To create and support sustained and profitable sales growth, the “tip of the spear” will always be customer engagement. Customer engagement is the indisputable moment of truth when your company connects in a memorable, emotionally satisfying way—or not. It is the powerful combination of not only delivering what your customers want but also helping them feel connected to your business.

I was talking to a friend and expert at developing retail and restaurant customer service last week. His programs were rightfully about employee motivation, and they focused on daily competitions, sales targets, recognition, training, team building…However, there was no mention of engaging the staff with the business strategy and brand even though great brands and service leaders like L. L. Bean, Nordstrom, and Zappos make brand values (and company culture) an unforgettable part of the company’s fabric and the customer’s experience.
Building Customer EngagementDon’t get me wrong. It is not an easy process. But the results from a loyal and expanding customer base are long lasting and profitable.

Four Steps to Better Branding, Better Customer Engagement

Below are four key steps for making sure the power of your brand (and company culture) is having its full, supportive impact on your strategically focused customer engagement.

  1. Create a lasting brand platform. There are many forms of brand platforms, and you can even find alternatives online. From my experience (advertising, packaged goods, and restaurant/retail), the best brand platforms include the company’s core values, competitive positioning, key customer promise, personality, and tone. A good brand platform is competitive (to be financially viable) and has the emotional elements customers recognize and relate to (people buy from people).
  2. Get it out of the marketing department. The brand is the company’s brand, not the property of your marketing team or advertising agency. Your marketing team or brand consultant can manage the process, but the ideal brand platform is endorsed by the CEO and the management team who have been deeply involved in its development. It is constantly promoted across departments, from HR to Finance to Operations.
  3. Repeat. Repeat. Make sure your brand message gets repeated enough to become part of the daily fabric. A major obstacle to this is management teams tend to get quickly bored and assume that repeating a similar message once, twice, or even three times is sufficient to ingrain thinking and create habits. It’s not. Even when the management team has become fully immersed, the staff member welcoming your customer by the Internet, in person, or on the phone is just beginning to get the idea.
  4. Don’t let it go. If properly developed, your brand platform process has been inclusive and collaborative, built on solid data, information, and decision making—and more than simple “consensus.” Your brand platform will be customer-centric and aligned with your dynamic and lasting business strategy. It is not an advertising or promotional line that is easily changed any more than your overall business strategy and culture are easily changed. Refine it carefully and thoughtfully as you move ahead.

Following the Brand Direction to Better Customer EngagementThe bottom line? The customer experience builds loyalty and sales, but the best customer experiences are driven from inside the company, its brand, and core values. The best customer experiences are effective and meaningful in both the short and long run because they are supported by the thrust of the business strategy and brand.

In fact and if asked, I can point to at least two of my own restaurant marketing experiences which very successfully followed this process. One had over 50% revenue growth through market expansion in four years and the other had over 50% AUV growth in five years.