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Gathering Feedback From Inside and Out

By: Terri O'Shaughnessy

We talk a lot about branding here at Tallwave. Why? Because brands drive revenue.

Of course, branding exercises are a primary part of the process when launching a company or product, but what if you’re already established? One of the most important exercises you can undertake as an established company is a brand refresher workshop.

Actively seek feedback

Gathering feedback is the biggest part of the branding process. It tells you just how aligned your messaging is internally and externally. Thus, it’s important to seek feedback not just from customers, vendors, partners, etc., but also your internal team.

Who should you tap for feedback? Internally, invite leadership, board members, investors, advisors, and employees. Externally, you’ll want to hear from current, past, and prospective customers, as well as vendors and partners. You might also consider scanning any media and/or analyst coverage of your brand and notate the terms they use to describe your company.

The main goal of any feedback exploration is to get a feel for what people think your company does and what value it provides to the market. Over the years, we’ve led countless workshops and one thing never changes: founders, executives and management describe the company in completely different terms than customers and vendors. Ultimately, you want to create one unified brand message.

Conducting the workshop: online and offline tools

To conduct a feedback session, leverage both online and offline tools. In person is always best when possible, but in today’s hectic world, most people prefer online methods or quick phone calls.

For external feedback gathering, we like to send questions digitally, via Google Forms. It’s free, easy to set up and just as easy to view the results. This can be useful for your internal team, as well, particularly if anonymity is a concern. Otherwise in-person workshops or one-to-ones are always recommended. People tend to open up more, give more context around why they feel a certain way around the brand, and it provides an opportunity for follow up questions. Phone is second best.

What questions should you be asking?

Typically you’ll want two separate sets of questions ––one for internal and one for external. Here are a few to get you thinking:

  1. How would you describe the company in one sentence to a friend or family member?
  2. What are the products/services the company provides?
  3. What are the unique characteristics of those products/services?
  4. Who are the company’s top competitors?
  5. What does the company do better than anyone else?

Additional internal directed questions might include:

  1. Who are our customers? What other decision makers are involved in the process?
  2. What are the company’s core values?
  3. What’s the brand stand for or aspire to stand for?
  4. What is the company’s purpose?
  5. If media were writing a headline about the company, what would it be?

Now that you’ve gathered overall sentiment around the brand, you’ll want to get an idea for how they feel about the visual assets. Are they delivering the right message and impact? This can be done in a similar manner, via Google Forms or in person. Questions to ask, include:

  1. Does the company have a logo?
  2. Do you like the logo?
  3. Why or why not?
  4. What do you like or dislike about the other visuals the company uses?

Repeat these same questions about the colors and the imagery the company uses.

Putting the feedback into action

Now that you’ve got the feedback, it’s time to put it to work. This is when things get interactive and fun. Plan an afternoon where your team can come together free of outside distractions to dig into the data that’s been.

Have a whiteboard, markers and plenty of Post-its. Once everyone is gathered, whiteboard each of the questions and put responses underneath for all to see. Go through each response, marking each as:

  • Very Similar
  • Similar
  • Different
  • Very Dissimilar
  • Misunderstood the question (it happens sometimes!)

Take a step back and synthesize. What can you learn or deduce from the comparison of answers? Are there any gaps between internal and external responses? This is where communication breakdowns most often occur when the brand’s story is taken outside of the company’s four walls. So you’ll want to identify where specifically those gaps are (i.e. the value proposition, the purpose, etc.). If they’re completely off, it may be time to get a more intimate understanding of your customer’s buying process and journey (more on that in a later post).

Also, identify where the gaps internally? Are there inconsistencies between the way marketing and sales communicate the brand? Or the way leadership talks about the brand or its purpose? It’s not uncommon for this to occur. It simply presents an opportunity to uplevel the culture, focusing on core values and purpose, which ultimately makes its way to customers.

Once you’ve identified any discrepancies, get the team to help identify possible solutions for creating cohesion. Leave with an action plan and next steps for resolving issues.

It will take time and the effort of individuals at all levels of the organization, but it can mean the difference between a brand that has longevity and one that fades into the abyss.

Written by Terri O'Shaughnessy

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