My parents always taught me to value my relationships, to treat others as I would like to be treated, and to never burn my bridges – that great big world is actually pretty small when you get working in it for awhile.
I’ve been blessed by the results of that sound advice with close bonds with my kids and parents, incredible friendships and truly great clients – some of whom have remained with Ink Tank for more than 25 years – and many who, over a short or long time, have become friends as well. My parents’ advice is both a lesson for life and a lesson for business. It applies to both the clients and suppliers I choose to work with, and also to the advice I give my clients to help them think differently about their businesses and understand how to authentically present their brands.
In our approaches to our friends and family we are (hopefully) transparent, genuine and have their best interests at heart. Our good intentions and integrity are obvious, and they respond in kind. It seems to me to be simple logic that we treat our clients and staff in the same way to achieve similar outcomes.
Yet sadly it’s often not the case. We’re approached by clients because they’re feeling ‘stuck’. They may be losing market share, not growing as they think they should, or not getting the responses they expect. They blame it on the market, on the digital age, on rising competition, on fickle customers, on staff not doing their jobs, or on design that’s bad, ineffective or not ‘creative’ enough. As a result, they might wish to throw their entire ‘brand’ out the window and start over. Many designers, marketers and so-called branding experts will jump all over this as an opportunity for large billings and a chance to put their own stamp on the client. It’s usually a bad idea – more focused on the supplier’s than the client’s best interests.
All of this tells me that they don’t really understand what branding is to begin with. They don’t understand their own brand and certainly don’t understand the relationship their brand has with the marketplace. They’ve thrown the basic tenets of a good relationship out the window – not necessarily deliberately – but by trying to be someone they’re not, talking versus listening, and often in the wrong relationships to begin with.
Everyone wants to feel valued. They want to know that you care about what they care about, and care about them – genuinely. That communication is a two-way street. That you’re confident in who you are and don’t try to be something you’re not. That you listen as well as talk. No one wants to be around people (or businesses) that are all about themselves or that do things to appear caring, but in fact are not. They want the real deal.
While this seems simple, many companies are too close to what they do to see it and themselves clearly. For well-established firms, they’re often stuck in old ways of seeing themselves. In the case of start-ups, they may be carried away by their great idea, or be too money-conscious to get the proper help. In both cases they tend to completely misunderstand what branding is. They underestimate the need for, time involved and cost of researching, defining and positioning their company, product or service, building their brand and creating the right communications strategy. Same goes for developing the name and corporate identity that has available domains, avoids language faux pas and is unique enough to meet the requirements of a trademark. And finally, to effectively target their marketing so they can attract the right relationships in the first place, then sell them and maintain them in the second.
There’s an old adage that often comes up in some form or another: “If you build it, they will come.” The fact is, the notion is only true in this competitive, highly communicative economy if that truly applies to your relationships, not just to what you’re selling.
Ink Tank® is a full service boutique agency located in Toronto. We offer a wide range of business building communication services from strategy to concept to execution to production to evaluation, senior level only participation and highly competitive rates. We work in all on and off line media, and pride ourselves on being able to hit the ground running, and getting it right the first time.