Your Brand’s DNA
Core Fundamentals, Ideologies, and Your Brand
Your company needs core ideologies and a solid brand. These things don’t just happen on their own. They all start with you, the founder.
Company culture is inextricably linked to branding. If you want to attract the best employees and inspire growth and success, you’ve got to invest in building a great brand.
Think about it-- a solid brand becomes iconic. When we think of Apple, we imagine the logo and we think about Steve Jobs (even though he’s gone). This sort of branding is deliberate and important.
A company is a living, breathing organism. It grows, changes, and responds to outside influences. That’s why we think of culture, passion, efficiency and core values as part of a Brand’s DNA. This is the stuff your company is made of!
Your Brand’s DNA is two-fold. It’s directly related to:
- Your internal culture. The productivity and passion of your employees depends upon your leadership. If you build a brand that prioritizes passion, personal development, and work-life balance, you’ll be much more likely to have a happier, more dedicated team.
- Customer perception. Do you want your customers to see you as another nameless, faceless corporation without personality? Probably not. That’s why it’s crucial to build your brand DNA with customers in mind.
You don’t want to be just another chiropractor, software company, or law firm. You want a branded image that makes you recognizable, strong, and inspiring.
Deciding Who You Are and What You Believe In
So, how do you define yourself? You’re probably a generous person wanting to provide a valuable product or service to your customer. You probably love what you do and want to make a living doing it.
Think of the values you care about and want your employees to care about. Here are a few:
Cutting edge technology
A team focus
A brand is led by its founders. It takes time to build. Without deciding who you are and making a commitment to follow-through, you can’t create the brand that you want.
But it’s not enough to say that you want ambitious people with a great attitude. You’ve got to put it into words. Once the guidelines are written down, you can make sure that everything you do is aligned with your values.
But What Should Your Values Be?
At Grasshopper, we developed some core values to define who we are and what we’re working for. These help us chart a path for the future, and also inspire and remind us who we are in the present.
We chose the values we did because we’re on a quest to fulfill our mission “to empower entrepreneurs to succeed.” We’re passionate about providing a great phone system, but we also want to offer something bigger than that. We’re not working just to work—we’re working to help others start, run, and grow their businesses.
Need some examples? Moz has created a TAGFEE code.
And we’ve created G.A.R.Y. (Our Core Values spell out the name of our mascot).
Having values allows you to consistently check on the pulse of your company. They can serve as a type of report card for making sure your team is aligned with the company mission.
At Grasshopper, we have “I caught” cards so employees can celebrate each other by catching coworkers in the act of living our core values.
Creating an Environment Employees Love
You’ve heard it before-- company culture is more than just a ping pong table- but those ping pong tables sure do help.
If your employees can only play at the ping pong table or in the game room after hours, you might as well not have them. Workers need to feel like they can relax and take a breather without getting in trouble or raising eyebrows.
If you create reasons for people to want to come to work, provide good benefits, give flexibility, have company outings, and give gifts, your employees will feel lucky to be where they are. It’s about way more than the ping pong table. These things help reinforce the culture.
“But it’s so expensive!” Actually, it’s not. The cost of giving extra perks to your employees is minimal compared to what you’ll gain through employee commitment and happiness and reduced turnover.
If you want to build a successful, lovable company, start by investing in the people you work with. If you’re going to skimp, don’t do it here.
Here are some things you can do to generate a positive company culture:
- Make sure to have ample healthcare and time off.
- Hold employee outings and parties.
- Give employees gifts when they start.
- Make sure every worker is equipped with the best technology, if feasible.
- Celebrate employees’ life milestones such as big moves, getting married, having babies, or passing classes and certifications.
- Celebrate employees’ birthdays every month. Lump them together and celebrate in a monthly birthday party.
- Provide tons of snacks and food options so no one is ever stressed if they forget their lunch.
- Pay for some other things like gym memberships, rail cards, and cell phones.
We offered a promo code to new customers when our QA engineer got his 11g certification. We also had an office party.
Changing Company Culture
What if you’ve already gone down the wrong road? You have talented employees, but they don’t seem motivated or excited. Their vision is different from yours. Changing company culture is challenging. People get used to doing things a certain way, and making sweeping changes can be cumbersome and met with resentment. How can you change company culture for the better?
Step 1: Change The Corporate Culture
Before you can bring about culture changes in your entire organization, you have to start with who is in charge. Even if you’re working alone, you have to identify your goals and visions. You have to get real about your expectations, get better at communicating, and look inward to find how your flaws are negatively impacting the company. If the corporate level is going to continue down the same path, then how can you expect the entire culture to shift and take a new one?
Step 2: Decide What Needs to Change
After you’ve figured out how the corporate culture is affecting the overall company culture, it’s time to decide what needs to change. Are your employees unmotivated? Are they often late? Is the workplace so casual that customers and clients have complained about rude behavior? Is there talk about low salaries? Remember that these things are all symptoms of a larger problem. Sure, you want your employees to show up on time, but the reason they’re late is because they don’t think it’s important to come in early. They don’t see conscientiousness as a value to uphold.
Step 3: Change The Culture in The Workplace
Implementing change is easier said than done. You’ve gotten used to the way things work, even if you’re unhappy with them. Your employees have gotten used to it, too. In order to change company culture, you have to get at the root of the problem. It won’t be possible to change everyone’s attitude all at once. Instead, find a few people with influence that can rally around the cause. If you get other leaders on your side, you’ll soon be able to change the culture.
How Do You Make Customers Feel?
You can’t create core values in a vacuum. The products and services you sell directly affect what you believe in. Remember- you’ve got to make people feel something.
At Grasshopper, our mission isn’t to provide the best telecommunication solution in the world (even though we’d love to do that). Instead, it’s to empower entrepreneurs to succeed.
Wondering how you can do it for yourself? Ask two questions:
- What do my customers want to accomplish?
- How does my brand help them achieve it?
Facebook Helps You Hook Up
Facebook became popular because it allowed college students to easily connect with their friends. Facebook customers wanted to get together, hook up, gossip, and check each other out. How did Facebook help them achieve it? Well, it’s a platform where people can easily search, message, and connect.
Virgin America Makes You Feel Cool
Virgin America is an airline, flying people around the world just like any other carrier. But Virgin’s different not because the prices are dramatically lower or because the seats are upholstered in cashmere. Virgin is different because it makes its flyers feel cool.
What do Virgin’s customers want? They want to get somewhere. How does Virgin help them? Virgin gets them to their destination with a touch of young, invigorating coolness that they can’t find on another airline.
Nike Makes You Feel Motivated
Ever checked out Nike’s Instagram? If not, you’re missing out on some motivational support. Nike’s a sportswear company, but it’s become a lifestyle company that make us all feel motivated, strong, and fit. Nike provides more than just running shoes—it provides motivation and inspiration.
So What’s a Bad Example? Well, Look at Yahoo.
Yahoo used to be a top search contender, but now their direction is confusing. Here’s what ex-CEO Carol Bartz said Yahoo was in 2010:
Yahoo is a company that is very strong in content. It’s moving towards the web of one. We have 32,000 variations on our front page module. We serve a million of those a day. It’s all customized. Our click-through rate went up twice since we started customizing this. People come to check the things they like. It’s a place where you can just get it together. Yahoo is one site people always stop at.”
What does all that even mean? What are Yahoo’s customers trying to do? How is Yahoo helping them to accomplish this goal?
Don’t be Carol Bartz. Be clear about what you offer. What do your customers want to accomplish? and How do you help them achieve it? These questions should be answered easily and quickly whenever you’re talking about your company.
Why You Can’t Compete on Features
When you see your competitor adding every feature under the sun, it’s tempting to play a game of catch-up and rush to get those features yourself. Take it from us—you can’t compete on features.
It might be tempting to add features when things aren’t working, but this is rarely the solution.
This is a common problem in the initial version of a product, because most of the time the first version doesn’t work, and the most obvious way to solve the problem is to just keep adding features until it starts to click. Yet does this ever work?– Andrew Chen
It’s ok if your product isn’t for everyone. It shouldn’t be. You’re better off being perfect to a niche audience than just ok to a larger group.
So if you can’t add features, what can you do to differentiate yourself?
Make Your Product Simple
Think about your most beloved web services and products. The iPhone is a good example. No matter whether you have an Android or Apple phone, it’s easy to see that the iPhone appeals to people that want something simple. It’s the simplicity and ease-of-use that keeps them hooked.
Build a Lovable, Human Brand
Show a little personality and spunk. Be honest and transparent. It’s ok to share your flaws and mistakes once in a while. Have fun on social media, come up with creative and fun campaigns, and try to be human. A human is much more lovable than a corporation.
Show You’re Trustworthy
Do everything you can to promote trust. Create resources for your target audience, always follow-through on your word, and do everything you can to make it right when you screw up.
Listen to Your Customers
If you ask your customers for feedback or even if they just offer it up--listen. Listening doesn’t mean you have to change your entire product, but it does mean respectfully understanding a customer’s perspective. Customers need to feel as though they’re being heard. Follow them on Twitter, respond to their emails, and offer to promote their businesses.
Provide Great Support
Don’t discount the power of impeccable customer service. We have 24/7 live support. Not many of our competitors have this and we’ve found that it makes a HUGE difference to existing and prospective customers. If our customers have a problem, we do our best to make sure they’re well-supported. All the time.