Promises are Meant to be Kept – And Here is how Businesses can Do It!

Singtel_new_logo

Source: Mothership.sg

This week Singapore Telco Singtel announces the launch of a new logo. The new logo is part of a re-branding exercise, which includes a new Brand Promise:

Let’s make everyday better

According to their CEO, the re-branding exercise was launched to counter unhappy customers, with some even calling the telco ‘Stinktel’ to highlight their unhappiness over poor customer service. The new Brand Promise promises better service and more caring attention to the little things that conveys to the customer that Singtel cares.

Readers can read the details of the change in this article: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/singtel-just-unveiled-logo-looks-023544688.html

What however intrigues me is the use of the term ‘Brand Promise’ instead of ‘Branding’. And if Singtel is truly intent on fulfilling a Brand Promise rather than just build brand equity or create brand awareness, I applaud them. From the view of a business coach, Brand Promises are one of the most important ways to build raving fans and loyal customers. It is one of the first few things I help my clients build to gain a strategic advantage over their competitors.

So What is a Brand Promise?

It is a promise – A promise meant to be kept. Every time a transaction takes place, it is an exchange of money for the promise of something. That ‘something’ is expected. In today’s world. where transactions go beyond the simple barter trade, what we implicitly promise in the transaction involves the tangible product you sell, and the experience that comes from dealing with you, as well as the experience of using your product after the transaction. It does not end when the service concludes or when the product is consumed. People blog and write about their experience long after they finish their deal with you.

While Branding gives association and awareness, a Brand Promise is a bond that is established firmly between you and the customer. It is a bond that you must honor. It is a commitment that your brand, representing your company and all who are associated with it, will deliver what was paid for in both tangible and intangible ways.

For example, one of the premier airlines I take for business trips and the rare holiday messed up its luggage loading badly during a family vacation. More than fifty people did not get their luggage. While the flight was great e.g. flying comfort, food, cabin crew service, the way they handled the troubled customers was horrendous! They simply did not care. Emails took as long as a month to get a reply. Compensation was paltry for the inconvenience caused. And the worst experience I had was to deal with the automated, templated email replies to queries. By the end of the experience, I could memorize their standard reply word for word. It was as though this award winning airline is run by robots!

They wanted very much to tell me they DID NOT CARE! Remember, a contract with the customer is no longer restricted to the moment the product is consumed or the service is used. The whole experience, including post-service, is equally important!

While this airline has great branding involving winning several awards and international rankings, it broke its Brand Promise. Period.  I’m not impressed with its ranking when I’ve discovered they don’t care at all when they made a mistake that affected me. I’m not expecting perfect service; things happen especially when transporting a few hundred people. But a broken promise, even if its an intangible one, is something never forgotten. In fact, it is the intangible promises that are more critical than the tangible ones.  A Brand Promise, whether official or not, is equally real to the customer. And it left a sour taste in me for a long time as a customer.

Every Company Needs to Formulate and Track its Brand Promise

Your Brand Promise, whether you have strategically worked out one or not, is taken seriously by your customers. Even if you do not have one, your customers expects it. If you don’t have one, they will create one for you. When you have a Brand Promise that works, it will give you tremendous advantage because it essentially becomes an emotional bond tying your customer to you every time the Brand Promise is kept. And when you have one, you can strategically manage it and use it to your advantage.

Creating a Brand Promise

From the customer’s perspective, they demand it whether you have it or not. A Brand Promise can therefore be a strategic, calculated move to win you loyal customers.

How do we create a Brand Promise? Firstly, do you know your WHO? You need to define your Core Customer, and the clearer you can articulate your Core Customer, the better.

Who is your Core Customer? Is your business, and your Brand Promise targeting a want, a need or a fear? What is your customer really buying from you? For the case of Singtel’s customers, are they buying a phone and a line or are they buying convenience, lifestyle, status and connection with friends and family?

Next will be to break down the Brand Promise into supporting metrics and KPIs. This step is extremely important, because it tells you whether your company is delivering on its Brand Promise or not. In developing metrics, keep it to a few critical ones. As a rule of thumb, your metrics for Brand Promises should focus on a few areas ONLY:

Productivity, frequency and customer satisfaction are common ways to set the Brand Promise KPIs on.

Too many and you lose track of what is important. In my course of work, I notice some companies love to have complex metrics – too complicated to tell them what is really happening!

When setting Brand Promise KPIs – KISS (Keep it short and sweet)

And the presence of KPIs and measurables will differentiate your Brand Promise from a slogan. Slogans are meaningless, but Brand Promises are powerful. They are powerful because they are promises, and a promise kept is a bond made between the buyer and the seller. You want to establish more of such bonds and strengthen them, because it is always easier to sell to your fan than to a stranger.

I am excited to see businesses move from using Branding to win customers to using a Brand Promise. As a customer, I am most definitely thrilled when a promise is fulfilled.

I applaud Singtel in their move from branding towards Brand Promises. I look forward to the day when more companies build great brand promises.

And if you want to know how to build a great Brand Promise to take your business further, help is just an email away!

Differentiate Your Business by Saying a BIG Thank You!

This is one youtube video that blew my mind! The sheer audacity of this bank’s move is sure to make them a business to remember forever.

TD Bank in Canada launched a campaign to thank its customers by giving them money, (yes, in the form of $20 handouts), favourite t-shirts, air tickets and even a college fund!

Watch the video here: 

WHY???

Are they crazy? Are they too rich?

I don’t think so. In business terms, it is a differentiating move. In Gazelles International coaching terms, it is a Winning Move. What are Winning Moves?

They are things that your competitor would never do, but your customer will love you to death for it. It is also something that deals with what your customer hates, turning it into something they did not expect but totally love. Beneath the gimicky moves of handing out money and gifts, what really happened is a bank that says, “Hey, you are not a digit for me to squeeze money from. You are more important than me and I recognize that. Your needs are important to me, and I stand with you.” i love the part where the lady gets to go see her daughter (spoiler alert).

It connects on a very human level of wanting to be appreciated and treated like a…human being. Everyone who has been to a bank, and who has been following the news over the last 6-7 years knows how banks really view their customers – like cows to be milked.

So gimicky or not, marketing ploy or not, what matters is it connects. It differentiates TD bank from its competitors by doing something their competitors hate to do. Banks take money; they don’t give money.

A nice winning move – heartwarming too. And millions of views as the video went viral.

Good strategy differentiates businesses. Do you have a Winning Move up your sleeve? Remember, it must be something your customer really wants but your competitor hates to do. Winning Moves are dangerous, but they will make your business GREAT.

Strategy, Execution and Success — Lessons from World Cup 2014

Germany demolished Brazil at the semi-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. While some may have anticipated Germany’s triumph, few would have guessed that the victory would be so utter and the defeat for Brazil to be so humiliating. Even a non-soccer fan like me knows that a 7-1 defeat is something astounding — more so when the vanquished are none other than Brazil, a football superpower. What does this teach us about success?

For one, it teaches us that success is planned for, patiently nurtured and comes as a result of determined execution of strategy.

Bloomberg Businessweek featured an article by Brendan Greeley on 08 July on how Germany reversed its fortunes following its debacle at the European Championship 2000. What emerged after their failure was a simple plan executed brilliantly and diligently.

So, what can businesses learn from this episode?

Without repeating the article here, let me highlight three points that business leaders know, but seldom act on for various reasons:

  1. Success is not the result of individual talent.
  2. Strategy is patient.
  3. Committed execution turns strategy into success.

football - soccer ball in goal

Success Is Not the Result of Individual Talent

“National programme… leave nothing to chance… too precious to leave unfound”

These words in Greeley’s article reveal the secret to Germany’s success. Unlike other teams that relied on star players, Germany developed a core competency that ensured that nothing was left to chance. It is the core competency of spotting, developing and maturing talent. What is a core competency? Core competency, according to Gazelles International, is something an organisation develops over many years that gives it a distinct edge over its competitors. It is something so carefully nurtured over a period of time that it is hard for others to copy or to beat. Core competency is also the engine that helps you to consistently deliver on your unique selling points.

The Germans developed a system to continuously raise good players to international level, so it never has to rely on one or two superstars. What should happen if a star gets hurt? Or switches loyalties? With an entire system backing up your success, the chances of victory are higher. You cannot afford to leave anything to chance, so core competencies are critical to ensuring success.

The stars in Germany’s victory are therefore not just the players, but those who committed themselves faithfully over the years to make this talent development system work. In my opinion, the coaches, talent scouts and club managers who supported the programme wholeheartedly and put in their best to make the system work are as important to the success of the team as the players.

Lesson: Develop core competencies, not superstars in your business.

Strategy is Patient

Germany waited fourteen patient years to see the fruits of its strategy. Fourteen years in any business venture is a long time, but strategy takes a long view of things, as compared to tactics, which are short-term. Yet, too often, strategy changes because of short-term issues. This is because business leaders, being human, react emotionally rather than act intentionally. Yet, the whole idea of having a strategy is to prevent knee-jerk reactions that cause confusion to staff and waste resources; strategy keeps your eyes focused on the long term.

Whenever something happens, it is good to remind yourself “What is my strategy”? Focus on the long-term goals you want to achieve, and determine if what is troubling your company now will derail you from those goals. In our business coaching programme, we emphasise the concept of setting a BHAG — Big Hairy Audacious Goal as taught by Jim Collins. This BHAG is a goal that is at least ten years in the future; something you can’t attain at the moment that will stretch your abilities to achieve it. The BHAG is the intersection of what you are passionate about and what you do best. For businesses, it is also based on your profit engine. Without passion or an overcoming belief in what you do, you will burn yourself out. Without setting your BHAG at what you do best, you can’t keep up. And if it does not factor in your profit engine, the business will go broke.

That is why it is important to have a team of wise individuals in the business (what we at Gazelles International call the “council”), to evaluate and recalibrate strategy whenever challenges arise. This council’s job is to give an objective assessment on whether urgent issues confronting the business require a shift in strategy or staying on course.

It takes nerve to stay on course. We see all too often strategy being sacrificed for short-term or immediate KPIs. This is because people are by nature seduced by short-term gains. But if short-term victories are not aligned to longer-term goals, these short-term successes are often detrimental to your long-term goals.

Lesson: Accept that strategy requires patience. Your patience and commitment will be rewarded. Like the Germans.

Committed Execution Turns Strategy into Success

How often have we given up halfway because it was too difficult, too expensive or we got distracted by something easier to attain?

The Germans committed people and resources — everyone from the senior administrators who decided on this strategy, down to the talent scouts who spent their days watching eight-year-olds play, and large amounts of money, to make this work. They committed €85 million a year to sustain this talent development programme, including getting every first and second class club to run their own soccer high school. All these require commitment and faith that the strategy will work. They kept doing it for fourteen years, patiently waiting to see the results, pumping in resources and executing their plan without fail even though no results were guaranteed. What if some clubs stopped supporting the plan halfway? What if there were doubters? Or what if Germany decided to switch to some other sport where it was easier to win medals? Or what if Germany resorted to taking the easier way out like mass importing athletes from third world countries to “buy” medals?

In Gazelles terms, we call it executing with clarity and focus. There must be clarity in what to execute, so that resources can be focused on the action taken. Execution is always goal-oriented and solution-focused in order not to waste time and resources. There is no time to waste pondering why the country did badly in 2000. Look forward, set goals, and execute ruthlessly.

Lesson: The good thing about committed execution is that along the way, core competency is built. This enables long-term, sustainable success that can be replicated.

Conclusion

If the Germans did not do badly in 2000 during the European Championship, would they have devised such a crystal clear strategy and executed it with discipline and commitment? We will never know. But as business leaders, we always need to have a strategy, so why wait till we encounter great pain in our business before we devise one? The golden rule is to build your strategy when times are good, not when you are in pain. This way, you will have a better frame of mind and lots more resources to tap on.

Don’t wait. Ask yourself today, “What is my strategy and how should I execute it?”

If you need help, I’m just an email away!