It seems that lately I am being approached by many people who are asking a similar question, “How did you do it?”. Obviously I write this blog so that I can share what I have learned which also means that people can dip into what they think is relevant for them whenever they choose.
My initial reaction when people ask “how did you do it?” Is that it wasn’t ‘I’ … it was ‘we’. I have been fortunate that I have surrounded myself with great people all completely passionate about our vision and committed to what we are doing.
If I was to take ownership for one thing … it would be that I did bring to the start up RedBalloon a corporate background in marketing. When I started the business I was completely passionate about building a brand online. Which was no insignificant task back in 2001 because the internet was in it’s infancy. My marketing background had taught me that to create a brand is to build relationships – and being online we didn’t have the opportunity to meet our customers in person.. So in response to the question “How to build a brand online?” I responded for The Australian newspaper with these three lessons:
1. Don’t hide. It is like any other relationship – people want to get to know you. When I am buying online I like to know who is behind the business – I cannot stand those ‘about us’ pages that say nebulous things like “we are the greatest solutions provider blah blah blah”. Many years ago in the early days I had a woman phone saying I’m just about to make a purchase on your web site – “how do I know you are real?” I responded” I’m the CEO” and she retorted “But you might be the janitor for all I know”. The irony of course was that I was the janitor too.
The principles behind building a strong and enduring brand remain the same whether online or offline. It’s all about building great relationships – with your customers, your suppliers, your clients and especially your employees as they’re the greatest brand ambassadors you have! Shared experiences create and strengthen relationships.
2. People create brands – brand reputation is about who you associate with. Online it is important to hang out with a good crowd. It is important to know who , how and where any links or advertising might appear. Brand association is critical online – in exactly the same way as a retail store – you want to know who your neighbors are. It is the same online.
3. Brands are built in the hearts of our customers and employees through the relationships they have with that organisation. Every touch point adds or detracts from that relationship, because a brand is not advertising, but how people experience and feel about an organisation. It is the people they meet, the stories they hear, what they see on social network sites that form opinions about a business. People question if they can trust or believe the story. And it is no different in building an employer brand.
You have to listen to your customers, clients and employees so you can deliver a positive experience every time they engage with your brand. At RedBalloon we also know that a high level of customer service starts with happy employees who are more willing to go the extra mile to ensure a positive customer experience every time, and that’s why our company values are fundamental to everything we do. Each and every “RedBallooner” lives the values of integrity, generosity, leadership, having sense of humour and fun, and probably most poignant given our growth and position in the Australian gifting landscape, being a little dog with a big dog personality!
This is why employees are the new customers. Each employee has a voice (and could be a personal publisher). As such it is up to leadership teams to stay vigilant and committed to the employee experience – because that will mirror the customer experience, and ultimately the brand itself.
So the reality is that building a brand online follows similar principles to building a brand offline – it is all about relationships.