What do you aspire to be? This is the most effective question you can ask yourself as a mortgage company or any other mortgage industry product or service provider if you want to really leverage your most powerful asset to drive greater profit & market share…your brand.
Great brands are constantly evolving…they’re aspirational in nature. It’s about moving your brand to new levels, in a direction that becomes more and more connected with your audiences’ needs. The more connected your brand is to your audience, the further you can take your company.
To best communicate my point about the power of leveraging your brand, let’s take a look at Zappos(TM)…a brand all of us are familiar with by name if not also by experience. I selected Zappos because it’s an easy brand to study and learn from…check out Tony Hsieh’s book “Delivering Happiness.”
At the 2009 Retailing Smarter symposium, CEO Tony Hsieh broke down the evolution of the Zappos brand as follows:
1999: Selection (of shoes)
2003: Customer Service
2005: Culture and Core Values as their Platform
2007: Personal Emotional Connection
2009: Delivering Happiness
There are some great takeaways from this brand evolution. For one, the Zappos brand is clearly not stagnant. In fact, if you’re truly interested in understanding the power of brand loyalty and building your business for the long term, Zappos, as I mentioned, is a great company to study. Secondly, notice how the Zappos brand continued to move in a more humanistic direction. Delivering happiness is a lofty goal, but simply having that intention can open up new ideas and ways of doing business that can set you apart from competitors, build loyalty and drive longevity…and more business, making you a dominant industry or local player!
By studying Zappos, it will become self-evident that the intangible qualities of business (culture, values, etc.) are even more important than the transactional side. There are many online stores where you can buy shoes and other articles of clothing…but the one with the highest level of brand recognition, the dominant player is Zappos.
So, are the intangible qualities ingrained in your company, which make up your mortgage industry brand, moving you in the right direction? Are they moving you towards the aspirational objectives you’ve set financially and strategically…becoming increasingly more connected with your audiences needs? To accomplish this, the goal must be to operationalize your brand. Operationalizing your brand simply means bringing it to life more effectively and efficiently, across every dimension of your business. If a company embraces this concept of operationalizing its brand, then it is embracing the concept of taking control of the brand internally. If the brand is controlled internally, it is then controlled externally by default because the way you communicate with your audience will be consistent, cohesive and ultimately effective. Your audience will come to know what to expect in communicating with you and working with you and the word will spread.
TEST: FIND OUT HOW WELL YOUR BRAND IS UNDERSTOOD INTERNALLY
You want to have some fun? Here’s a quick test you can give your people…from the C-Suite to the receptionist(s), to see how well your brand and direction of your company is understood…and operationalized internally. Tomorrow morning, send out this email:
Hello (first name):
As the (insert your title) and a leader of _____________________, I want to ensure that everyone at _____________ understands our brand, our vision and our competitive advantages. To achieve this goal, I must ask all of you to answer the questions below so that I may understand how each of you perceives the _____________brand.
Please answer the following questions in the next thirty minutes, print out your answers, seal them in an envelope and place them in the box located in our break room. Please…do not include your name. I wish for all of you to be open and candid with your responses, so I’m keeping this anonymous.
1. What is unique about our company compared to our top competitors?
2. What is our vision?
3. What are our primary strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
4. If you were a prospective customer, would you or would you not do business with us? Why?
The answers to these questions will tell you quite a bit. If the answers seem untargeted/scattered…then that’s something that needs to be dealt with first, before operationalization can occur. But for now, let us assume that everyone is on the same page. If that’s the case, then…
SUCCESS IN OPERATIONALIZING YOUR BRAND WILL DEPEND ON SUCCESS IN THE FOLLOWING AREAS:
1) Alignment between the business and brand strategy: if your brand strategy is well defined, this will help you assess the “fit” of new product launches and potential acquisitions. Remember Harley Davidson wine coolers? Perfect example of brand extension that didn’t work out so well.
2) Commitment to brand-building by the CEO and key executives
3) Controlling the interactions your audience(s) (customers, stakeholders) have with your brand, ensuring those interactions are aligned with the brand you’ve set forth
4) Ensuring all those employed by you understand your brand promise and the roles they each play in their respective positions in bringing the brand to life
5) Implementing a system that monitors and rewards performance so it (the brand) can continually be upgraded
Following these 5 points is precisely how great brands like Zappos are able to achieve the status they’ve achieved.
Having worked with a range of companies in the mortgage industry, I can tell you that the chasm between the ones doing most of the business and the others that work much harder for their “piece of the pie” is deep and wide. This difference in many cases is due to how well their brands have been operationalized. This is especially true when industry service providers or mortgage companies allow sales people/originators to develop and distribute their own materials and run with old habits they now bring to your company because they don’t have a clue what your brand is, which may well not be their fault. A company that has operationalized its brand will pick and choose candidates for hire that are adaptable to your vision, culture and therefore your brand and will live it and breathe it.
Once you’ve mastered operationalizing your brand, you are well on the road to maximizing your greatest untapped asset. Leveraging this great asset will enable you to achieve your longer term financial and strategic goals.