Category Archives: Branding

Leave the Age of the Seller behind for the Age of the Customer.

Your customers kn

Small business brand value is more than the Q factor

Have you noticed that every new on-air person hired by a TV network looks like a soap opera actor? They’re all young and pretty. We’re left to think that non-beautiful people need not apply. That is, unless you’re familiar with a certain marketing measurement.

Marketing Evaluations Inc. is the proprietor of a marketing metric used extensively to hire on-air talent.  It’s called the Q Score, and it’s as rude as it is simple.

A prospective anchor is presented to an audience who is asked to give one of two answers: I like or I don’t like. Responses are graded based on the numeric Q Score.  Above 19 means you’ve “got Q.”

Never mind credentials, if you can read a teleprompter and have Q, you’re hired.  Below 19—fuggedaboutit.

Could the Q factor be involved in perpetuating the marketplace myth that owning a brand is the exclusive domain of big business?  After all, if only the young and beautiful possess the best TV journalism credentials, why wouldn’t we believe you can only have a brand if you have a sexy national television campaign?

Since most of us would be guilty of giving an “I like” score to a pretty face, it follows that we would also be foreclosed from thinking a dowdy small business could actually own a real brand.  But here’s the truth about branding, and it’s good news for small business: Owning a brand is more than having Q.

Most experts will testify that a brand is established when a product delivers a desirable feeling.  Pleasure, happiness, security and yes, even pretty are examples of how a brand might make us feel. A brand’s value and power are established when it consistently delivers on our feelings and, increasingly in the Age of the Customer, on our expectations.

If people were influenced only by things that have Q, churchgoers would only attend big, beautiful churches, and yet tiny churches abound. Like religion, brand loyalty is also a very personal thing, which is more good news for small business. Getting close enough to customers to discover their individual expectations is one of the many things small businesses do better than big businesses.

So it’s resolved: Owning a brand is not the exclusive domain of big business. And when it comes to actually building brand value, small businesses have the edge.

Big businesses may be good at brand Q, but small businesses are better at what really counts: building brand value. Our challenge is in believing this truth about ourselves.

Write this on a rock… Your small business’s Q is measured in brand value as defined by customer expectations.

Customers now co-own your brand message

As previously revealed in this space, the Age of the Seller is succumbing to what I’ve named The Age of the Customer®. In this new Age, control of the relationship between Seller and Customer has shifted to the latter.

This paradigm shift is largely caused by online platforms that are: 1) increasing the access customers have to information about Sellers and their products; 2) allowing customers to express and share what they’ve learned about and experienced with a business.

Your-Brand-Lives-Here1The first element above has created what I call, the “Moment of Relevance™,” where customers have access to virtually all the information they need before you know they’re interested, and prospects are similarly informed before you even know they exist. Such access to information is changing—or disrupting—the way you market to and connect with customers, as well as how you train sales people. Plus it demonstrates why your greatest danger in The Age of the Customer isn’t being uncompetitive, it’s becoming irrelevant.

To some, the second element looks like the new kid on the block. But it’s actually the new iteration of an ancient marketplace maxim that describes the practice of word-of-mouth: “If you make customers happy they will tell someone; if you make them unhappy they will tell 10 people.” The theory behind the 1:10 ratio is that all businesses, regardless of size, are motivated to perform, or risk a marketplace indictment by the judge and jury of word-of-mouth.

In the new Age, online platforms have caused word-of-mouth to transmogrify into a powerful dynamic called “user generated content,” aka UGC. This is when customers post their experiences, questions, praise or condemnation about a seller’s products, services, and general behavior in the marketplace. In the vernacular, it’s word-of-mouth on steroids.

Indeed, if the word-of-mouth maxim were coined today it would sound like this: “Customers may post their opinions online—positive or otherwise—about your business, making it available potentially to millions.” To paraphrase Mark Twain, comparing word-of-mouth to UGC is like comparing a lightning bug to lightning.

In The Age of the Customer, two of the new things every business must do are: 1) anticipate that customers are already well informed; 2) track and respond to UGC about your business. And how well you do these two will influence whether the new customer control becomes a handy lever to growth, or a disruptor that makes you irrelevant.

It’s the Age of the Customer—are you prepared for the Moment of Relevance?