Although many of you are in the midst of the hustle and bustle of tax season, this is actually a great time to develop brand loyalty with your clients. After all, you may be seeing many of them for the first time all year. This creates an opportunity for you to set yourself apart from your competitors and get that valuable referral business. But what does brand loyalty mean, and how do you establish it?
Defining brand loyalty. Consumers are far more likely to choose a brand that they recognize over something they are unfamiliar with, which is why many of the products and services we purchase today come from national or internationally branded chains. But this applies with smaller businesses as well. Specialty or boutique services can also establish brand loyalty if their brand clearly defines who they are in their market space, which increases their appeal with the public.
When customers recognize and use your brand, it begins to build your brand equity in several ways. Firstly, it starts the process of creating customer loyalty and return business. Secondly, it starts to build your customer referral base. These are the people who use your service and share their positive experiences with their family and friends. With the lightning speed of social media communication, your brand equity begins to develop the moment your first customer posts something complimentary about you online.
The more recognition you receive and the more you build your brand, the more your company will be viewed as a leader in the marketplace by not only your customers, but also by your suppliers, and potential current and future stakeholders.
This dictates that when building your brand, you must consider both the short-term value and the sustainability of the brand over time. How do you do this?
- Identify: start by clearly identifying what you stand for. Product-based companies can usually easily identify this by the quality of what the products they offer. However, for service-based companies it can become more complex.
- Explain: once you have a sense of your brand pillars, you can begin to describe and explain your brand’s value proposition. This is basically your “elevator pitch”. In one short statement, it tells your prospective customers both what you do and what values you bring to the people you serve.
- Share: the next step in building out your brand is to begin the sharing process. Unfortunately, this is often where most business owners “jump the gun” and begin to share their brand story prematurely. The story of why/how they started their business gets woven and tangled into a confusing array of communication through a variety of tools. This confuses the market about who you really are.
- Validate: this step in your brand development is focused on establishing credibility to what you claim to offer. You accomplish this by incorporating customer referrals, testimonials, and the like into your communication channels.
- Grow: once you have validated your brand and your positioning in the marketplace, it is time to turn it up and grow your distribution.
Why is brand loyalty an especially timely issue? Due to the sweeping tax changes in the US, Canadian companies are deemed to be at a marked disadvantage, comparatively speaking. Reforms such as reductions of corporate tax rates, caps on small business tax, and deductions for capital investments have the Canadian business community increasingly concerned that our more stringent regulatory environment and higher taxes will make us less competitive.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has developed its most comprehensive policy position requesting that the federal government strike a royal commission on tax reform to help with Canadian economic competitiveness issues. Including that the Canadian tax system hampers investment and the ability of business owners to attract talent.
Any tax reform will take time and consultation. In the meantime, Canadian business owners have to find ways to stay as competitive as possible despite a series financial obstacles that take money out of consumers’ pockets: new taxes, economic uncertainty, debt management . Creating brand loyalty is one tool in your arsenal to ensure your business will grow in the future and be able to weather any storm!