Rethinking what your small business measures first.

I hope that by the time you finish reading this post, you are convinced to make measuring brand performance your first and most important business measure. Of course financial statements and sales performance reports are important, but not as much as your brand. Why?

Because your brand is everything. If your brand is performing well, your financial statements and sales reports will reflect that success.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way. Let’s define “brand” because there is so much misunderstanding over this word, especially in small business. Much of this confusion stems from varying definitions. My version, not far from many others, looks like this:

Brand: a company’s personality and reputation, which is measured by its ability to attract customers who fall in love with them and in turn purchase their products and services over and over again.

Just like people, your small business can gain a reputation based on your business personality. Here’s a simple “life” example: if Bob dresses sloppily and is always short with people, and he will likely gain a reputation for being someone who doesn’t care. Bob will never make friends and likely not perform well in life. While Susie, who is always well dressed and wears a smile, will have a larger network of friends and likely perform better in life.

The same goes for small businesses. If Company A has messy, outdated and dirty customer environments and employees who are sluggish and unhappy, Company A will likely have less bottom-line success. If Company B has clean, updated environments that are consistent with a modernized online presence and happy, engaged employees, Company B will have a stronger, growing bottom line. Not to mention that Company B will also attract better employees as a result.

Measuring Brand Performance

It’s important to spend time defining and building your brand, but you also need to measure it. Measuring your brand is critical because it allows you to make strategic changes when needed.

Brand performance isn’t measured just by what happens before the purchase. Sure, it’s important for people to recognize and engage with your brand, but the work doesn’t stop there. The brand experience has to last and inspire loyalty. In fact, I could make the case that the repeat sale is the most important metric in determining how your brand is performing.

There are several other important metrics that bigger companies with bigger resources use to determine how their brands are performing. Overall brand perception and brand preference are two examples.

Although such data is extremely valuable, collecting it often requires varying levels of investment with market research companies, or having internal staff dedicated to customer service and feedback research.

So what’s a small business to do? For the sake of practicality, I’d like to offer a simple suggestion — a starting point — so you can begin measuring your brand performance right away: ask your customers how you’re performing. Yup…it’s that simple.

Here are a few questions to ask your customers and clients. It’s important that you go to the source — the answers to these questions are far too important to guess at on your own. They can only be answered accurately by the people who experience your brand.

On a scale of 1 (failing) to 10 (exceeding expectations) how are we doing?

  • How well did our product or service meet your expectations? If you answered less than 10, please tell us what we should have done to earn a 10.
  • How well did the delivery of our product or service measure up to what we promised? If you answered less than 10, please tell us what we should have done to earn a 10.
  • How do you like our product or service? If you answered less than 10, please tell us what we should have done to earn a 10.
  • How likely are you to buy a product or service from us again? If you answered less than 10, please tell us what we should have done to earn a 10.

Your survey can be distributed electronically or on slips of paper at your place of business. The questions can be customized to address any concerns or weaknesses you feel you may have in areas such as staffing, customer experience, quality improvements and operations. Just remember to keep the survey short and your questions clear.

A survey allows your customers to communicate their thoughts and experiences directly to you, giving you the confidence you need to make more accurate and strategic decisions. Keep in mind that answers with an average ranking of less than 8 need immediate attention.

Measuring your brand can be intimidating, expensive and confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to use the resources you have — your customers — and to commit to doing the work.  I guarantee that the effort you put in will only help that all-important bottom line.