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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Building your brand

Following up on my previous post here, where at the end I mentioned developing your brand image.

Branding, or developing your brand, is generally regarded as a marketing activity. But I’m an Operations guy, so what am I doing talking about developing your brand. Well, I’ll tell you. Marketing plays an important role in developing your brand, but their role is primarily in advertising the brand. The real work in branding is done by operations. Your brand image is a promise; meaning, this is what you’re going to get and what you should expect. Operations delivers on that promise. Operations does the work that gives you what you want and what you expect. Operations does the planning, gathers the resources, manages and utilizes those resources, and delivers the product or service. You won’t have a brand if you can’t deliver. You can advertise and tell people about your products and services all you want, but if your customers can’t get what they want, when they want it, at a price that’s acceptable, you don’t have a brand, you just have a name.

A strong brand commands a premium price. Think Starbucks. You can get a cup of coffee many places, but people are willing to pay a premium for the Starbucks brand. In my previous post I was talking about membership in organizations. An organization with a strong brand means people want to belong. The price of membership can be set at a premium price, not at a lower price where you’re competing with other organizations based on price. And more people will want to become members just to be associated with that brand. But to be a strong brand, you have to deliver. Whatever it is your organization provides, you have to be the best at providing it. If you’re a service provider of some sort, like a non-profit that helps people who need help, you have to be able to provide that service better than anyone else. That means gathering resources, whether it’s money or donations, processing any paperwork, recognizing donors, putting those resources to work, and then providing the goods or services to your intended recipients. If your brand is recognized for being the best at what you do, people will want to join you, will want to take part. If you’re a networking organization, you have to be the best at providing networking opportunities to your members. Being the best builds your brand, and people will want to be a part of your organization. Being the best happens through excellence in operations.

If you’re a rugby club, or other rugby organization, like USA Rugby, you have to be the best rugby organization. That doesn’t necessarily mean just winning all your games. You can have a strong brand and not be the best team in the world (or your local area). Winning games is only part of what makes up your brand image. The organization behind the team, and the people behind the organization, are the real heart of your brand. Is your club the one that people want to be part of? Are you the best run organization? If you’re not, you should be, and can be. What makes a good organization? It’s being good at everything it takes to field a team and take care of them. Start at the beginning. You have to be able to provide information for prospective club members, whether they’re players or supporters. Provide all the information they want, and keep the lines of communication open. Nothing turns people off faster than not being able to find out things they want to know. Then you have to process new members. Whether they’re players or volunteers, you need to gather and store all the information you need about them. You need to assign them the proper role in the organization. New players need to know when and where practice is held, what equipment is needed, and what is expected of them. Volunteers need to know what duties they’re assigned, where they need to be, and what is expected of them. Fans want to be pampered, not just given a seat they paid for. That means making them fell welcome and taking care of their needs (clean bathrooms?).

The players and team, being the core of a rugby club, are the core of the brand. Winning games is great, but being part of a great organization is even better. Are practices structured and controlled? Are they planned in advance, with the player’s abilities and fitness levels taken into account? Are travel plans arranged in advance? Are selections made and communicated in advance of games? Is player’s health and fitness monitored? Is everyone made to feel welcomed, even new players and not as talented players? And is everyone having fun?? A great organization will build a strong brand. Winning games will help, but the real reason people will want to join your club is the strength of the organization behind the team, and the strength of the brand that goes with it.

Don't forget to Adopt-A-Rugger and Hug-A-Rugger, the fund is growing.

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