Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”
It sounds painfully obvious, but if you have a company, you have to figure out how to make your brand memorable. It’s critical that people have positive associations with your company. You can have stellar employees, a great product or service, and top-notch technology, but without a positive reputation, you have nothing.
Imagine a Frank Lloyd Wright house versus a bland suburban development. So many buildings we walk past every day are cookie-cutter and unremarkable. But distinctive and interesting structures captivate your attention—and not just by being a crazy color or having a weird facade. The same holds true with your brand. New companies are popping up every day, each hoping to catch customers’ eyes in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
To avoid getting lost in the fray, you have to stand out in a way that remains true to your mission and values. And this all comes down to your reputation.
Here are 3 ways to ensure people are talking about you in a positive way:
1. Turn your customers into fans.
Jeff Bezos believes that keeping your customers happy is an ongoing process. “You cannot afford to rest on your laurels,” he wrote in an open letter to his shareholders. “Customers won’t have it.”
Apple founder Steve Jobs famously inspired his customers to want to recommend his brand. Just like Harley Davidson, Apple sells a lifestyle, and its customers are advocates and sponsors for the brand. How many times have you heard the Mac or PC debate erupt in a social group? Probably countless times.
Apple users happily become brand promoters without accepting any payment. Once they buy a product, it’s almost like they’re part of the company. Apple customers are famously loyal, and Harley Davidson users voluntarily tattoo themselves with the brand’s logo.
To turn your customers into evangelists, sell a lifestyle and vision customers are proud to get behind.
2. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain.
You need to keep reinventing in order to please your customers.
“Our customers are loyal to us right until the second somebody offers them a better service,” Bezos once said. “And I love that. It’s super motivating for us.”
At Amazon, Bezos created a culture of innovation. He actively encouraged his employees to experiment—even blindly—to discover how they could best please their customers. And their biggest successes, such as award-winning original TV series like Transparent and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, came from building on these experiments.
Likewise, Apple’s original slogan was, “Think Different.” Jobs said in an interview that you can broaden your life once you realize that everything around you was created by people who were no smarter than you, and you have the power to change them and build your own things. He said the most important thing, for individuals and businesses alike, is to “shake the erroneous notion that life is just there and you’re going to live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark on it.”
“Once you learn that,” he said, “you’ll never be the same again.”
3. Brand partnerships go a long way.
When Steve Case, the co-founder of AOL, was asked if he would have done anything differently early in his career, he said, “I would have recognized the power of strategic partnerships to accelerate the growth of startups.”
The first startup he joined failed in part because it tried to do too much on its own. But with AOL, Case partnered with dozens of other communications, software, and content companies. AOL would not have been successful (and therefore the Internet would not exist as we now know it), he said, without these partnerships.
Often, you can’t create that awesome and unforgettable customer experience all on your own.
That’s why developing a brand partnership can give you a real boost. When two or more companies decide to market or advertise together for mutually beneficial reasons, they can both break into new markets and add value to their products and services.
For example, in 2015, 7-Eleven partnered with DoorDash—the on-demand food delivery service—to add new shopping and delivery methods. DoorDash delivered items from 7-Eleven to customers for just $2.99. Although it was available only in five major cities, both brands were able to increase exposure, add value, and generate buzz.
Steve Case cited an African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone—but if you want to go far, go together.”
By building smart partnerships, appealing to your audience, and constantly innovating, you can build a positive reputation that keeps customers coming back.