Brand AmbassadorsIt doesn’t take much effort to get noticed, but it does take some.

Your last experience with a brand is your last impression of that brand. How friendly is that UPS driver? How helpful was the phone support person from Verizon? Was the Apple store sales rep helpful and genuine? I used to work for a print shop that made deliveries. The delivery guy didn’t really know his way around town, but he had the biggest smile and was always upbeat. Consequently, the customers loved him.

Brand Differentiation

Most people know that differentiating your brand is extremely important, but some may overlook customer service as the vehicle for achieving this. When I experience great customer service, I remember it. Don’t you? I tell my friends, I tell strangers via Twitter, and my brand perception is affected. This weekend, I had a wonderful experience with The Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, MA. On Saturday, I tweeted that I was looking for restaurant suggestions in Salem for that night. Someone under the hotel’s name tweeted me back. The conversation resumed over the phone and even though they were booked solid that night, she said she would get us a table. She even gave me the phone number of the hostess’ station and the hostess’ name. When we got into town, I called the station. Sure enough, she said she knew I was coming. We had maybe a 10-minute wait in their comfortable lobby before we were seated. Keep in mind, October is Salem’s busiest month of the year. The atmosphere and food were excellent, but more importantly, I felt like a movie star — getting into a packed restaurant all because someone cared enough to reach out to me on Twitter. Was it a lot of work on her part? Not really, but the Hawthorne Hotel has made me a fan for life.

Toot Your Own Horn

It is important to let people know the great things that you and your team are doing. Companies do amazing things all the time and I don’t think they talk about it enough. Twitter, Facebook, company blogs and news pages are perfect vehicles to tell these brief but relatable stories. Years ago, when we were rebranding Holly Cleaners in Newton, a “high-end” dry cleaning company, we started digging for some news (desperately hoping that a dry cleaner would have something interesting to say). They brought up a story about a customer’s wedding dress. About a week before the wedding, they had the customer’s dress laid out on a table to be dry cleaned and a ceiling fixture crashed down on top of the dress. They called the bride-to-be and explained the catastrophe, but assured her that she would have a new dress on her wedding day. They then proceeded to hire a well-known dress designer to rebuild the dress using much nicer materials than the original. The customer ended up with an amazing dress in time for her wedding – at no charge of course. Our jaws dropped — why hadn’t they broadcast this story before?

You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get

Ask your customers for recommendations or to participate in your online discussions. At Metropolis, we use the launch of a project as a perfect way to recap with the client. We write a press release and ask for the client’s input. We also ask for some kind of quote to put in the release. Point existing and potential customers to your blog posts and ask for their input. Engage with them on their own blogs and other social media sites too.

Reach Out, Grow Your Network

Once you identify who you should be marketing to, talk with them. Join discussion groups on LinkedIn and offer helpful advice. Network in person and connect people. As long as you’re personable and genuinely helpful, you’ll be remembered in a positive light. The more active you are, the more memorable you become (simple advertising — right?) The larger your network, the more valuable it will be when you need it. You may not have a newsletter that you’re sending out right now, but you should still be collecting names for your database. Don’t wait until you actually need a network to start growing it.

Communication and networking takes time, but it’s worth it. Spend some time with your online community and start building your army of brand advocates now!