We live in a return-on-investment-driven society that is obsessed with instant gratification. Whenever we implement a new product feature, make a pitch to investors, launch a marketing campaign, interview a key job candidate or make a sales call, we want to see tangible and immediate results.
Our obsession with seeing measurable business results can make it easy to forget the most important intangible investment we can make: managing our brands.
When you do things to manage your company’s brand (or your own personal brand), the investments tend to eventually pay off tremendously. Journalists start randomly writing about your company. You start getting inbound emails from investors. Your product goes viral because of traditional “word of mouth” rather than because of any of the social features you’ve been deliberately pushing. Or your 1 year-old startup can raise $100 million and buy a 100-year-old manufacturing company.
The challenge is that the individual tasks needed to build your brand are often thankless. Collectively, however, they create exponential benefits. The only way to achieve a high level of brand strength is by making brand management a recurring part of your job. The following are some activities that can help you build your brand in the eyes of key people in your industry:
Skype (or have coffee) with your top customers often.
Write blog posts about your company's lessons.
Attend industry events (and be social).
Mentor other founders.
Mail free company swag to your top customers.
Be active on Twitter.
Introduce like-minded friends to each other.
Do favors for journalists.
Send handwritten thank-you notes after a key meeting.
Mail holiday cards to clients, partners and co-workers.
Host a dinner for awesome people.
While none of these activities produce immediate or measurable results, they plant seeds of credibility that tend to grow exponentially over time. Building a strong brand means getting people to talk about your company and spread the word on your behalf. These things may not seem like the most tangibly profitable way for you to spend your time right now, but much of your future success springs from having made these cumulative small brand investments over several years.
Of course, it's often hard for a CEO to make time for brand management when there are so many other tangible concerns that require our day-to-day attention. I, myself, can be guilty of forgetting to invest in non-measurable activities for Brainscape, especially considering that I teach a class on building a metrics-driven culture.
But I need to remind myself that the strongest brands do not build themselves with metrics alone. By investing in thought leadership and intangible personal relationships, we can set ourselves up to reap large tangible rewards down the road.