When I opened my mail about a week ago, it was from a major insurance company notifying me of survivor benefits that they thought I was entitled to claim. I did not know that anyone in the family had passed and I did not recall anyone related by that name. I called the company and suggested that they should have notified another person who shared my name. They told me that they had found me through an Internet search, assuming that I was the right person. They sent the letter immediately upon receiving a death notice from a funeral home without validating any information. While this mistake was easy for me to resolve, maybe it was not for the insurance company. It was validation of the power of online identities and confusion that is possible.
I have known for years that my husband and I share names with a lot of people. Most of these people are reputable but there have been some who achieved notoriety. We routinely search many channels personally, professionally and for the company to be aware of what might be out there and head off challenges before they occur or at minimum know how to mitigate the issues. This is protection of names, credit and of the branding of our business and practices.
A part of marketing and branding is establishing and protecting your identities and images. It is not as simple as doing a search every once in a while. It is even more important when you have others working under your name and brand. It is also about maintaining differentiation.
While names may be alike, it would be rare that the entire package of name, brand and differentiators be so easily confused. Franchised companies have adopted a name as a branded identity to give them leverage and position in the mind of the consumer. This brand extension is valuable as long as it is a differentiator in the market place. Where there are multiple franchisees in the market the consumer often assumes that they are all the same company. It is the job of the company to provide the differentiators and the branding of their company.
Providing differentiators in the individual naming of the company does not go far enough. Practices, value and a reason to do business with you are all essential. To give an example, take a look at almost any real estate company’s web site. You will most likely find a property search that gives the customer the opportunity to search and find properties of interest whether or not they are listed in the company inventory. In some cases links are embedded that take the viewer away from the original web site.
Embellishments might give a few nice pictures, tell you a little about the history of the company and you'll most likely be able to see the agents affiliated with the company along with a short profile that might not even have anything written.
Images on the site are often stiff – many people are in business profile pictures or worse yet have a generic head silhouette since they never supplied a picture. Pictures of the offices are usually lifeless street images that no self-respecting listing agent would consider displaying in the MLS portfolio. Interesting portrayals in that they have little differentiator value. This is a people-centric business but it denies its own personality.
These same sites that are the outward, web based identity of the company rarely convey value well. The basic marketing questions are rarely answered on the site and if they are there, they are difficult to find, written in antiseptic terms with little warmth, marketing direction or attractiveness.
- Why should I engage you for business?
- Why should I trust you?
- Will you be able to take care of my needs?
- Who will I be working with?
- What does your company do to ensure that I get the services I need?
- Why do people work in your company?
- When and how will I hear from you if I request assistance?
- What do you sell?
- Why is your company different than every other company that lets me search for property or initiate other self-service?
If the insurance company had simply looked at the information in their files prior to doing an Internet search, they probably would have found the correct contact person. If they had looked beyond the name, the differentiators would have been obvious. The mistake of the insurance company was fairly simple with little harm or delay caused. Customers will be just as superficial without differentiators that set your company, services and identity apart from those who may share all or a significant part of your trade name.