North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL


June 15, 2011

Create value and trust for customers, company

Business AdVISE

COMMENTARY — You do not have to look far here in the north Jefferson area to find plenty of post tornado recovery work. Now would be a good time to assess where the recovery falls with respect to the formal comprehensive development plans that exist. A bit troubling may be the realization that those plans are several years, and in many cases decades old, and have never been revisited or revamped. Now is a perfect time to take an assessment of those comprehensive development plans and view them in light of the community mission and vision. Indeed, if you don’t know what you are aiming for, then you may hit just about anything. All of this plays into the ideas of your brand, your image and ultimately how you are perceived by your customers. Or in the case of a city, or the entire north Jefferson area, how the growth, recovery and stability are viewed by local citizens and outside supporters. Is our leadership trusted? Do we have a credible and believable reputation?

Not long ago, trust and reputation was the domain of the public relations department. Marketing concerned itself with spending huge sums to maintain “share of voice” which is marketing speak for outspending rivals to drive brand awareness and endlessly reminding consumers of the “unique selling proposition.”  

Now, marketers are waking up to an awareness that in the world of branding, trust is the most perishable of assets.

Polling in recent months shows that increasing numbers of consumers distrust not just the obvious suspects (the banks, politicians, insurance) but business and corporations as a whole. The shift in sentiment is forcing companies from Ford Motor to American Express to tweak marketing and focus on rebuilding credibility.

Trust is what drives profit margin and share price and it is what consumers are looking for and what they share with one another. In the arena of local government, reaching out to the community to inform them about not only meetings, but meeting content, results and plans is key as well.  

The recovery plan, just as is the comprehensive development plan, is pulled from a systematic planning process. It should be based on sound technical studies, it should facilitate community involvement, it should be open to continuous monitoring, and it should be periodically updated.  

It is key that recovery look at not only zoning, but future land use. Please keep in mind that an expert in real estate or real estate law may not be the best expert in land use law, as the two are different skills and area of expertise.

Think about what this means for your city and community. Perhaps you find that old approaches don’t work as well as they used to for you. Don’t just blame it on the recession, job insecurity and hammered home values as to why business and political dynamics are changing.  

Techniques and share of voice strategy are easily copied by your competition, but they can’t copy your reputation or recreate the trust that you own with your customers or constituents. Mercifully, you control that.  It is yours to grow or loose.

As you move into your week, take a minute to think about what your community and customers expect from you or your product. If you miss the mark on expectations, no matter how well you do, you fail.  This sets a poor outcome for trust, and really makes your job of creating a loyal customer more difficult. The old saying about under promising and over delivering really rings true here. 

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