Sitting in the Waiting Room…Waiting in the Sitting Room

When I talk branding to people, they often begin their company’s dream at unusual places. More often than not, they begin too late in the brand process to make completely educated decisions. That is, they have good ideas, or a general concept of what they seek, but are looking too far ahead to allow them to create a truly viable, powerful brand strategy.

Instead of regrouping or building from the ground up to strengthen their brand, a client will opt to target his or her advertising or website as a first step. Then, after a few questions, we come to the conclusion that, in fact, we need to back up before we can really launch into a usable website or advertising campaign.

Don’t get me wrong. They aren’t bad people for focusing on a premature starting point (enthusiasm is never a deficit), but because of the proliferation of marketing ideas out there, and general misperceptions about what or when effective marketing occurs, it is almost impossible for a novice to correctly estimate where the best launch point is.

The other day, I was sitting in a waiting room. It was your typical waiting room, and the perfect example of what I’m talking about. The room had four, innocuous taupe walls, with a few hotel-extravaganza, “painting sale” landscapes (almost certainly priced under $50 each). The chairs had a stiff blue, Styrofoam padding, and music was piped in from smallish speakers in the corners of the room. There was a fish tank. Or there wasn’t. I think you get my drift.

So where did this brand go wrong? Was it in estimating that the visitor wouldn’t mind being stuffed into a small chair, staring across the room at other, uncomfortable patrons? Of perhaps it was simply the lack of any differentiation from other waiting rooms across the country?

Envision now a room that was comfortable and engaging. Say the chairs were more costly, yet cushioned well. Or that the music wasn’t Barry Manilow as sung by singer “X,” but instead something specifically selected by the office for their own customers? And what if instead of the prerequisite fish tank, there was a fun, interactive display to engage the visitor when they came (and waited). Instead of becoming another waiting room, it was turned into more of a sitting room.

Quickly, which would you choose to visit?

Now, use this example and apply it to the rest of your business, brand and marketing decisions. Are you recreating more “waiting rooms” in your business decisions? Does your website look like every other website because you’re using a template? Or have you customized the experience for the user so that it is unlike any other?

Do your print pieces, direct mail and other collateral (or, for that matter, your waiting room if you have one) seem to be like everyone elses? How much thought have you put into making sure your customer has a comfortable experience with your brand?

The good news is that more often than not, the hurdle called “Oh, I hadn’t considered that before” can be overcome with some foundational thinking about what you do, what you provide, and who you are. Don’t become something uncomfortable to your customer because you haven’t thought things through. Your financial statement and business will suffer because of it.

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