Each choice and decision you make is a silent message that speaks volumes about your brand. Are you communicating the right message?
Over the past week I have been thinking a lot about my experience at Clean Table from last week, and I have heightened my awareness of how the businesses with which I engage — both online and offline — present themselves.
Some websites have the equivalent of the “stalker sales person,” with chat windows that pop up before I’m on their site for even 30 seconds.
Some businesses respond to my emails with an automated customer service response, that may be crafted to feel personal but actually makes me feel like I’m just another number.
Some businesses respond to my emails with a reply that tells me they have read what I wrote. This makes me feel seen and heard. I feel valued as a customer (or potential customer) even before I’ve engaged in a transaction.
What’s most fascinating to me are the businesses that profess to be a certain way but in practice are not aligned with what they preach. Some businesses send me emails to tell me how much they care about me and value me in their communities, but in practice they don’t seem to care much about me at all. They ask me to respond to surveys to share my challenges with them, with the pretense of wanting to help. A few weeks later they turn around to try to sell me a course that will primarily serve them in getting more income, rather than helping me.
Those businesses make me feel the worst. I feel like every email and every interaction is calculated to get me to turn over my money to them. At some point, even the warm and fuzzy emails begin to lose authenticity.
What’s The Message You Are Communicating?
Last week I shared about how Clean Table, a new restaurant/coffee shop in the West Village, lured me in with its open door. The weather today was cold and rainy — not quite the warm fall day we had last week. I returned to Clean Table with the porridge still on my mind. I did not expect to find the door open today, but the vibe inside communicated the same message as I received last week.
Chevonne, the woman I met last week, was working behind the coffee bar when I entered. As she saw me come in, her face lit up and she called out “Hi Renee!” in a warm voice. On a cold and rainy day, it warmed and nourished me. I felt like this was a real community place; I felt a sense of belonging.
Open doors do not need to be literal.
There is a silent message in every action you take and every decision you make.
Why We Need Outside Perspective
It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that if you keep your goals and values in front of you that your messages will be on-brand. Or they assume that if sales are good that they are doing everything right.
The truth is that unless we are talking about a physical door, we can’t really assess from the inside whether our door is “open” or “closed;” – the messages we communicate to others go beyond emails and words. Our brand is communicated by everything we do and how we do it.
As I wrote last week, your message is communicated by your actions beyond your words.
How do you determine what message you are communicating?
We must enlist help from people outside our business — sometimes even outside our industry.
But too often, we don’t seek this help from an outside person.
Fear. We are scared of what we will learn. It can be humbling to face the truth of how people perceive our business and our “brands” — especially when we are talking about personal, service-based businesses.
But without that truth we can’t adjust. We won’t make efforts to open a door that we think is already open.
With truth comes the freedom to get back in alignment with our values.
So who do you ask?
Many people assume that they should ask their clients and customers. That’s a good start, but it won’t give you the whole picture. You’ll get an echo chamber of your strongest messages, but you won’t get insight into where your alignment is off.
You must ask all the people who receive your message. The people who don’t enter your store. The people who don’t invest or don’t hire you.
I love to get perspective from people outside my industry. People who don’t hear the same messages day in and day out. They don’t come armed with the assumptions that often plague people who are in your industry.
So what about your business? Do you know what message you’re communicating? Do you have an open door?
Are you sure?