How to make your small business brand promise and deliver on it

It's critical to find your small business brand promise

I had the privilege of speaking to a great group of Denny’s franchise holders recently and as I was preparing for the event, I reflected on the many times over the years that I had eaten at a Denny’s.

If you’re like a lot of Americans, you have found yourself on a long road trip – probably with your family – and you needed a place to eat. Suddenly you see a Denny’s and you pull off the highway, having no second thoughts.

Why can you pull into virtually any Denny’s anywhere with that kind of confidence? The reason is that the company has created an unspoken brand promise to America that goes something like this: Denny’s promises a pleasant dining experience with consistently good food reasonably priced in a bright, clean facility.

Denny’s didn’t have to voice its brand promise, but that’s okay too. FedEx has used slogans such as, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” That is obviously a brand promise.

Whether spoken or unspoken, a brand promise goes to the core – the heart and soul – of a business. A quality assurance professional friend of my told me that one of the ways they joke about a bad business is to say, “Acme Widgets: Where quality is our slogan!”

If you can’t think of what your small business brand promise is, you need to do a gut check and maybe even ask yourself why you’re in business in the first place. You see, if you can’t define it, your customers will never feel it. Ask yourself this question:

What special and valuable expectations do my customers have of my business (or that I want them to have) that I will meet every time without exception?

This will be what you are known for or would like to be known for. You may have heard of The Wieners Circle in Chicago. It’s a hot dog joint that is famous for its char dog, cheddar fries and inability to tolerate any hesitation from customers. If you order a tube steak there, you better be ready to weather some verbal abuse along the way. People go to The Wieners Circle for the experience. The hot dogs are great and the service is, as one customer put it, “brutal.” That’s their promise and they always deliver.

I mention The Wieners Circle because it’s obvious what sets them apart from all the other hot dog stands in Chicago. If your brand promise isn’t apparent, people won’t pick up on it. And if it’s not consistent, people will end up disappointed by your business.

To focus in on your small business brand promise you need to know:

  • What your value proposition is,
  • What your noticeable difference is, and
  • How these two attributes are embraced and embodied by the culture of your small business.

Those three things need to be working together in harmony to deliver a brand promise that your small business customers and clients are going to sense and, hopefully, fall in love with.

You may want to capture it in a tagline that communicates to customers, but you also want to capture it in a few sentences or paragraphs so you can communicate it to your team. It should be part of your training. It should be part of your employee reviews. It should be considered when you’re looking for new hires.

Finally, always remember what makes a promise a promise: it’s not to be broken. If you want to be known as the local expert in your field today, you can’t be the low-price leader tomorrow.

But if you nail your small business brand promise, it will be like hitting a grand slam…which is making me a little hungry from one of those consistently great Denny’s breakfast deals!