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A brand performance needs constant tuning.  Employees will leave and new players will be auditioned and join, all of which requires a little re-orchestration or re-rehearsing.  Over time additional movements (products) may also be added to your symphony.  Your leadership will need to keep the brand in tune.

Even without these changes, the performance can get tired and needs re-energising from time to time.  Last year I sang in a carol concert where the descant to O Come All Ye Faithful was different from the one I’d learned as a child.  It felt natural to those in the choir who’d done this before – it was their special way of doing things that sounded just a little different.  For me it felt strange.  When someone new joins your organisation they don’t just need the job description and the rules.  They also need to know the norms – the ‘markings’ that you taught everyone else a few years ago.  You should also take the opportunity to ask your newcomer how it all sounds to fresh ears.  Is your brand in tune? Encourage them to consider their recommended changes as part of the whole performance from the start, not just change their bit.  Their suggestions will be better, and they will also learn where their new part fits, quicker.

If you add a new tune into the mix, everyone has to adjust their ears to process and hear the new overall sound.  People have to work a little harder to keep their tune going whilst the new melody is absorbed.  It’s like that when you launch a new product – and that’s when someone has made sure that the third line actually fits with the other two; which doesn’t always happen.  As Managing Director or CEO (or any leader) you need time to focus on things like this to keep your brand in tune. Which is only possible once you aren’t trying to play all the instruments yourself.

So what does out of tune look, or sound like?  And what causes it?  Musically speaking it might be that the parts are not in time.  They are starting and stopping in the wrong places and so the whole thing sounds like a jumble.  I’ve seen this happen in businesses when something in one department has changed that others are unaware of.  Or a new product has been launched – but customer services don’t know anything about it and have to ask the customer to explain what’s happening in your business, to then go and find out.

Another issue might be that some people are playing the wrong notes.  They haven’t learned their own part, or someone forgot to orchestrate it.  This can happen in sales-led organisations where the salesperson sells something that doesn’t really exist and then holds customer services or operations to ransom to deliver it because “that’s what my customer wants and they’re willing to pay!” Selling stock you don’t have isn’t helpful.  Listening to sales and finding out that multiple customers have an additional problem you can solve – either yourself or in partnership with others – is helpful.  As long as it fits with your proposition of course.

Here are a few other reasons that your brand may keep slipping out of tune. 

Your players have stopped listening to each other.  In most performances and businesses this is the primary cause.  People have slipped into auto-pilot or someone has siloed them.  What’s often forgotten is how audible it is to the audience.  For you, this becomes an extra thing to deal with.  For marketing it starts to drive competing messages that confuse your audience and make your real song harder to hear.

I’m afraid to say that the second biggest reason your brand drifts out of tune is you!  As the leader, for some reason, people can’t follow your beat.  Maybe you’re not there because you’re too busy playing one of the instruments, or perhaps your arms aren’t beating clearly.  Are you feeling unclear on what you want – perhaps you’re trying to figure something out and so your beat is too small, too tentative?

Another common challenge is having too many soloists.  A collection of soloists is usually how a band forms, and how a company starts; a handful of really talented people who can play multiple roles and are individually creative enough to make things happen without needing a regular beat to follow.  Lots of soloists playing their own individual tunes is one of the most unhelpful scenarios for marketing to support.  Instead of being able to call on these talented people to give interviews, comment on social posts, feature in white papers or articles, your marketer ends up avoiding using them because they detract from, not strengthen, the overall proposition.  Sometimes the people who helped you build your business aren’t the right people to help you grow it.  Sometimes they are, they just need to learn a different part in the score.

Your performance also slips out of tune when your players don’t know where to handover. Perhaps your issue is simply one of rehearsal; someone left and a critical task now has a workaround that isn’t very stable.  Or maybe the process needs re-evaluating and the customer journey map needs to change? 

Let’s face facts.  Sometimes the issue is that you have the wrong players.  They just can’t play the notes.  They may need some more lessons in how to play, or how to listen to each other.  They may need someone to re-write their part to be better suited to their instrument or maybe they don’t have the skills to play in your orchestra? 

If you have no audience then yes, it’s likely your marketing and sales process, pitch or people are not working and you need to address that.  Honestly, the first thing I always check is if they’re targeted and rewarded on the same outcome.  Then check that they’re focusing on the same audience and the same proposition.  Finally, you can check if there’s a regular rhythm to what they’re doing and they know how they fit together.

Their ability to articulate this will help you understand where the problem really lies. And as the leader – their conductor – you can take the right action to keep your brand in tune.

You can read more about this concept in Jill’s book: The Brand Symphony.  Click here to read the synopsis or buy on Kindle or in Paperback.

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