Out of Alignment: 4 Tips to Repair an Off-Kilter Brand

Author: 
Michael Ray Newman

Small potholes may seem like insignificant road hazards. We routinely drive over them, thinking little of the momentary bump in an otherwise smooth commute. But these minor jolts can cause lasting damage to the alignment of a car over the long run.

Over the course of hundreds and thousands of wheel revolutions, any slight alignment shift might evolve into an expensive repair job. Instead of spending a couple hundred dollars to fix that alignment, many people ignore the issue until their cars are out of commission.

Too many business leaders make a similar mistake by neglecting the alignment between the external message of their brand and the internal office culture. Small discrepancies between the outward and inward faces of the company can spiral into a corporate crisis.

In the sales world, brand alignment requires a smooth, consistent set of interactions among your internal team, as well as between your company and your customers. Everything, from how your customer service reps answer the phone to the clickable content you post on social media, reinforces your brand narrative. The key to driving your brand onto a road of corporate success is getting your internal and external messages to share the same story.

How to Check Your Alignment

The first time you hear from a customer, that person has likely already Googled you, checked out your Facebook page, browsed your YouTube videos, and followed you on Twitter. He already has an opinion about your brand, and he knows about your competition.

If these platforms and messages are not marching in lockstep, customers will quickly pick up on the discrepancy. A failure to deliver a consistent message can quickly erode your bottom line. Although your local auto mechanic cannot fix your brand alignment, the following tips can steer you back in the right direction:

Stick to Your Story

We live in a head-down world. Many people spend significant chunks of their days staring at the soft glow of smartphones. The average person spends about two hours a day on social media, so capitalize on that compulsion. Your social media presence should funnel prospects to your website, and your website should be designed to catch attention.

Aim to deliver your message to prospects in less than three seconds. If people see something engaging on your Facebook page and click over to your website, your tone and visual aesthetic should be similar on both platforms; consistency will reinforce your brand message. We might spend more time staring at our smartphones, but consumers have no patience when it comes to deciphering convoluted brand messages. They will simply turn their attention elsewhere.

Speak Your Truth

Your content creates customer perceptions, and perception tends to be the reality of your brand. Take a conversational tone to put customers at ease and make them receptive to your story. When you are telling that story, be open and transparent about your products and company. Potential customers will appreciate your candor and begin to trust you.

It might feel scary, but it is perfectly OK to allow yourself to embrace vulnerability when communicating with prospects. If you built your firm from nothing, customers will admire your roots as an underdog. If you have faced significant struggles in life, customers will empathize with your plight.

The more your business and your content underscore your brand story, the more you should be able to engage your customers. If you cannot be genuine in the way you tell your story, the audience will smell your lack of authenticity. Embrace your imperfections, and an army of equally flawed customers just might become your advocates.

Get Both Sides of the Story

Start by asking your salespeople about their everyday interactions with customers. Listen to the war stories of customer service reps and then flip the funnel around and speak directly with your customers. Encourage them to share their pain points and gripes when it comes to your products or services. Get the unfiltered truth from people who will challenge you.

By getting both sides of the sales equation, you will form a complete picture of what might be going wrong with your organization or how you can improve. Your sales team deserves to know how to adjust its approach to satisfy the choosy customers of the world.

Pain Is Temporary

Understand that this entire process will not be pleasant. At some point, you will probably find yourself crawling through a swamp of customer complaints and failed strategies. Keep going. In trying to resolve discrepancies between internal and external messages, there will be some pain. Keep in mind that legitimate conflict eventually leads to resolution.

We recently guided an alignment process at a large tech company. After we identified areas where we could realign internal and external elements, half of the sales staff quit. This could have justifiably spurred panic, but we later realized the team members who quit generated less than 20 percent of the revenue for the company over the past four years. There might be initial discomfort when you discuss alignment issues, but you need to trust the process. You might lose employees, but perhaps they are employees you need to lose.

Your company has probably driven over its fair share of potholes over the years. Over time, those bumps in the road have probably created alignment challenges between your internal culture and the outward message of your brand. Left unattended, your misalignment will eventually lead to a dysfunctional wreck. The process might be painful, but taking the time now to adjust your brand alignment should put your company back on the road to success.

Michael Ray Newman is the president and CEO of ZZI, which transforms businesses, changes lives, and trains people to be leaders. Michael has committed his life to helping others and inspiring employees with high energy and higher expectations.