How brands create customers: Pt. II

Continued from Part 1

In this installment we continue our discussion of what it means to “create a customer.” We then begin the process of shaping brand strategies to create the customers that a business needs.

The business value of creating customers

When we create a customer we are doing much more than making a sale. In themselves, sales do not create customers. Sales create transactions. Simply ringing the cash register does not forge a customer connection, nor does it mean the customer will return. When companies pursue sales at the expense of creating customers, they run into big trouble.

In other words, the purpose of your brand is not to be a stylized sales stimulant. It’s purpose is to build strong customers, who will demand what only you can provide. Your brand can do this by enabling customers to develop skills, capabilities, values, sensibilities and attitudes that are good for them, and good for you. Your brand puts you and your customers on the same page—a page that you write together.

Customers as strategic brand partners

When we intend to create customers with our brand, we are defining customers as strategic brand partners. We link our future to theirs, through the value that our brand delivers. The faster our customers can grow, the faster we grow. The more they advance, the more we advance. The more they can accomplish through our brand, the more they will want to accomplish, and that’s where our product roadmap will be ready and waiting. As noted in Part 1, our brand mission is to create the customers that will drive our business forward.

Why leave that to chance?

Grow the customer, grow the brand, grow the business

In a real sense, we use our brands to open doors for customers. They pass through and take us along, helping us enter new markets. We have the power to move customers forward because we’re a brand, and not a commodity. (If your brand doesn’t move customers forward, you have the makings of a serious brand problem.)

To keep things on track, you can follow this three-step sequence: “Grow the customer, grow the brand, grow the business.”

Strategic brand questions we need to answer

Creating customers is the province of brand strategy, and of brand builders. No one else in business has the imagination, culture, knowledge, business smarts and social smarts to do the job. To create the best customers for our business, we have to ask the right brand questions up front.

We start with the following:

  1. What is currently holding our customers back?
  2. What is their strategic pain?
  3. What are their missed opportunities?
  4. What kinds of freedoms do our customers need?
  5. What real freedoms can we deliver via our brand (and our products and services)?
  6. How (and where) can we advance our customers?
  7. What new skills, capabilities, values, sensibilities and attitudes do our customers need—for their good and for ours?
  8. What kind of customer growth trajectory will serve our innovation roadmap?
  9. How can our brand become a platform for continuous customer growth?

Configure your brand opportunities

Given your markets, competition, customer base and your own capabilities, you will need to focus on where your brand can achieve the most impact in creating customers. You want to configure your brand opportunities to your customer needs. You can gain an initial perspective by parsing our core brand definition:

Brands are avenues of value innovation in a creative engagement between companies and their customers.

Each of the boldfaced terms is a performance zone for your brand. There are seven of them. No company can be proficient in all, so you must pick and choose based on your strengths and your markets (and your budget). You might determine that you’re best served by a focus on brand avenues and brand engagement if you’re a hotel, for example. If you’re selling enterprise class software systems, brand value and brand innovation may be appropriate. This is a matter of “mix” that only you can decide.

This effort will help you define your brand deliverables, and it will also help you structure your brand platforms and brand programs.