As the convenience store industry evolves, your brand image and what it stands for will define you in the eyes of your customers and your employees. Consider the outstanding social perceptions of companies like Southwest Airlines and Costco to realize the importance of how your brand is perceived in the marketplace.
Brand image is something c-store retailers need to constantly nurture. Forward-thinking chains across the industry are building new store formats with eye-catching graphics and impressive branded and proprietary foodservice programs. The newer stores present a refined retail experience and help to build a perception of brand excellence. Still, many c-store owners talk about their company culture but often can’t define it. A well-defined culture is crucial for attracting top talent and keeping customers coming back to your stores.
Customers are overwhelmed by messages today, and as a result, it’s tougher than ever to grab and hold customer attention. If you can’t make people see what makes you unique, your offering is a commodity and you’ll be competing primarily on price alone. This approach will be short lived as your competitors offer a fuller shopping experience.
Lindsay Pedersen, author of the new book “Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide,” pointed out that companies are constantly failing to notice what she calls the “empathy gap” that exists between their offerings and the customers they’re trying to reach.
“Empathizing begins long before you sit down to conceptualize messaging,” Pedersen said. “Empathy has to be baked into your processes and the very fabric of your culture. Otherwise, you’ll fail to serve the customer and ultimately fail the business.”
At the foundation of a compelling brand is putting yourself in the customers’ shoes.
“You have to truly get to know the humans you’re seeking to connect with,” Pedersen said. “When you don’t, you’ll not only fail to persuade them to buy and build a loyal relationship over time, you may put out a tone-deaf message that blatantly alienates them.”
Pedersen offered tips for success:
- Forget the Golden Rule. We all know the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But the goal of the marketer is to tap into the customers’ needs and wants, which might be quite different from their own. If retailers market as if they themselves are the target, the strategy is destined to fail.
- Find out what customers really want and need, not just what they say they want and need. Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have answered ‘faster horses.’”
- Discover the deep-seated, unspoken, perhaps even subconscious desires of your customers.Then create an offering that caters to their needs. One of the worst things you can do is get your customers to open up to you, then do nothing.
- Make your customers — not your business — the heroes in your marketing. When you tell stories about your business, let your customers be the stars.
- Tell your story in a way that allows your respect for the customer to shine. Before asking them to like you, make sure you first understand and empathize with them. This creates trust and a tight bond, both of which are necessary for a successful relationship.
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