Jennifer Szambecki, Brand Manager for the Kansas Turnpike Authority, was on a mission during her presentation at this week’s Sunrise Scrambler — to help all of us extend the reach of our organizations’ brands. Jennifer accomplished that mission and as an enthusiastic attendee tweeted prior to the event, she dropped “brand reach knowledge bombs all over the room.” (Thanks, Emily @EATSylvester!)
The Kansas Turnpike Authority is the third lowest-cost toll road in the country, but it doesn’t just rely on a reasonable price point to attract travelers. Jennifer knows that the Turnpike’s brand is ultimately defined by her customers, so managing the brand experience on 236 miles of roadways and bridges requires understanding and improving operations, technology, and customer service. She relies on consumer research to make sure that her digital and traditional marketing tactics are working and that turnpike users are satisfied with their experience. Check out recent survey results on the Turnpike Times blog.
She’s also been building Turnpike brand ambassadors through a new program that engages K-TAG users to share why they love their K-TAG on social media. Posters are eligible to win K-TAG account credit. The email campaign announcing the program had a 50% open rate and nearly 8,000 people have participated since the program started. (You still have time to enter here before November 30.)
Jennifer didn’t just preach to the choir. She posed some thought-provoking questions and then asked those attending to volunteer and share their experiences. Here’s a short summary of some of our favorite parts of the program.
A brand is built on consistent experience
Branding is so much more than your marketing and communication materials. Technology and operations are an essential part of branding because they determine the brand experience. Your technology and systems must consistently deliver what you are promising. Participant Jay Dill from The Travel Junkie shared with the group that his agency strives to make sure that a customer can always book travel online or with assistance from a “live” agent. They even offer a mobile service for clients who prefer to have a personal visit from an agent when making reservations.
Sales and customer service training builds your brand
Do your employees understand the benefits your organization delivers or sells? Can they articulate them and deliver on them? Training is an essential part of branding.
Digital and traditional advertising must be up-to-date and measurable
Your website must be accurate. Think about incorporating new technology into your website. Your social media, direct mail and traditional advertising should have a strong call to action. You should track and measure results from various campaigns so that you understand your customers and the tools that are most effective with your different audiences. Jill Skaggs of Paul Davis Emergency Services of Wichita shared how a recent improvement to her website has proven to be very helpful to customers who need immediate assistance.
Logos and identity are important
Jennifer shared a slide that displayed the logos for Target and Wal-Mart using the other brand’s palettes. Even when these logos are displayed in different colors and formats, you still recognize them and relate them to your personal experiences. Sponsor Jose Gutierrez of Farmers Insurance shared information about the rollout of his company’s new logo. The updated logo is sleek and contemporary but still utilizes elements from the traditional mark that has been familiar to consumers for 85 years.
Brand ambassadors help extend your credibility
Consider developing loyalty programs and utilizing endorsements from satisfied customers. Don’t miss an opportunity to retain a customer by fixing mistakes quickly. Kim Madison of Best Western Wichita North Hotel and Suites shared how powerful it has been for them to “make a wrong right” and turn an unhappy customer into a brand ambassador.
You must know your customers and understand how/where they experience your brand
Jennifer is well aware of the many different target audiences who are utilizing Turnpike service areas, roadways, and bridges. Truckers, business travelers, and families expect different types of services from the Turnpike. Other participants shared how they segmented their audiences to learn from them and tailor programs to fit their needs.
Ann Fox from Habitat for Humanity said that visiting with employers of Habitat’s new home owners has produced a wealth of information about how their clients perform differently on the job once they move in to a home they own. Work attendance and company loyalty are positively impacted.
Larry Bennett from Wichita State University’s KMUW noted that the radio station just completed their most successful funding drive to date. They’ve discovered that while baby boomers historically donate larger financial gifts, students are also very generous. They’ve improved student engagement and donations with the development of the Stubblefield Society. The Society is affordable for students at a cost to join of just 89 cents.
Tammy Taylor-Lindholm of Meritrust Credit Union also shared how they are using educational opportunities to reach younger customers who haven’t yet experienced savings and loan services. And Susan Fairchild from Concergent IT, LLC discussed how they specifically tailor educational customer events for their different audiences: technical staff, middle managers, and the C-Suite.
Your customers define your brand
That’s really it in a nutshell. Your clients/customers care most about their experiences. Your marketing and communication materials are important, but a customer’s actual experience is what counts.
Our thanks to Jennifer for leading some great conversation about this topic. Special thanks to all the participants who shared their brand-building experiences. We all benefited from hearing about your unique experiences.
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