Have you ever tried getting information from staff who work for a business, only to find out they don’t know much about the business they work for? Nor can they tell you the brand story?
This one time, I walked into a clothing store in Perth and was so impressed with their layout, brand colours, the way they dressed their mannequins, and their choice of store fixtures.
It was refreshing to see new ways of making clothes and shoes pop out at customers. I thought I would compliment the lady behind the counter and show her that they’ve really impressed me.
I already knew that this shop was part of a chain of shops, and that the layout and design were very likely beyond the shop assistant’s control.
I was also aware that she didn’t own the shop, but I still wanted to let her know that I was impressed.
But I walked up to her anyway, to let her know that the brand is doing something great. I thought she could take this feedback to someone at the top, or at least to the person who pops in the help stage the shop.
But… the conversation went something like this:
“Hello, how are you?” I asked as I approached.
She looked up.
“I’m OK, thanks.”
She looked down at the magazine she was reading on the counter. Perhaps she thought I was just passively asking one of the most boring questions ever, possibly asked by every fifth customer. Perhaps she thought that I didn’t really want to know her response.
But I continued, because I was one of those people who really listen:
“I love this shop and the way it’s designed. Although most your stuff won’t fit me, I think the layout and funky stuff works really well!”
I even did all the posh hand gestures to show what I was referring to.
“Yeah, we try.”
Mmmmkay, I thought. That’s it? We try?
“I’ve always wondered how this chain of shops started… can I ask you today?”
“Um… I’m not sure, I only just started in August and I work only three days a week. Maybe check the website?”
Seriously? I thought. You work here and you don’t know the brand’s story? You think it’s on the website yet you haven’t read it? Was all I kept asking, in my mind, of course, as I thanked her, browsed the shop and left.
But, seriously? You work here but you don’t know the story?
That’s like dating someone for weeks, seeing them three times a week and still haven’t asked for their background story. Their answer to your “tell me about yourself”. Right?
Am I, then, the only person who browses a company’s website for their story and even go as far as reading their annual reports and financial statements… before attending a job interview?
Anyway… maybe I should have stayed and shared these tips with her but I didn’t feel it was my place. Clearly the employer is not testing to see how interested the staff are about the brand.
It makes you wonder what do staff actually tell their friends about the brand? Hopefully not “Don’t go there, shop elsewhere! Because we don’t know much about the brand or what we’re selling!”
My tips for business owners
Here are some of the ways I always recommend to business owners that they help their staff develop knowledge about the brand and its products and services:
- Remind staff to learn and talk about the brand. The story is not just meant to be published in formal publications, your brochures and websites.
- Let them know that they are one of your channels for getting the word out there and for getting the word right.
- Give them some of your products if you can afford to, so that they can test for themselves and be proud to recommend the products.
- Get them involved in writing your story, editing documents and brainstorming activities. Give them some ownership.
- Treat your brand like it’s also their brand, like they are some sort of shareholders. Use the words “we” and “us” more often instead of “I”, “my” and “mine”.
- Don’t refer to the Head Office or management team as though the people on top are an evil team and don’t act like you’re the gatekeeper. That disconnection between them could be adding to that disrespect for the brand.
- Offer them tools and platforms to be able to help you tell the brand story.
- Provide training and learning activities that could help them understand the importance of knowing the brand. Plus, how their actions and words can make or break your business.
Now, feel free to tell me the story of your blog or brand in the comments.