In real life you would never change the sign above your business depending on who comes in the door. Not only would it make you look strange–it’d also be extremely confusing for a customer to actually describe what your business is about.
Strangely enough, many sales professionals and marketers are taking this tack with online consumers. A 2011 survey from Branding Forward showed that 73% of marketers believe that “the days of consistent marketing strategy are over.” In a world where an individualized buying experience is king, brand consistency just doesn’t seem feasible.
Or does it?
Customers Say “No Love for a Two-Faced Brand”
While it is clearly more difficult to maintain consistency in a world where consumers have unlimited access to your brand messages, it is still a vital part of building trust. According to Forrester researcher Tracy Stokes, consistency is especially important in an age where many transactions aren’t face-to-face. She says:
“For example, consumers tell us that both Microsoft and Amazon.com deliver a consistent experience every time they interact with those brands. This helps both brands secure high levels of brand trust, which in turn drives strong brand resonance.”
21st century buyers won’t tolerate wishy-washy sales tactics or organizations who don’t know who they are. By keeping both your online and in-person interaction consistent with your brand image, you prove to consumers that you are a brand they can rely on. When it comes time to buy, no one wants to chance an investment on a company that keeps changing its sign.
Cross-Over Consistency – Does Your Company Have a “Voice”?
Many sales blogs and tip guides tout the importance of online consistency. Of course, it’s important to maintain the same stylistic quality of tweets, promotions, and advertising. Still, not many talk about consistency between online and in-person branding. This is an incredibly important element in the current sales industry. In a 2014 Nielson survey of more than 30,000 consumers, 60% said that they’d shop online but ultimately make the final purchase in-store. (Sarah Halzack, “One Way Online Shopping is Actually Helping Brick-and-Mortar Retailers,” Washington Post)
Consider these questions:
- Do your core values reflect in your online and in-person customer interactions?
- How often do you share your values with customers in-person and online?
- Does your customer service standard change depending on the style of interaction (online or in-person)?
- Can customers easily describe what your company stands for?
- Is it easy for customers to recognize your storefront from your online marketing?
In order to avoid being perceived as a two-faced organization, it’s vital to develop “cross-over consistency”: The matching of online personality and in-person service. Businesses like Apple, T-Mobile, and Charity:Water create cross-over consistency by developing a corporate “voice” that guides every interaction with consumers. From marketing materials to call center guidelines, customers are inundated with the same voice and tone, giving them a feeling of resonance with the brand that leads to sales.
5 Ways to Develop a Consistent Cross-Over Brand Voice
- Define Your Relationship With the Customer. You talk with your children differently than you do with an old friend. The tone you take with your customers is completely dependent on what kind of relationship you want to have with them. Do you want to be the voice of reason? Do you want to be the fun next-door neighbor? These questions will help you develop a consistent tone that will drive, define, and identify your interactions.
- Create Unique Marketing Materials. Now that you know how to talk with your customers, you need to create marketing strategies that uniquely show off that persona. Keep all your marketing materials similar in color, design, and language. It will be easier for prospects to recognize you and remember your unique selling points. You can even bolster this voice with idiosyncrasies that can become well-known catchphrases for your brand.
- Connect Socially. In fiction writing, the best way to develop a character is by having them interact with others. It’s the same with developing your brand voice. The best way to really know and share that voice is by connecting with customers and other organizations through blogging, social media, and in-person events.
- Remember That Voice is a Way of Being. The personality of your brand is more than just pictures and words. It’s the people you have working for you. If your brand is funny and friendly, you need representatives that embody those attributes. That way, your phone and in-person interactions remain consistent with the rest of your branding.
- It’s the Little Things. When developing your consistent branding, remember that your voice should be loud and clear in every part of your organization. From your business cards to your stationary, every element of your business should combine to create an overall voice that is consistent and dependable.
Consistent Voice Creates Consistent Results
As you develop a strong brand voice, you will drive out the phantom of two-faced branding that often undermines buyer confidence. Understand your relationship with your customers, and give them the consistency they demand. It will strengthen and solidify your brand, as well as create opportunities for positive customer experiences that have the power to last through generations.