Guest Post by Dr. Marie Gould Harper, Program Director of Management at American Public University
Recently, I had the opportunity to reconnect with a business that I frequented years ago. One day I felt the urge to visit only to find out things had changed. The two business partners elected to go their separate ways. The one remaining was at the crossroad of deciding whether to keep the physical location or trying something different.
As we discussed short- and long-term strategic planning, the owner responsible for the physical location explained how she wanted to come up with some thoughts on how to operationalize the strategic plans.
One of her biggest concerns was marketing. In her mind, she was in a catch 22 situation. There weren’t enough funds to conduct a marketing campaign, but a campaign was needed to grow the business.
My suggestion – re-build by developing personal relationships. While this type of action would require a lot of time, it is more personable and can be rewarding on so many levels. Although I believed it could work based on the information she was sharing with me, I wanted to find a model that applied the concept and could allow her to see the correlation of what I felt in my gut.
The Brand as the Relationship
One of the resources I discovered introduced the concept of “transitioning from thinking about having a relationship with a brand to thinking of the brand as the relationship”. If one were to define a brand’s relationship, a business could increase the level of engagement with potential customers, create opportunities for differentiation, and establish a new market of loyal clientele.
How could this concept be applied to this company’s “rebranding” efforts?
First, I took into consideration the owner’s mental state. I posed questions that required a response which addressed where she saw the business in the long-term (vision) versus where she saw the business in its current state (reality). After spending many hours comparing the list, we were able to agree on what was necessary to move forward with the next step. A step that she would feel comfortable embracing.
What we found out through this exploration was that her comfort zone was meeting the needs of customers by developing a customized program. Although I believed this practice would be time consuming, it was what made the owner happy. She would be able to increase personal performance via guided instruction. The 1-on-1 relationship increases the level of engagement with one’s client base.
Impact of Differentiation
How does this example move towards creating opportunities for differentiation? End results. The customer experience can create future ambassadors for the service. They can share their experience with others and showcase how using the service was a value added to their lifestyle. Her client base began to share their experiences with friends, family, and co-workers.
In one situation, one of the clients went to her employer to find out how the service could be incorporated into a business activity to relieve stress and anxiety in the workplace. At this point, the business has gone from “providing an individualized experience” to “providing a corporation the opportunity to experience a service focused on improving the mental well being of its workforce”.
The owner has gone from the personal experience with direct pay to individuals participating in a collective experience for a group of employees desiring to a change to improve mental wellness in the workplace.
Ambassadors for Life
We have gone from individualized experiences at a studio to individuals being able to experience the service in their workplace, at the studio and/or online. Thus, creating an environment where the company can meet an individual’s need by giving different modes of participation. In addition, by creating an opportunity to offer three modes of delivery, we have created additional markets that encourages loyal customers via satisfied experiences as testimonials.
About the Author
Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.
Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and influential leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.