Practical Branding

Business Etiquette in the Age of Texting

Posted on July 8, 2011. Filed under: Brand Promise, Customer Experience, Practical Branding |

I’m giving a presentation on business etiquette to a professional society in a couple of weeks. I think I have a decent handle on business etiquette, but did some research to get the latest and greatest. There are some pretty interesting pieces of information out there, things like, “You can talk about politics, as long as you don’t attack a particular side, but you should never, ever swear.” I don’t know about you, but I think we’re better off if both are off limits!

One piece of advice I really like, though, is that true business etiquette isn’t a bunch of rules, but rather a genuine regard for those around us, be they prospects, customers, or colleagues. Don’t you hate it when a provider’s employee bashes another employee or group of employees? I’m thinking about our cable provider at home…when we had a technical problem and had to call someone out multiple times to fix it. Inevitably the person working on the issue would tell us that the previous repair people didn’t know what they were doing. That frustrated me on a multitude of levels! Or how about this one? I read about a guy who had called his bank and asked too many questions; the bank had a policy that a maximum of three questions could be asked per phone call. When he went to the bank and complained, he was told that all could be resolved if he just understood the rules. Apparently it was his fault, not the bank’s. (I wonder whose fault it was when he moved his accounts to a different bank?)

It’s pretty obvious when there’s a genuine regard for someone else…and when there isn’t. For those of us responsible for sales and the customer experience, it could look something like this. Once the agreement is drawn up and sent over, the offering bears no resemblance to what was presented by the salesperson due to a desire to “just get a sale.” Or it could look more like this. The account manager has no idea what the customer purchased because there’s been no handoff of information. Just two scenarios, and there could be many others, but you get the picture. It’s still pretty obvious when there’s a genuine regard for someone else…and when there isn’t.

So in this age of texting, when addressing an envelope is nearly a lost art, when email is often misunderstood as communication, and when automated prompts answer our phone calls more often than people, dare your brand to be different. Dare to have a genuine regard for those around you. Let’s all show a little love to our prospects, customers, and colleagues. Let’s stop worrying so much about business etiquette rules and simply care…a lot!


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The Magic of Roy’s

Posted on April 1, 2011. Filed under: Brand Promise, Customer Experience, Practical Branding |

My husband, Don, has a penchant for Roy’s Restaurant – Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine. His penchant is so great that he has a goal to visit all 33 locations across the US. We had the pleasure of meeting RoyYamaguchi, world-renowned chef and founder of Roy’s, last fall during a visit to Hawaii.  He and his team members have been intrigued about Don’s quest, as he’s the first person they’ve met with such a goal. As such, this quest has given rise to a “challenge of the restaurants” since he reached number 15.

A couple months ago, I was with Don when we visited Roy’s number 29 and 30, and we were treated to phenomenal customer experiences both evenings. I have to tell you the stories.

I should start this by telling you that Bryson Keens, Managing Partner of the Roy’s in Baltimore, has become a champion of my husband’s quest and now calls each Roy’s prior to Don’s visit to let them know they have a Roy’s aficionado coming. Whatever he says to his colleagues tends to bring out the absolute best creativity in them. So, the first night, we dined at Roy’s in Bonita Springs (#29), Sondra Hon, the Managing Partner there, came to greet us and get to know us. We received a special appetizer, compliments of Sondra, and gifts of two beautiful martini glasses and Hawaiian motif USB drives. We were treated like royalty the entire evening and felt like we were dining with good friends all around us.

The second evening, we visited the Roy’s in Naples (#30). Upon arrival, we were seated at the “seen and be seen” table, which was reserved for us and overlooked the entire restaurant. We began talking to the Managing Partner, David Lamarca, who graciously came to welcome us. Jerry, our waiter, was anxiously watching us and when we finally stopped chatting, he immediately came over and said Chef Eric (Delano) was waiting for us with a special appetizer. We thought the appetizer was prepared and waiting in the kitchen. But no, indeed Chef Eric was waiting to come out and create this appetizertableside for us. What a treat to watch him prepare seared tuna, lobster bisque, and marinated mushrooms as he described the ingredients and the preparation of each. We had a lovely conversation with him until he had to return to the kitchen! Following a fabulous meal and glass of wine, Jerry brought out dessert for us – Roy’s molten chocolate cake. Our tab, to our amazement, was nearly zero as the restaurant had provided most of our dinner with their compliments. Before the evening was over another waiter, Carlos, stopped by just to say hi and thanks for the loyalty. Carlos wasn’t our waiter; he simply saw a special experience and made a decision to “up” the ante a bit. More martini glasses (we now have a set of four), a photograph for posterity, and we were sent home very full and very happy.

So, great story you say, but what are the take-aways? Consider these three:

  1. If you’ve never been to a Roy’s, you need to go – fabulous food, amazing atmosphere, and wonderful people.
  2. Each Managing Partner and Chef Partner we’ve met (and we’ve met quite few) lives the Roy’s brand. We see how Roy’s managers and chefs emulate the spirit he personally brings to his conversations and, obviously, his career. For example, how fun is the rivalry Bryson Keens has evoked among the partners based on his enthusiasm over Don’s quest?
  3. Living the brand through the customer experience goes beyond the Managing and Chef Partners to every employee. Carlos took it upon himself to come over to us, even though he wasn’t our waiter. He’s not the first Roy’s waiter or hostess to do that…they all make us feel special.

Feeling special, feeling valued…isn’t that what we want our customers to feel? But in the throes of the workday, how many of us make the intentional decision to do that? It’s easy to forget. But remember, what your customers see, what they hear, what they touch, and how they interact with you defines their customer experience. Roy’s gets it and has made the decision to make customers feel valued.

Don will make it all the Roy’s restaurants…and honestly, we can’t wait to see what’s in store at each one along the way!

Wouldn’t it be great if your customers felt the same way?


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Create Memories Through Experience

Posted on March 30, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience, Good Habits, Practical Branding | Tags: |

Think back to one of your most vivid memories – perhaps it’s a perfect powder ski day…perhaps a special birthday…perhaps something else. If I asked you to describe the memory, I bet you could pull out the most amazing details to describe it.

Here’s one from me. It was about at least seven years ago…and it was a ski day. It was snowing hard, really hard. The sky wasn’t blue or gray – it was white. I love skiing on really sunny days and extremely snowy days – terrible conditions really challenge me and I get psyched! The snow was pelting my face, the powder was about 10” deep – right at the top of my ski boot – and it was difficult to see very far. It was silent…my skis made no noise at all as they cut through the white stuff. And I was focused. It takes some decent concentration to ski in that much powder, but I remember thinking, “Oh well, if I fall, at least it won’t hurt!” I even have a picture ingrained in my mind of the view (or lack thereof) coming down the mountain, a racecourse on my right, unable to see much farther than 20 feet ahead, and on this is overlaid the thrilling feeling of the challenge.

Do you have a memory like that – a memory about which you can pull up clear details, no matter how long ago it occurred? Most likely, that memory is associated with an experience.  That’s because experiences trigger brain memory and emotions.  And, important in business, experiences, memory, and emotions influence opinions, and opinions often define brands in our world today.

Think about those brands that really stand out for you. Is it because of the product delivered or is it because of the experience that surrounds that product…the way it makes you feel? Nordstrom, Starbucks, Ritz Carlton, Disney are all nationally recognized as providers of stellar customer experiences. But that level of experience can happen in an everyday world as well. For me, they are provided by my dentist, by one of the checkers at my local grocery store, and by my Apple store.  Those everyday brands are defined more for me by the experience I receive than by the service or product I buy. I’m not discounting function – it has its place – but the experience is what I remember.

When you think about it, the union of what your customers see, what they hear, what they touch, and how they interact with you defines their customer experience.  And that experience triggers memory and emotion, which then serve to define your brand in your customers’ minds.  In this way, emotion and experience play important roles in defining your brand in the marketplace today. Are you focusing on what your customers see, hear, and touch, and how they interact with you? Think about your memories and pay attention to the type of details you vividly recall.

You want to be remembered? Try making memories through experience.


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Make Your Brand Buzzworthy – Come to Building a Buzzworthy Brand

Posted on February 25, 2011. Filed under: Practical Branding, Uncategorized |

Are you ready to take 2011? Really take 2011? Could you use some help?

I’ve teamed up with Pecanne Eby and Ann Lillie, two other brand and messaging consultants in Denver, to offer a one-day workshop that will help you make your brandbuzzworthy in 2011.

This workshop is ideal if you are a business owner, executive, marketing or sales professional who is…

  • Tired of “dabbling” in branding and want to really understand how to develop a successful business brand
  • Losing business to competitors or are stuck in “price wars”
  • Struggling to create a brand with meaning, whether that’s launching a new business or repositioning an existing business
  • Striving to be a recognized name and leader in your market
  • Or, just needing some “fine tuning” of your brand strategy, marketing communications or customer experience.

You’ll learn brand-building fundamentals in this information-packed and interactive day at the Denver Athletic Club in downtown Denver.

The workshop is $199 per person and includes lunch and all materials. And if you’re a past or current client of The Zoelby Group, join us for $159 per person.  Click on the link below for more information and to register.

Join us for a fantastic, information, productive, and fun day!


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A Little Experience Upsets a Lot of Theory

Posted on February 16, 2011. Filed under: Practical Branding | Tags: , , |

Have you ever heard of S. Parkes Cadman? You would be, I imagine, in the minority of readers if you had. S. Parkes Cadman was a coal miner, clergyman, newspaper writer, and radio broadcaster in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. He was noted for his clear voice, passionate speaking, and insightful writing. But I’m not bringing Mr. Cadman to light because of his career; rather because of something he said:

“A little experience often upsets a lot of theory.”

Pretty true, isn’t it? I’m taken by the quote because it applies so well to the customer experience. You can theorize all you want, for days, weeks, or years on end, about what kind of experience you deliver to your prospects and customers. But until you actually experience those things from their point of view; in essence, until you experience their experience, you’ll never really know if your theory is solid.

I’ve seen it too many times…companies have a fancy, flowery tome of a mission statement hanging on the wall. But ask an employee what the mission statement is and you’ll get a blank look for a reply. Mission statements, vision statements, brand promises – they are practical tools to be used to move your business forward, not intellectual theories to be framed and hung on a wall. The same thing goes with the customer experience, directly related to your mission, vision, and brand promise. If you are looking at your customer experience from your point of view, stop right there. Put on the shoes of your customers and take a walk in them…only then will you understand what it’s like to buy from you. Until theory is put into practice, it’s unfounded and ungrounded.

Well-built strategies have five common traits:

  1. They are conceived from theory and experience.
  2. They incorporate not only your perspective, but that of your customers, employees, and suppliers.
  3. They are immediately applicable.
  4. They stand the test of time, allowing for tweaks eliminating continual rework.
  5. They are measurable.

Theory is great, but it can be easily upset by experience. Use experience to test and hone your theory – transforming it into a tool that can be used to continually build your business.



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The Dog Biscuit Miracle

Posted on December 6, 2010. Filed under: Customer Experience, Practical Branding, Stories | Tags: , , |

The following article is from David Bond, the creator of The Wallace Street Journal. It’s a great testament that a stellar customer experience can be delivered in even the most unexpected circumstances. Read on…and thanks, David, for allowing me to share this!

Wallace, Idaho – To those in search of miracles, I give you this:

Without fail, every morning, give or take 5 minutes depending on the weather, at 0530 our newspaper appears on the front porch. Not in the weeds or the snow. On the front porch, right by the door, so a be-slippered old geezer can reach out for it without embarrassing his neighbours or getting frostbite on his toes, even in the dark.

The impeccable and predictable timing would be enough to remark upon. Except that, winter or summer, tucked into the newspaper is a dog biscuit. Whoever throws the paper on our porch has never met Chase, our dog, because he is inside the house at this dark hour. But Robert has heard a grump or a woof and figures somebody inside would like a treat.

Comes out of his own pocket, this newspaper-carrier’s milk bone. Now, milk bones are not the most expensive of things, unless you buy them 365 days a year for the hundreds of dogs who live along his route. And I know that our paper-guy does this, because at 3:30 a.m., throwing papers way up in Mullan, he is doing the same thing for the dog-people there. I have witnesses.

Now, come to find out, this individual lives in Smelterville. Smelterville is 30 miles west of Mullan. So in the damned cold and dark (winter or summer, take your pick) he departs the comfort of his feathers, picks up his newspapers in Kellogg, and by 0300 is in Mullan, throwing the day’s news and doggie goodies, and by 0530 or so is tossing the newspaper and the milk bone onto our front porch. This round-trip is about the distance between Seattle and Olympia.

And to top all of that, a couple of days ago, he dropped a Christmas card into the mix, strapped into the same rubber band as the newspaper and the milk bone. It was there on the front porch, at 0 Dark 30. The return address was, simply: The Newspaper Guy. Chase ate the milk bone and spared the card. Who says dogs are unsentimental?

I’ve caught the newspaper guy two or three times on the front porch, his beater breathing exhaust, thanked him for the good work he does every day. He respects my thanks, but he has a route to deliver, he is on his way. By looks he is an old hippie, like me, like most of my orbit. Just doing what he needs to do, except with a flair. I wonder, was he growing pot in California in 1965, or maybe just bugging out of the orange smoke at LZ Crystal on the last Huey before Charlie shot guys out from under him. Maybe, like me during those turbulent times, he was just passing through. I don’t know and I don’t care. Sacrifice is sacrifice and redemption is redemption. We all muddle through.

What I do know is that a guy gets up in the misery of the night, and goes beyond the minimum. He makes Chase, our dog, happy. And once a year thanks me for his business with a Christmas card.

If there is an America to be saved, it will not be trillions to U.S. and foreign banks. It will not be the Fed. It will not be a hideously powerful military steaming through the Straits of Formosa into the maw of an Exocet missile. Salvation will come from a guy waking up 20 miles to my West in the middle of the night, driving 30 miles to his east in a blizzard and, in addition to doing his job, caring about my dog. Without complaint, and with a great deal of grace.

Visit David’s website at

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Every Company Delivers a Customer Experience

Posted on February 24, 2010. Filed under: Customer Experience, Practical Branding |

Every company delivers a customer experience…whether they realize it or not.

How certain are you that your employees deliver the customer experience you want them to deliver?  What’s it like to be a customer of your company – have you thought about that lately?  Perhaps it’s great…perhaps not so much.  What’s critically important to realize is that every single employee is a representative of your brand, each individual employee is the face of your company to the people with whom they interact.

You can, indeed, ensure that your employees live your brand. You can ensure that your employees are brand ambassadors for your company. It takes work, it takes involvement, and it takes an ongoing effort. But it can be done. And just think what kind of customer experience you could deliver then.

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