In the past, consumers primarily made decisions based on the product or service they received. To the typical customer, a company was merely the provider of a good or service. However, in today’s interconnected world, consumers have greater access to information about companies and their products and now place increasing emphasis and importance on your brand values — the ethics and ethos behind how your business operates. More than just a slogan, they define a company’s principles and overall mission, as well as guide the organization’s internal conduct and external relationships.
As you may well know, today’s digital communication avenues bring consumers and companies closer together than ever before via online interactions, effectively making businesses more personal and even relatable. Although most marketing efforts communicate a company’s who, what, when and where, modern businesses must now also share the why behind their organization.
The connection between brand values and the bottom line may not be entirely clear at first. Just look at the ongoing debate amongst consumers when it comes to two key iconic brands: Coke and Pepsi. Although both products are quite similar in taste, it is often the companies’ respective brand ideals that push consumers to either side of the hotly contested debate.
For years, Pepsi’s branding efforts primarily utilized music and humor to portray a youthful and energetic company that stood for creativity and excitement. More recently, the brand initiated a “Refresh Project” that provides donations to people making a difference in their communities, thereby promoting company notions of empowerment and local activism. On the other hand, Coke has opted for more emotionally driven marketing efforts and portrays itself as a family-focused company prioritizing diversity and inclusivity. By effectively communicating what they stand for and represent as a company, both Coke and Pepsi have established equally loyal and dependable customers.
WHY SO IMPORTANT? You need to give today’s consumers a reason to care about the services you offer, as well as justification for why they should choose you over a competitor. According to the Professional Pest Management Alliance’s recent Generational Pest Control Research, consumers across all generations prioritize industry experience and trustworthiness when choosing a pest control company.
For pest control companies in particular, establishing company beliefs based on aspects such as protecting public health or bettering the well-being of local residents can help drive consumer interest and loyalty. People who align with your company’s mission and core messages are more likely to do business again moving forward. According to Zimmer Radio & Marketing Group, 64 percent of consumers say that shared values are the main reason they trust and continue to work with a specific company. By sharing these positions through effective marketing, companies can better connect with the public and differentiate their business from the rest.
Aside from customer acquisition and retention, defining brand ethics also can inspire employees and attract new talent. When employees know what their company stands for, it can provide motivation and help them understand that their work is important and part of a larger goal. Recently, a Gallup poll discovered that only 41 percent of workers were aware of their company’s core values and understood what makes their company different from competitors. Additionally, establishing and sharing ethics can help attract the right employees to a company. In a world that is constantly changing, core standards can help keep your company grounded and on the right path, attracting like-minded and loyal customers and employees along the way.
DEFINING BRAND VALUES. Before you can weave brand values into your marketing efforts, take time to define the company’s missions and goals. Brand values that resonate with both consumers and employees are typically those that are meaningful, actionable, memorable, timeless, unique and well-defined. To get started, here are a few steps to help develop a meaningful mantra for your company:
- Find Your Niche: When it comes to today’s brands, most of them understand that consumers are looking for companies that are “dependable” and “trustworthy,” among other things. However, in order to really connect with potential customers and drive lasting loyalty, businesses need to go deeper than these high-level superlatives. As a pest control company, rather than simply striving to “help homeowners” for example, elaborate on your “why” and reinforce your company’s commitment to protecting human health, food and property. Additionally, consider tapping into the company history and the credos of its founders for guidance, and incorporate them into marketing efforts to demonstrate the organization’s long-lasting commitment to its mission. If you are a small company, then YOU are the history makers.
- Consider Your Customers and Competitors: A company’s core values should never be defined within a vacuum. Businesses need to pay close attention to their existing and target customers, as well as their competitors, when developing these guiding concepts. Figure out what customers believe in and want, whether it be a commitment to environmental consciousness or a mission to reduce vector pest populations to limit the risk of vector-borne disease rates in the community. The ideals and subsequent performance of competitors also can provide insights into what resonates with consumers and what does not, as well as what is currently being prioritized by companies in the marketplace and where there is opportunity.
- Encourage Customer Feedback: Whether or not a company already has created core concepts, it is important to understand the perception consumers have of the business. Send surveys to customers and encourage feedback whenever appropriate. Knowing what customers think about your company can help you determine and focus your efforts, whether you’re looking to amplify messages that resonate or correct misconceptions.
- Be Consistent: Although logos and slogans can change over time, brand ethics need to remain constant in order to generate and sustain consumer loyalty as well as employee retention. Create company standards that are dependent on principle rather than timeliness and can therefore drive the company as it grows and changes. Companies that are constantly altering or changing their brand values can come off as unorganized or flakey in their supposed commitments and mission.
INTEGRATING BRAND VALUES. Once core ideals have been defined, it’s time to integrate them into marketing efforts and day-to-day operations. The more they are incorporated, the more customers and employees alike will start to recognize them, creating increased brand loyalty and consumer interest, as well as employee motivation. In general, when sharing corporate beliefs with consumers, companies should direct more focus towards their people rather than their products. For example, if a core value has to do with protecting public health, talk about employee training programs and their commitment to the company’s mission, as well as how they help protect customers and their families. By doing so, companies can appear more “human” and connect with consumers on more than just a transactional level. Digital marketing that incorporates a company’s core concepts can take the form of an employee spotlight, community event on social media or perhaps a website blog post or video documenting an example of brand values in action.
Communication of company beliefs, both internally and externally, is key to integration. Make sure employees understand the company’s mission and principles, as well as how they impact and drive their day-to-day work. In particular, employees who are conducting inspections and interacting face-to-face with customers should embody these ideals and have the proper tools and resources to communicate them to consumers. Additionally, digital properties such as the company website should feature a section listing the core values and explaining how they impact and guide the company.
Modern day consumers expect more from companies than just a service or product. The increasing use of and dependence on digital communication has allowed brands to become a bigger part of people’s lives than ever before. As a result, consumers feel more connected to companies and possess a unique affinity and loyalty toward the ones they do business with. Brand standards allow customers to distinguish between competitors and feel a certain sense of pride when they engage with a company whose mission and values they agree with or support. Companies that fail to take the time and effort to define these concepts and integrate them into their business will risk getting lost in the crowd. Those that develop and effectively communicate meaningful and memorable corporate ideals stand to gain long-lasting consumer loyalty as well as valuable employee retention and on-the-job enjoyment.
Cindy Mannes is executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance and vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about PPMA, visit www.npmapestworld.org/ppma.