Today Rackspace Technology, based in San Antonio, Texas, employs more than 6,000 Rackers, has customers in over 120 countries, and does more than $3 Billion in annual revenue. Not bad for a company started by three Trinity University roommates back in 1998.
Although most hosting companies at the time focused on the technology end of hosting, Rackspace created its Brand Promise, “Fanatical Support”, to focus on customer service. The founders made this decision after determining their core customers were most frustrated by system outages, the inability to get someone on the phone, and the experience of finally getting someone only to be transferred to a more qualified technician.
Rackspace scaled because their Brand Promise, Fanatical Support, connected with prospects and clients on both an emotional and rational level. Their Brand Promise can be measured in three ways:
These three promises make it easy for the company’s leadership, employees, and customers to know what they can expect. Rackspace Technology has a compelling brand promise because they articulate it clearly and track measurable performance KPIs. These measurable KPI’s with a guarantee empower their clients to hold them accountable.
Rise Performance Group defines a brand promise as:
“A unique and valuable promise the company is positioned to deliver that will compel potential customers to choose the company over the competition. The Brand Promise can be supported by a Brand Promise Guarantee.”
As a company leader, it’s your job to define your brand promise and make sure it resonates with your customers as well as your employees. As we help define your brand promises, remember to test and iterate on them with your clients. What stands out to them? Why? Keep these questions in mind as we move into the hierarchy of needs.
A great brand promise starts first with understanding your clients needs. Break the needs into
three categories, very similar to those espoused by Abraham Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs:
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a psychological theory proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation. You may have learned about Maslow in a psychology class, however, I believe Maslow should have been a marketer.
The hierarchy is portrayed as a pyramid with basic needs at the bottom and more complex and emotional needs at the top. The higher up on the hierarchy the client’s needs are met, the deeper the connection and the stronger the loyalty to your brand.
A key distinction Maslow uncovered is the hierarchical nature of the needs.
The lower the needs in the hierarchy, the more fundamental they are for people.
While the core of the hierarchy is based on human needs, it translates over to the customer experience and your brand promise as well. Here’s what I mean…
The more effective you can be in developing your brand promise to focus your clients up the pyramid, the more you’re protected from feature comparisons and downward pricing pressure.
The challenge is that you have to observe and intuit what these needs are. Few, if any, clients can communicate their true motivations at this level. As a result, the customer pushes to the lowest common denominator they can communicate and measure which are often features and price comparatives.
“People buy emotionally and justify logically.”
Now let’s break down the tiers of needs and begin applying them to your business.
Functional needs are the base needs that your product or service addresses. Your offering must meet these baseline requirements and deliver these functional benefits or the marketplace will not take your offering seriously.
For an automobile, this would be a base level of reliability, air conditioning, power door locks. Today things like navigation systems, climate control, and iPhone integration fall into this category.
Price also represents a functional need. You can reduce the focus on price by meeting the higher level needs of self-fulfillment and psychological better than your competitors.
Your clients are more psychological than they are logical. Real engagement and loyalty increases when you leverage the principles of human psychology.
The middle levels of the pyramid translate to emotional needs in the customer journey. Love/belonging needs might involve creating a sense of community or belonging around your brand. Esteem needs could be met by making customers feel valued and important.
How can you create a personal connection and sense of community to meet the needs of your clients?
At some level, human beings are most motivated by causes bigger than themselves. Chip Conley makes this argument in his book Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow:
Tapping into the altruistic / self-actualization needs and desires of your clients can lead to differentiation and happy customers who are so loyal they will recommend you, defend you, and even walk past a potentially better product at a potentially better price.
This could involve showing customers how your product or service helps them achieve their goals or become the best version of themselves. It could also involve demonstrating your company's commitment to social responsibility and making a positive impact on the world.
OneSource Virtual, a payroll and human capital services firm in Dallas, Texas, strives to “empower their customers to reach their true potential”. This is so much more inspiring to the employees and clients than being a great payroll processor.
While being great is important, inspiration happens when you focus on meeting the needs and desires at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy.
Here are some areas to probe for needs you can uniquely meet:
Brainstorm three needs you believe you can uniquely meet. Challenge your team to pull these needs from psychological and altruistic categories.
Design three brand promises; choose one leading brand promise from the trio. Share these with existing clients to make sure they connect. Test them in your marketing and your messaging against the following checklist:
Your brand promises can start with addressing functional needs, while progressing up the pyramid to ultimately solve for their relational and self-actualizing needs. This layering of promises at every level deepens the connection between your brand and the client, tapping into Maslow’s hierarchy. Now that you understand the core of a brand promise, how does yours measure up? Is it time to revisit it or to create it from scratch?