Your Corporate Image reflects your brand and demonstrates your market position to the world. In much the same way your choice of clothing reflects your personality.
Prospects and customers don't just form opinions about your business when they make purchases. They form opinions every time they see one of your advertisements, drive by and notice your building, or even when they talk to someone about your business. Most of the time it's quick. They may hardly even notice it; that is until they think about buying your product or service. Then all of their past experiences come together to help them make their buying decision. That's why it's so important to ensure your customers' experiences are consistent with your market position.
Customers want to know they'll get what they expect for their money. Inconsistent experiences make people question those expectations, shaking their confidence in your business. Your goal is to inspire confidence, not to shake it, and confidence comes as a result of consistent experiences.
Your customers’ experiences with your business can be organized into two categories: direct experiences and indirect experiences.
Direct experience: This occurs when a customer comes in contact with your business or an agent of your business such as an advertisement, your website, a business card, or a salesperson.
Indirect experience: This occurs when a customer has an experience with your business outside of your direct control, such as talking with one of your customers or reading a report about your industry.
You can do little about your customers' indirect experiences with your business, but you can do a great deal about their direct experiences. Luckily, direct experiences have an effect on indirect ones, so if all of your customers’ direct experiences with your business are positive, their indirect experiences are more likely to be positive as well.
Communicating Your Corporate Image
As noted earlier, your company can best represent itself to your Target Market by developing a Corporate Image consistent with your Market Position. The same message, however, may be delivered in different formats. The difference is in the way it's perceived by your prospects.
Suppose your Positioning Statement described your business as “high class.” If you ran a law firm, it's likely you'd represent that quality differently than if you ran a hair salon. Perhaps a “high class” law firm would use marble pillars and three piece suits to deliver that message while a “high-class” hair salon might deliver the same message with gold ribbon and floral prints. Both approaches say “high-class,” but to different Target Markets.
Of course there's more than one way to deliver a message to the same Target Market, so do some research, then use your imagination. You can also visit other businesses to find out what they are doing. You can learn from the mistakes of others as well as from their successes. The trick is to constantly be on the lookout for new ideas and ways to improve.
Customer Contact Points
Your brand comes to life through your customer contact points. They exist anywhere a potential customer and your company meet. When a potential customer comes in contact with your company they have an experience, and as discussed earlier, the cumulative effect of these experiences is a positive, negative, or neutral opinion about your company.
You can control your contact points by aligning them with your Marketing Position. This is the way your business expresses itself; the way it puts forth its personality. Examples include the way you decorate and maintain your facility, the type of paper you use for your business cards, the way your employees dress and the way your telephones are answered. Specifically, your Corporate Image results from the way your business impacts your customers’ five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell through your Customer Contact Points.
To understand what it's like to experience your company as your customers do, you'll need to put yourself in their place. Perform a walk-through of your business from your “customers’ perspective.” Try to get a feel for what it's like to be one of your customers. How do your customers experience your business when they show up, when they call, when they talk to your staff, when they see your advertisements, when they receive their bill in the mail, and so forth? Take a realistic look at your current Corporate Image and note any improvements you can make.
To get an even truer sense of your current Corporate Image, you can have someone who is less familiar with your business do this for you.
Coming up you’ll find a list of potential Customer Contact Points. As you go through that list, consider the following four questions. They'll help you identify the impact your contact points are having, or might have, on your customers.
What message is being delivered to your customers? In other words, what impression does this give your customer about your company? Is this message consistent with your Marketing Position? Remember, your Marketing Position is the rallying point for all of your marketing activities. Is it consistent with your Corporate Culture? Although it's often overlooked when it comes to marketing, your Corporate Culture does have a significant impact on your Corporate Image. As with all aspects of your business, they function interdependently. If your business culture is fun and informal, for example, that atmosphere will be reflected in your Corporate Image. Is it coordinated with your other customer contact points?
Visual coordination — Do your brochures match your facility? How about your stationery or your advertisements? Quality coordination — Are your marketing materials durable, fancy, or inexpensive? How about your company uniforms? Communication style — Are your sales people friendly, personal, or formal? How about the language used in your advertisements? Or the way your telephones are answered?
|Company Name||Old World Ice Cream|
|Logo||Too modern looking. Have a more warm and friendly one designed.|
Schedule of Improvements to Corporate Image Develop a schedule for improving your Corporate image so it more closely reflects your Market Position.
|Changes||Costs||Completion Date||Person Accountable|
|New Website||$10,000||March 20XX||Bob Ramirez|