Branding. Sounds like a topic for marketing, and not Learning and Development (L&D) professionals. But we have a lot more in common with our marketing colleagues than we think. Whether we’re trying to drive a customer into our business or get an employee to learn a new skill, our goal is the same: to sell our product. Branding is the foundation of any marketing strategy, and a strong brand can do a lot to inspire action.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR BRAND
Your brand is what people think of when they hear your name (or the name of your Training organization). It’s everything they think they know about what you offer, and it’s largely composed of intangible qualities and attributes of the products and services you provide. It can be factual, emotional, positive, or negative. It’s all about perception, and it’s always evolving.
Creating intentional brand attributes builds visibility and brand recognition. Your brand attributes can be physical traits—such as logos, platforms, and materials—or characteristic traits—such as methodology, accuracy, or attitude. All of these components make up your brand identity.
BENEFITS OF A STRONG BRAND
Strengthening the quality of your brand enhances your credibility, which leads to a wealth of other benefits. Credibility is the foundation for positive relationships with both your customers and stakeholders. Those positive relationships lead to improved levels of engagement, and ultimately drive loyalty.
Over time, you will find it easier to launch new initiatives and offerings. You’ll see improved results, and more recognition. As your brand becomes stronger, your voice becomes stronger, too.
DEVELOPING YOUR BRAND
1. Assess your current brand. Start with a survey or focus group to find out what your customers and contributors think about your organization, your level of service, and the quality of your work. Summarize the feedback you receive into the most commonly stated observations or opinions (e.g., on time, fun, impactful, good investment, disorganized, frustrating, materials not accessible, etc.). This is your brand.
2. Establish a vision. A vision statement is an aspirational description of what your training organization wants to achieve. It should serve as a clear guide for choosing any future course of action. If you serve a larger organization, make sure your vision is aligned with the organization’s business objectives (e.g., learn, develop, and excel in your career with Music & Arts).
3. Develop a plan of action. With your team, discuss the brand attributes you discovered earlier. How do they help or hinder your ability to achieve your vision? What attributes do you want to be known for that better align with your vision? What strategies and behaviors need to change to bring these attributes to the forefront? Use your answers to create a brand development action plan.
4. Create consistency. The foundation of a strong brand is consistency in both what you offer and how you deliver it. As you implement your plan, each change you make is an implied promise to your customer that you must deliver consistently. Start by establishing nonnegotiable standards or service levels that must be met (e.g., new content is posted by noon each day), and then develop policies, procedures, and systems you can put in place (e.g., new content submissions require 24 hours’ notice). These practices will help ensure you deliver on your brand promises.
Revisit these steps to ensure your brand continues to be a positive reflection of your organization and inspires the action needed to achieve your vision.
Robin Jussila, CPLP, is the Training manager for Music & Arts, the nation’s largest dealer of band and orchestra instruments, instrument rentals, and private music lessons, serving music educators, students, and their families. Training magazine named Jussila a Top 5 Emerging Training Leader for 2017. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.