals.
Whenever I think of the idea of a brand I am reminded of the way Steve Jobs conceptualized what is often referred to as brand equity. Basically, Jobs believed that your brand works similar to a bank account. When you do something good, like launch a great product or have a great marketing campaign, you are making a deposit in your brand account. When you do something poorly, you are withdrawing from the account. What a company looks to do is have a healthy balance.
This applies to any business and provides a great framework to think about you and your brand as it relates your practice.
Like it or not, people are keeping score.
Consciously or unconsciously, each one of your clients, potential clients, and even your colleagues keeps a brand account with you and it starts from the moment they first have some kind of contact with you.
This could be when they hear your outgoing voicemail message, look at your website, your profile in a directory, your twitter feed, Facebook posts, or when a colleague meets you at a networking event or conference.
I notice everything.
My colleagues here at SimplePractice will attest to the fact that very little gets by me when it comes to noticing how something is affecting our brand. I am always paying attention because I work very hard at my business and take pride in what we are creating and want to make sure I am not inadvertently sabotaging our company by neglecting things.
For example, in a previous post I talked about how our blog had stalled and was not accurately representing the brand of SimplePractice. This weighed on me for months because I knew this was like taking a huge withdrawal from our brand account and thankfully we are now making changes to turn this around.
There are so many ‘little’ things that communicate to our customers who we are, like:
- the message on our company phone
- the language we use in our support emails and other communications
- consistency of elements we use in our product
- the list goes on…..and on….and on
These things keep me up at night and you can be sure I will shore up any loose ends and keep making big deposits in the SimplePractice brand account.
Don’t make me think.
In software development, one of the (many) things you try to avoid is creating a product that requires a lot of thought. The easier it is to intuitively understand what to do, the better the experience – makes sense, right? Doing this well takes a lot of effort and care, but the result is a better user experience.
When you anticipate things ahead of time and attend to them, it can create delight and positive feelings. On the other hand, a series of negative surprises creates anger and frustration.
Providing a good ‘user’ experience is something that every business should strive to achieve and everything matters. A user, or client’s, experience is created piece by piece from a series of experiences.
Laying the foundation – first impressions.
If I called you right now…
I am probably going to get your voicemail. So my first impression of you is going to be the phone message you have recorded.
Some people have wonderfully clear and concise messages. Others have long rambling messages with no shortcut to get to the end, dogs barking or screaming children in the background. (disclaimer: I love dogs and kids – but don’t want to hear them on an outbound voice message from a potential therapist).
Your message – its content, length, and sound quality are all important. This is you. This is my first encounter with you and it matters.
Your website and/or listing in a directory.
You can be sure I am going to look at your website. It’s one of the most used ways clients form an initial opinion of you and make a buying decision. So let’s take a brief inventory of some important things. (We’ll dig deeper into websites in another post)
Consider investing in a professional photo of yourself. You don’t have to look like Brad Pitt or Gisele Bündchen – just make sure the photo looks professional and accurately represents what you really look like.
Also, look, we’re all getting older and that’s ok. So make sure your photo is no older than a couple years because I want to make sure that when I meet you in person I’m not wondering who you are.
Less is better.
When it comes to the information you are providing on your site, keep it brief and focused and encourage them to contact you to find out more. (Again, we’ll cover this in detail in another post).
The truth shall set you free.
Don’t oversell who you are, and don’t undersell who you are. Make sure that you are selling the truth, whatever that may be.
Let’s talk about your email address.
For those of you out there that still have an AOL email address, I have an important announcement. While AOL, Duran Duran and leg warmers were huge in the 80s, it’s time to move on.
Get a Gmail, Outlook, or similar contemporary address for not only the image it helps to project, but also because AOL email is notorious for sending a lot of legitimate emails to spam or junk and a number of other things. Don’t just take my word for it – here are the results of a google search on why it’s bad to use an aol email address.
To help with your switch, here is a great article from LifeHacker on switching emails without screwing things up.
Consider making the time and do this. Yes, there will be a little frustration and a learning curve up front, but it will be worth it. You will send a message to your clients and colleagues that you pay attention and stay up-to-date with things and they may make the connection that you stay up-to-date on your clinical skills as well. It’s not such a huge leap – I think about those things whenever I see someone with an AOL email account – brand withdrawal – just being honest.
Make sure a new client knows where your office is. Where do they park? Is it free, or are there parking meters? Do you validate? The less surprises for them the better. Make it easy.
Do they need to come early to fill out forms (Or are you using the SimplePractice Intake Portal?)
Is your office easy to find and clearly marked? If it’s at night, are all the lights working and does it feel safe?
What does your office and waiting room say about you?
Most clients will first have to spend a few minutes in your waiting room. Waiting rooms to me are an often neglected space and it’s a shame because this is where a transition occurs and in some ways, the appointment really begins here.
Here are some things to consider:
- Is your waiting room clean?
- Do you have magazines or other reading material? How much thought have you given to these things?
- If you have a plant or plants, are they real or plastic? I prefer real if possible. fake plants feel like cheating. If you have a plant, either fake or real, does it look healthy? Is it covered in dust?
- Does the artwork in your office and waiting room really reflect who you are? – Is it dusty or clean? Is it time for something new?
- How is the lighting? Is it the overhead fluorescent kind that literally sucks the life-force out of you and makes everyone look green? If so, can you keep them off and get some other lighting to use instead?
- Are there scuff marks on the walls or are your walls dirty? Maybe it’s time for a fresh coat of paint.
Next time you go into an Apple store, pay attention to the walls – you almost never see any scuff marks on any of the walls – they keep them clean and freshly painted. Even the slate quarry they use for their floors are carefully matched, piece by piece, to make sure they all blend well together. They know that these little details all add up and reinforce their brand. Why shouldn’t you do the same?
At SimplePractice our product is never done – and neither is yours. Your office is like our app and it needs maintenance, cleaning, updates and changes. Your clients pay you regularly and part of that money should go into site updates. Invest in them.
Small investments in the right things can go a long way. Think about the experience from your client’s point-of-view.
The bottom line is this – people notice things.
Different things matter for different people. If you identify some basic things that are easy to take care of, this could go a long way in making small and large deposits in your brand.
Help each other.
Enlist the help of a trusted colleague or friend who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth. Have them call your phone and listen to your message. Show them your website. Have them sit in your waiting room and look around and tell you what they think – is it clean, does it smell ok, etc….
It doesn’t take much to do this and you may find some little things you can do right away to make big improvements.
So remember, sweat the details.
Tell us some ways you make sure you are making deposits in your brand by attending to the details.
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See you next week!