Regular check-ups are a good health practice for ourselves, but just as important for brands. Here are a few equivalents to temperature, pulse and blood pressure that can monitor how your brand is performing and catch developing problems early. Most can be self-administered without in-depth studies if applied with diligence.
Social listening between the lines. Spend any time on social media and it’s clear people have a lot of opinions they would like to share. There will be haters and there will be proponents on most topics, including companies and their brands. But in the middle may be comments that show a misunderstanding of your products or services that would benefit from added education or explanation. Resist the urge to be too statistical about the comments you see on your own social media channels, or across the web, but pay attention to trends in commentary, both positive and negative.
Employee input (and output) “This call may be monitored for quality assurance purposes.” We’ve all heard that disclaimer so many times that it hardly registers. But paying attention to what your customer contact people experience can be really valuable. These front-line workers are encountering firsthand opinions and often from customers with problems that need solving. Listen to what your customers have to say, but also listen closely to how your own people handle the interactions. Does their demeanor represent your brand the way you would like? Are they able to create a positive brand experience from a negative situation? How they solve problems is likely to be far more important than directing a customer to the right place in the store or on your website.
There is no substitute for face-to-face. For all the website impressions, lead conversions and bounce rate statistics, there are no substitute for face-to-face interaction with your customers. Their willingness to talk about what they like about your brand and what can be improved is irreplaceable. By all means, use any analytic data you can get your hands on to evaluate your business and your brand, but don’t dismiss the value of human interaction as a key component for understanding the health and future of your brand.
Singing the same tune as your customer. Positive comments from your customers are great no matter how you receive them. But pay attention to whether they reflect the brand message and experience you are seeking to create. If you see your brand as innovative but your customers talk mostly about your quick service, you might want to do some soul searching. There’s nothing wrong with having multiple attributes to your brand, but be sure that your key intentions are not being overshadowed. (Or consider changing your key intentions to reflect the brand strengths that your audience is telling you about.)
Be systematic about it. All of the above suggestions are good ways to stay in touch with how your brand is performing. But just casually checking your Facebook page for comments in the last few days or chatting with a couple of customers for a few minutes does not constitute a full-scale check-up on your brand. So resolve to review 25 or 50 interactions across different ways of collecting input. Do it on a quarterly basis and compare the results. You may see trends begin to emerge that are gratifying or troubling. But either way, you’ll know more about your brand and its health.