With the school year coming to an end, students of all ages are bringing home their yearbooks. One of the covers we saw recently featured a picture of a vibrant red cardinal, the school’s mascot, on the cover. Only upon close examination, however, does it become apparent that the entire image – from the white of cardinal’s eye to the red feathering of its wings – consists of tiny, pixelated photos of each student in the school.
The headline on the cover reads, “We are the Cardinals” – which is both literally and figuratively true. Consider the intricacies that must align exactly right for it to look right. One random outlier – a bright spot on the beak or a blot in its wings – and the whole picture looks off.
We here at Verve Concepts encourage our clients to look at their brand in the same fashion. As a whole, it’s a picture of what you represent, the promise you make to the marketplace. But upon close examination, it’s an intricate compilation of many, many factors – or as we in the biz call them, your brand’s touchpoints. The best tool for ensuring they come together as they need to is a brand audit.
A simple definition: A touchpoint is any point of interaction a customer has with your brand. These include (but are far from limited to) your online and physical locations, products and services, customer service operations, logo, advertising, and more.
Like the pixels in the cardinal photo, the opportunities for brand touchpoints are vast and diverse. And even one outlier can ruin your entire image.
Small businesses are uniquely vulnerable to touchpoint inconsistencies. Not only are small-business owners typically more resource constrained than their larger competitors, but their touchpoints tend to be more limited and their impact on the brand therefore more concentrated.
Being small-business owners ourselves, we understand the impossibility of tracking each and every one of our brand’s touchpoints. Instead, we encourage our small-business clients to zero in on the most critical brand elements.
The most crucial brand touchpoints for small businesses to monitor:
Notice the one thing each of these brand touchpoints has in common: Any one of them can serve as a first impression of your brand. A customer can just as easily find you in their mailbox as they can while walking down the street or through the recommendation of a stranger online.
In small business, first impressions are the most crucial impressions. As well-intentioned or intelligent as we small-business owners may be, we have to account for the truth that it’s just as impossible to look like a technology expert when you have a bad website as it is to call your restaurant “a local favorite!” when your online reviews rate you as among the worst. Touchpoints matter, so make your first ones count. Focus your resources on the touchpoints that matter the most to your customers.
We describe a brand audit as the “data-based interpretation of what your brand current says to your customers.” It includes a broad spectrum of analyses, but in the end, a good audit can tell you whether or not you’re giving your customers what they want.
Specifically, a brand audit can identify your vulnerabilities:
Keep in mind that a brand is never static. Like our businesses, our brands have to change along with market and customer needs. So monitoring your brand and its touchpoints is never a “one and done” proposition. It is, however, an important first step in a crucial ongoing business practice, and if done properly, more than ensures its return on your investment.
What brand touchpoints do you monitor most closely? We’d love to hear. Drop us a line.