Build Your Brand by Delighting Your Customers

Building a store or product brand into a market leader takes more than just nifty logos, catchy slogans, cool Web sites, or cutting-edge advertising. The key to successful brand building is creating delightful experiences for your customers.

This is the premise behind Briefs for Building Better Brands: Tips, Parables and Insights for Market Leaders from marketing consultant Allan Gorman. Organized as a collection of some of his most popular columns, BFBBB offers jewelers and other companies a blueprint for developing a strong, successful, and profitable brand.

Gorman’s book highlights strategies such as focusing on the customer, not on profits; using information that’s meaningful and useful to customers to overcome sales objections; developing word-of-mouth awareness to make a more powerful branding statement than advertising can; aligning packaging, advertising, and publicity to maximize effectiveness; over-delivering on expectations to delight customers; and developing the “right” mind-set in your employees.

In an exclusive interview with JCK, Gorman discussed how some of the concepts he outlines in the book could be applied by retail jewelers to build their store brands.

If brand differentiation comes from the customer’s emotional connection with the brand, rather than features or benefits, how can this apply to a retail jeweler whose pro- duct remains largely unbranded?

In the case of the jewelry industry, the branding lessons have to be applied to the store itself. To brand themselves effectively in the customers’ minds, jewelers need to figure out: “How can I delight the customer and run a better retail operation than my competitors?” It comes down to unique, high-quality products and excellent customer service that will strengthen your reputation in your market; a compelling storefront window display that talks to people’s values and needs and makes them want to come into your store; and advertising that speaks to your ideal customer.

How can a small independent jeweler on a limited budget develop extensive customer research?

What they can do is talk to the customers they have—ask them why they shop in your store, where else they shop, why they don’t shop at your competitor. You can ask people that have never shopped in your store what they look for in selecting a jeweler. You can ask people who used to shop in your store why they switched to another jeweler. And you can ask your vendors similar questions, such as who is your favorite jewelry store, and why?

You talk in the book about successful brands. What advice would you give to jewelers on finding a unique niche?

Retailers need to establish niches for themselves that transcend promotions and price discounts. You’re never going to beat Wal-Mart or the other big guys on price, so you need to show consumers how shopping at your store will make their life better—offer them a better experience that doesn’t just rely on price. In a luxury business like jewelry, a lot of this has to do with providing superior customer service. I would rather buy an expensive—and blind—item like a diamond from a friend, someone with knowledge who has earned my trust over time, than someone I don’t know with a lower price.

How can a traditional store owner continue to build their brand and command customer loyalty in the face of Internet competition?

The Internet is changing people’s shopping habits, and jewelers and other retailers are right to be concerned about the growing impact of e-commerce. One way to fight back is to delight your customers and offer them an extraordinary shopping experience. Deliver more than they expect, and they will come back to you again and again. Also, smaller retailers can’t be afraid to enter the age of technology. The Internet isn’t going anywhere, so you need to learn how to use it to help your business—both as an e-commerce tool and as a branding/marketing tool. Just remember that a Web site is the first experience many customers will have with you. If it isn’t a delightful experience—if your site takes too long to download, has broken links, isn’t kept up-to-date, isn’t interesting and compelling, or is hard to navigate—they will quickly move on to someone else’s site.