Last time, I introduced the concept of using type casting to hire people who will naturally reflect your brand as a simple and proven method that ensures your people will behave as the natural extension of your brand at every touch point. Hiring to your brand requires that you are already clear about your brand's positioning and have defined the brand personality you want to project in the marketplace.
Here are three more really good examples of companies that have used type casting to extend their brand to the front line.
Patagonia is an outdoor clothing and accessories company with a deep commitment to the environment. Its founder started the company to design and sell environmentally friendly mountain climbing pitons. So where does Patagonia do most of its recruiting? Outdoors, of course. Patagonia leaders and employees, whether on or off duty, are always on the lookout for other sports enthusiasts who share their deep concern for the wilderness and its preservation. The smartest engineer or the most talented designer would not last long if their environmental values did not match those of Patagonia.
The result of this recruiting strategy is that Patagonia is a global leader in environmentally friendly manufacturing. They use 100 percent organically grown cotton even though it means their clothing will cost more. All of Patagonia's facilities recycle, compost, grow gardens, have edible landscapes, and minimize their use of energy and water. Patagonians carpool, use only recycled paper, and purchase electricity only from renewable sources.
Can you imagine managers and supervisors trying to impose these kinds of restrictions on a culture without Patagonia's shared beliefs? No amount of policing could ever make it happen. Yet, because of Patagonia's deeply held collective beliefs, awareness equals action. Every Patagonian is on a constant search for better ways to lessen Patagonia's impact on the environment, while continuing to grow the company's revenues and profits.
The results have been astounding. Customers who share Patagonia's passion for both outdoor sports and environmental conservation have flocked to the company, driving the privately held company's sales past the $200 million mark.
Starbucks, or "fourbucks" as they are sometimes called, referring to the price of their coffee, has become a powerful global brand in a relatively short period of time, in large part, because of their recruiting practice of seeking out partners (employees) who are truly passionate about their coffee and are eager to explore the global landscape of coffee, along with its history and culture.
By focusing on passion over experience, Starbucks ensures that as they educate their partners about the world of coffee, a never-ending process, partners will be just as passionate about sharing what they have learned with customers. Starbucks partners love to experience and talk about every nook and cranny of the global coffee culture.
The dialog they create with customers, in turn, causes customers to share their experiences, which provides an even richer quilt of stories for the partners to share with each other and other customers. Starbucks 12,000-plus locations in 35 countries delivered over $7 billion of revenue in 2006.
Nordstrom, a U.S. clothing retailer, is nearly synonymous with exceptional personal service. What is their recruiting secret? Nordstrom looks for people who are "willing to serve." Employees at other companies often feel that serving others somehow demeans them. Nordstrom's sales associates know that a willingness to serve others is the key to loyal customers that are consistently willing to pay more for the same branded items they could buy elsewhere for less because Nordstrom makes the shopping experience a pleasure.
Because Nordstrom pays double the average industry commission, they naturally attract a large pool of proven sales superstars from their competitors. But Nordstrom looks deeper for those candidates who understand that what is counter-intuitive to most retailers is exactly the right way to serve customers. Nordstrom sales associates regularly sacrifice overall efficiency for the sake of a single customer. Nordstrom employees have been known to spend more time delivering an item than the item is worth, take back merchandise Nordstrom doesn't sell, iron a shirt, or tailor a suit for a customer who needs to wear it right away, and even gift wrap merchandise from another retailer!
These examples may sound absurd or even fictitious on the surface but they are just a few of the truly extraordinary stories you will hear from Nordstrom customers. Nordstrom sales associates are experts at building their own personal clientele and are encouraged to do so. And they know that what may seem counter-intuitive on the surface is exactly the right way to keep customers loyal for life.
As you read the examples I've provided, what should be most striking is how different is the focus and method for each of these companies. These brand leaders could not exchange recruiting strategies and philosophies without disastrous damage to their brands. Each company has a clear understanding of the essence of their brand and how their people contribute to it. It is this clarity that makes their recruiting processes both different and easier. Having a clear profile of exactly who they are seeking makes the screening process easy. Each candidate clearly fits or not, and once hired, their personal match with the company's brand and culture ensures that their assimilation will be both rapid and smooth.
So put away the one-size-fits-all recruiting strategies you inherited from the personnel consultants and think deeply about what your people must do to extend your brand at the Human TouchPoint. Then think deeply about how you will screen for the unique talents that will make your people memorable representatives of your brand. Your recruiting methods should be as unique as your brand.
Rick Barrera is president of Overpromise, Inc., a consulting firm that designs and executes differentiating marketing strategies for companies of all sizes. An influential business lecturer for many of the Fortune 500, Rick is also co-author of Non-Manipulative Selling and Collaborative Selling. He lives near San Diego, CA. Used with permission from Rick Barrera: http://www.overpromise.com/
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