Making sure it's all in the detail.
Two recent experiences highlighted just how important 'the detail' actually is.
The first was in an up-market furniture store. Every price tag required a sharp intake of breath so most people were 'just browsing'. A casual sit down on one of the sofas drew the attention of the sales assistant who said "Can I get you a cup of tea or coffee... or a glass of champagne?".
It would have taken a bottle of bubbly to pluck up the courage to buy that sofa, so the reply was a chuckle and a polite "no thanks, just browsing". As a potential customer though, that experience was different from any other furniture store in the area, but more importantly, committed it to memory.
The company was offering an expensive, high-end product but they clearly understood that in order to appeal to their select customer base they had to offer a customer experience that was as comparable.
The second experience was at the other end of the scale. A trip to the cinema presented a wealth of printed material to browse in the foyer. One such item was a pile of two-sided flyers for a florist who also seemed to be positioning themselves at the high-end. Closer inspection though revealed that half of the shops' address had been chopped off the flyer!
Clearly a small oversight but quite possibly an expensive one for the florist.
How many people would bother to find out the full address or simply choose to put the flyer back on the pile? Would there be a lack of detail elsewhere — late delivery or early signs of wilting perhaps?
Too many question marks often lead to a potential customer feeling unsure and subsequently unwilling to make a purchase, especially an expensive one.
In many respects, a student choosing a college is no different to shopping for furniture — there are many choices and many price tags, but it will ultimately be seen as a significant purchase.
Many colleges offer that same thing and equally too many college brands are also remarkably similar. In the end it might just be the 'tiny details' that become the deciding factor — it could be as straightforward as building a good rapport with prospective students, or a well printed brochure on a good paper stock, or a well presented email footer that is the difference. Indeed, the greatest attention to detail could persuade a student to pay top-dollar to attend a college.
So, how would you feel if your college lost out on the more 'notable' applications because of poor attention to detail? Maybe a page on your college website has been 'under construction' for months or the information on the Honours Board that proudly hangs in the foyer isn't current — whatever the instance, it reflects badly on the college.
Attention to detail might be the difference between the usual amount of applications to your college and a wealth of applications to your college of the right kind of people. Lets face it, that's who you really want at your college — the elite students who will make it the place to be.
Attention to detail shows you are professional and you are serious about your brand and its promises (happy customers keep returning to the same brands because they feel they have a unique experience and get value for money). But it also confirms you care about every aspect of the brand and leave nothing to chance.
Details that are overlooked though simply undo all the good work the brand has been accumulating.
It is however in our nature to look for a flaw in most things. Even tiny discrepancies in college branding will be found eventually and the more humourous examples tend to end up on the web to be mocked by your peers. In a matter of hours, your oversight could be an internet hit — probably not the kind of fame you had in mind.
Little brand imperfections are like a slow puncture — they will become a much bigger problem if they're not fixed early on.
So be vigilant, be mindful and constantly review your brand to make sure all is well. Sometimes it takes an outsider to spot where the puncture is.
After all, the devil is in the detail...