Keeping Your Brand Human

Meet the writer: Karen Pieper

Hi, I'm Karen! I've been in the industry for 21 years and can't wait to share my perspective on all things direct mail. I'm currently the Digital Marketing Manager at Letter Jacket Envelopes and deal with tasks from managing the website, facilitating conversations with customers, and much more!

Small business branding has an advantage. Because you’re still so close to the ground, brand-building blends easily not just with increasing sales, but with deepening relationships and maximizing community impact. As your business grows, here are a few simple gestures your small business can make to ensure your brand doesn’t get “too big for its britches” and lose that invaluable human touch.

Five things a human brand has:

1 – Accessible Humans

How long does it take, and how easy is it, for a customer at any point of engagement, to get ahold of a real, live human? Your business cards, phone numbers, direct mail, online shopping cart, Instagram handle — these are examples of “front door” hospitality, entry points to relationships. Think of doors in a PBS Masterpiece Theatre manor house. Every door, every entry point, should open to a good “butler.” This “butler” is a person who can be easily and directly reached to handle feedback, solve problems, shepherd queries, and move a customer relationship forward. For example, you can be vigilant about making sure Yelp, blog, and social media comments are monitored and responded to quickly by a staff member who enjoys connecting with customers over the Internet. Make sure all your front door “butlers” are upfront, sociable, and real.

And have you thought of finding ways to help customers connect with one another? Chat forums, in-store events, and Facebook groups are some examples of connection you can build among your clientele. Help them find community and build brand ambassadors at the same time.

2 – Fewer Robots

This is where technology can be a boon, and a pain. Simplify automated solutions when they hinder human connection rather than help. Stick to the social media that works for your business and you have time to keep up with, for example. And test your automated phone systems. What if a customer’s needs aren’t on a menu, or they don’t really know what they need, or who they need to speak to, until they speak to someone? All of us have been in this spot: punching zeros hoping it will convince the polite phone robot to send you to a person. Don’t put your customers on a customer service carousel or hanging out on the Internet alone. Ask friends to test out different modes of contact. Make sure your automated systems (like bill pay) run smoothly, and that at any point, it’s simple and easy to get in touch with a person. Test them out yourself. Put yourself in a customer’s shoes.

3 – Personal Touch On Delivery

Personal touch is not just for outreach and customer support. You can bring that personal touch all the way through to fulfillment, even in simple ways. On delivery of a product or service, the simple mentioning of a person’s first name, adding a special flair to the packaging, or including a little thank you note can make a big difference in staying top of a customer’s mind and helping them to feel that sense of connection with you. Even using a “non-commercial” touch, like affixing a tag or note to your product with a piece of string or a safety pin rather than a printed sticker or plastic tab, help customers feel like individuals. And sensory details always have high appeal and a strong connection to emotions and memory. These personal touch details when delivering a service or product should reflect the style and ethos of your brand.

4 – Trustworthy Performance

Customers also feel taken care of over time, as they know they can depend on their relationship with you. Keeping your small business brand human also means dedicating yourself to knowing what you can and can’t do and following through on what you advertise. To have limits, to be honest – these earn you major trust points for your brand. Serving your clientele is easier and more consistent when you stick to what makes you tick, remembering why you started this business and focusing on playing to your strengths to fulfill that calling. Don’t exaggerate or prematurely expand your capabilities, either to customers or to yourself. And it can help to keep good relationships with other businesses in your community so that in those moments you come to your human limits, you can continue building trust and building brand reputation by helping customers find the right match for their need elsewhere.

5 – Visible Roots

How quickly do customers know something about the origins of your business? Do they know how and why you operate, even financially? And do you have ways they can build a stake in what you’re doing? In other words, when customers are involved with you, do they see a bigger story, an honest enterprise, they want to be a part of? If you’re a small financial operation, maybe part of your mission is to make it easy for a diversity of folks in your region, including the underserved, to take advantage of your services. If you’re a sandwich shop, maybe your roots are in your grandfather’s sandwich shop in the fifties, and you’re sharing a local tradition. Whatever your “root system” is, let it show, even build your brand to include reference to it. That way customers know the human value you’re adding to a community, and the value they’re adding by joining you.

Transparency, personal touch, keeping real humans on call – it sounds pretty simple, right? But when you’re trying to build a small business brand and keep yourself afloat, you can feel the pressure to take shortcuts. However, the only inevitable thing in business isn’t a trend, isn’t a new technology, it’s always humans working with humans. The future of small business depends on the future you help shape.

And when you’re ready to refresh a personalized approach to direct mail, fulfillment, and billing, give Letter Jacket a call. We’ll get your envelopes on-brand and help you with that human touch, too.

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