Having a brand adds value to your balance sheet, attracts superstar employees and allows for greater profit margins. “Your brand is like DNA. It’s your unique mental mark; the sum of all your characteristics; a brain tattoo you land on your buyer, prospect, stakeholder and/or employee that creates a strong, loyal, emotional connection,” says Vistage speaker Karen Post . Knowing who you are is the first step in a series of Vistage Online articles that explore five steps of successful branding.
1. Know Who You Are. “Successful branding is not just for those with trillion-dollar budgets nor is it a magic formula for the business elite. Branding is for anyone who has something other folks want and for those who can follow five straightforward steps and stick with them,” explains Post.
2. Clarity. “This sounds easy, yet many business leaders struggle with defining their operation in 10 simple words, the first step to landing a brand,” Post says. Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to get started.
- Do you know who you are? If you polled half your staff today, would they have the same answer?
- What is your driving purpose in business?
- What do you promise to deliver?
- What are your strengths and weakness?
- What are your passions?
- What makes you smile?
- Where do you want to be in five years and in 10 years? If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know if you get there?
3. Set accountable goals. “Do you want to build a brand and sell it? Would you rather pass it on to a family member, donate it to a charitable cause or just have fun with it? Be goal-driven and the process becomes easier,” says Post. “Ask your staff, yourself and your executive team the same questions. Do you all sing the same song or does someone sing in a completely different language from yours?”
Now that you’ve done the internal check, what does the world and your market think? Do their impressions correlate with your internal poll? “Taking time to think through and write down these answers may be painful, kind of like a root canal, but this exercise is critical to building a brand strategy and mapping out a plan for market significance and success.”
4. Decide On a Single Message. Branding is about lodging a collection of positive, relevant information in the minds of decision-makers and influencers. “Market share is good, but today mind share is where success resides. As consumers, we are assaulted every day with more than 3,000 screaming branding messages. It’s overwhelming, confusing and often annoying,” continues Post. “That’s why it is so important for a company to speak in a singular, concise manner. Translate that to non-marketing talk: Decide on the most important stuff and say it so a child could understand it and repeat it a bunch!”
5. Be decisive. Take all of this data and feedback from the internal and external spheres, “vote from your gut” and make some hard decisions. “Deciding on even a lame idea is a heck of a lot better than not deciding at all. Pick a single message — something you can leverage and own and something you like and will stick with.
“There are many awesome, cool things you can promise and deliver for every Tom, Dick and Mary, but lack of definition will cost you too much and delay hitting the home run in the branding game. Sometimes you have to be monogamous with your ideas,” says Post. “Pick one idea and give it a chance to mature before you ditch it for something else. You can tout features and benefits all night long in your advertising and promotion, but your brand needs to be a simple, strong and singular message.”
After you have clearly defined your reason for existence and outlined your special gifts and stuff you love and hate, the next step is boiling them down to powerful words or phrases that pay. “These are by-products of the ‘who you are’ question. Consider writing a 10-second elevator pitch, a statement of purpose that is added to all media releases and other business documents and a snappy slogan or one-liner promise. Consistently use these words in your communications and your brand will be sprouting up soon,” Post advises.
“Branding principles are universal and applicable to any size business. Brands facilitate decision-making, reduce risk and anxiety and give buyers choice. They are part of our fabric, culture and society. Whether you are a B2C or B2B entity and/or an individual professional, brands make the difference. They are a competitive advantage in a fierce marketplace. Land your brand and rule!”
Tampa, Florida-based Karen Post, The Branding DivaTM, is an author, national speaker and consultant on branding, marketing and communication issues. For nearly 20 years she has provided branding counsel and communication programs for individuals; start-ups; local, regional and national companies; politicians; and nonprofit organizations.