The True Value of Your Brand

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The value of your business to your customers goes beyond features & benefits. Here’s what I’ve learned from one of my favorite local small businesses.

It’s about the emotions you evoke and problems you solve (or create) for your customers.  This has a huge impact on your bottom line.

ValueI recommended my vet, Hunt Valley Animal Hospital, numerous times because of the warm fuzzy feeling I get when I think of them. How many times do you wind up giving a recommendation because of a feeling that the company or person gives you?

We were discussing businesses using phone and email to communicate. I mentioned that my vet has used email to answer non-urgent questions about my pet. The real value of this is I could get an answer to my problems quickly and easily without having to wait by my phone for the call back. This simple action saved me time, money for an appointment and gave me peace of mind.

I have numerous reasons I give Hunt Valley Animal Hospital an enthusiastic recommendation.

Think about your business…are your customers this enthusiastic about you?

The negative brand of my old vet

I used to go to another well-known brand in town, Falls Road Animal Hospital. The lead vet does a guest spot on the local news and he treats famous animals, like “Eddie” from “Fraiser”.  He’s a “celebrity vet”. I thought his practice must be good because they were well-known.  Wrong. I regularly had to wait 1-2 HOURS for appointments. I would ask the desk staff what was taking so long and I got a rude response.  My pet rabbit, Oscar, had a failed operation costing hundreds of dollars more than the estimate that they had given me.  The staff had misfiled this, so it was my word against their new bill.  I had to pay on the spot.  Did I mention this was on my birthday?

I’ll never forget them, but not in the warm fuzzy way that I think of Hunt Valley Animal Hospital.

What a positive brand means to me (and to your reputation)

They value my time

value of your timeHunt Valley Animal Hospital has early & late hours on weekdays and Saturday hours.  Once I had to wait 10 minutes for an appointment several people on staff apologized. They explained an emergency had come in: a dog getting hit by a car. By proactively communicating this, it told me that if it had been MY PET EMERGENCY, I would be the one getting priority.  And one day it WAS. My cat almost died in the middle of the night, and I transported him at 7am from the Pet ER to Hunt Valley with no appointment.

They saved his life, and saved me thousands of dollars.

They care about the big picture

My pet rabbit, Oscar, still had foot problems after that costly operation at my old vet.  They has never bothered asking me what sort of cage I kept him in.  Turns out wire bottom cages are bad for fat rabbits and the abscess returned.  I did not have the expertise to offer this information without being asked.

As experts in their field, the vet should had taken a few minutes to ask about related issues.

Saving me money + humane treatment for my animal = TRUST

I was hesitant about another operation, and so was the Vet.  We were hopeful that by eliminating the cause (the wire cage) that his lucky foot would be fine if it could heal properly. We built up trust during a quick conversation about my concerns and creative solutions.  The Hunt Valley vet suggested I soak my rabbit’s foot 2x daily in a solution of iodine ($20) and warm water.



Soak a rabbit foot?  I thought this was crazy, until it worked!

On his next checkup, we laughed as I explained that I had to cut a Tupperware dish to leave room for his body to fit over the edge without spilling the liquid.  Turns out my rabbit loved it.  He would stretch out and get petted for 10 minutes.  My fat cat used to like to join him and would curl up and cuddle with him.  I treasure the quality, relaxing time I spent with my pets. I have tons of incredibly cute inter-species love photos to document this.  It was much less evasive for my rabbit, and for my wallet!

I also gave the vet mental bonus points for thinking outside the box.

A sense of humor makes doing business enjoyable

One visit with Oscar was close to St. Patrick’s Day, and I had tried out new chlorophyll cage bedding, which turned his white fur green.  The staff & I were laughing about Oscar’s green fur.  I always get the sense that the staff enjoys working there and having funny moments with the animals.

I want to do business with people I like.

They value my business & what my referrals mean to their growth

I always get a greeting card, with a lottery ticket inside, as a thank you for referring people.  It’s a simple but fun way to express gratitude.

They care, and go out of their way to show it

I also got 2 cards from the vet when my rabbit passed away this year.  Most people probably don’t think a rabbit means very much.  I had him for 6.5 years, and they realized I was hurting.  I will never forget how kind they were.

That’s the power of a good brand. But it’s very easy to just fail miserably, or just not care about the impression you are leaving.

Having no brand can hurt you, too

A week after Oscar died, I had to take my other rabbit Jes to get seen. It was very last minute on a Saturday and Hunt Valley was booked, so I decided to try another vet in the area. It was my first visit.  The vet never introduced himself, made eye contact or asked me how I had heard about the practice.  Their clinical attitude was professional, but not friendly.  I mentioned several times that Oscar had just died… and not once did the vet express any sympathy. I never got a “thank you” card for being a new patient. They failed to set themselves apart and they don’t think of patients or pets as part of their extended family.

I’ll forget about returning.

What’s your brand impression?

BRANDTake away the pet part of these case studies and we are left with actions and emotions that could be happening with your business.  Are your customers reacting positively, negatively, or not at all?

It’s difficult to objectively evaluate your own brand.  We suggest you ask your clients for feedback.  Touch base with them and inquire why they do business with you.  Thank them for their business. Ask if they know of anyone else who might use services such as yours.

Are you solving or creating problems? Are you showing your customers you value their time, money and business?

Document your own case studies

Take some time to reflect back on your interactions with clients.  When did you go the extra mile?  Realize that THIS is what sets you apart in your customer’s eyes. When could you have done better?  Learn from these mistakes and know that it can be corrected.

When I job search, I use a process from the Knock ‘Em Dead series. I wound up with 10 prime examples of my work experience.  Every time I’m asked an interview question, I answer the question but then follow up with the example. I had to remember to add a dramatic pause for “thinking time”.

The process made it so easy that I was delighted to interview!

Your bottom line will improve as you build your brand around your real value. Let’s talk about your success stories and how they help attract more clients!

PS - I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed by reading blog posts full of ideas, tactics and tools. Be honest...

  • How frustrated will you be trying to implement this on your own?
  • How much time will you waste if it's not your next best step?
  • Did you just take the time to read this but you won't make any changes?
  • Or are you ready to take a small next step to build your brand?
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