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A few weeks ago, my husband and I signed up to ride in a cycling event in our local community. Great event, gorgeous ride, fun people, and a terrific cause: raising money for disadvantaged youth. Yes, this was a win/win all the way around, and a good way to invest our time and energy.

The morning of the ride, we showed up early, eager to sign in and get all of our free goodies and our t-shirts. Immediately, I noticed a former client of mine was sponsoring the event. I was thrilled; for them, this was the perfect fit, and a perfect way to spend their marketing resources expanding their brand.

Let me backup and explain. I have worked with this client, one of my favorites, on and off for years doing several keynote speaking engagements, coaching of high potentials, and some consulting. Their goal in everything has been to grow and expand market share through raising awareness of their brand and using brand awareness as a way to create competitive advantage. They were/are in an overcrowded market place (like so many of us) and creating a strong brand was a key way to distinguish themselves from their competition.

I was thrilled to see them as a sponsor and even more excited to see they had an entire team (wearing their company jerseys) riding in the event and working the crowd. Why? Why was this such a big deal, and why did what they chose to sponsor and invest their resources in matter? Because in today’s economy, in the Trust and Value Economy, your brand is important, as it says volumes about who you are and what you stand for. These are the first things customers and prospects are looking for when they begin to “size” you up as a potential business partner. Remember, times have changed and the consumer is in control, what we sell has become a commodity, and how we sell it has become our competitive advantage. Customers are looking for both a reason to and not to choose us, and the first place they look is to whether our actions match our words. Does what you say, what you promise, match your actions?

Again, let me explain. My client is a healthcare organization committed to helping people live long and healthy lives. Their goal is to teach people about their health (body, mind, and spirit) and to empower them to take charge of their health. When we first started working together, many of their employees were terribly out of shape, their cafeteria served unhealthy food, and their marketing dollars were often spent on events that did not promote physical activity and one’s that served unhealthy food choices.

Now, you ask what is wrong with that? You don’t see anything wrong with a company promoting a little fried chicken and french fries. I mean we all like that now and then. Well sure we do, but when you are a company promoting health, in effect “selling” healthy habits, and pouring valuable resources and assets into telling people that the value of working with you is that they will gain the knowledge, skills, and promise of proactive health, then all of your actions suggest differently, well, you confuse your customers and create a lack of trust. It leaves them with uncertainty. Yes, it is subtle, but it is powerful.

However, if you are mindful of your brand, mindful of your actions, you will actually proactively create trust, and that trust (emotional bond) will differentiate you from your competition in the mind of your customer. Again, subtle but powerful.

The reason I was so happy to see my former customer sponsoring this event was that it said volumes about the changes they’d made and their level of commitment to their beliefs. This one event was a strong statement about who they are and what they stand for. Not only did they invest dollars to support the event, but their healthy team of fit riders also participated by cycling the century, working the crowd, and showing the community just how committed they are to a proactive, healthy lifestyle.

In addition, they have created and enrolled almost all of their employees in a wellness program and replaced their not so healthy cafeteria food with much healthier and fresher choices. Now, when you hear their name, you not only hear the promise of health, you see it, and you experience it.

This is an overcrowded market place, and consumers are overwhelmed with choice. What we sell has become a commodity, but how we sell it is our competitive advantage. The only thing making you stand out is how much your customers and prospects trust you and how much they believe you can add value. That all begins with the power of your brand; your true competitive advantage.