“The two are not mutually exclusive, but we think we can have wealth without good ideas and without values and without a clear vision. Wealth without vision is insanity.” – Andrew Young
When I started my business, I took a candid assessment of what would hold me back. We can call it me being precautious or over-anxious, but I went to the extent of meeting with the owner of the print shop I was working at for a personal review. He was a sales guy, and to be honest, I knew that that was where I needed help the most. I walked away from that meeting, knowing I needed to invest in sales and marketing. The sale program I was interested in was closed at the moment, so I went with my 2nd investment option, a membership marketing investment where I would get access to Facebook ad strategies and help to review and implement them. This program was geared toward marketers selling ad services as well as business owners running ads for themselves.
During my first call, the CEO of the company was explaining the questions you need to ask to qualify clients. One question asked was, how long have you been in business.
“If they’ve been in business for less than 4 years, don’t waste your time, they’re indecisive and don’t make good clients”.
What this big marketer implied is that businesses starting out don’t know what they want. I don’t think that is the case. I believe it is instead that they need a process to help to clarify their ideas. How do you find that process as a new entrepreneur when there are people who won’t work with you because you are just starting?
Before scheduling calls with prospective clients, I ask, “What are your current challenges around branding and marketing.” The number one response I receive is,’ “I’m just not sure where to start.” (followed closely by “I have trouble keeping a consistent look.”)
Yes, there are entrepreneurs and small businesses that are not growing through brand awareness and strategic marketing simply because they think it’s complicated. They don’t really understand what branding is or they don’t really know where to start. I completely understand that.
There’s so much information out there that you feel like you have to be a circus act to get attention and develop awareness for your brand. In this post, I’m sharing a straightforward way to think about and execute great branding for your business.
Start with Why is an excellent book by Simon Sinek. It is an absolute must-read for entrepreneurs and leaders of today. In the book, Simon lays out a process to explain how great leaders inspire people to take action. Using his framework called the Golden Circle, he explains most companies know what they do, some of them know how they do what they do, but then very few of them know why they do what they do.
Many businesses make the mistake of not getting to the core of why somebody should want their product and what problem they are solving for their customer. To echo the main point, Sinek drives home in the book,
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
Sinek used his framework to dissect the effectiveness of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches. When Dr. King got people together for his I Have a Dream speech, he didn’t have a 10 point plan on what needed to be done to fight injustice and how to implement his plan. He instead communicated why that dream was imperative to him and relevant to everyone, thus inspiring massive action.
Simon goes to explain the reason why people don’t genuinely dig into their why is because of biology and the way that our brains work. Our limbic brain, which controls most of our instincts, does not have the ability for speech expression. It’s hard for humans to find the words for what’s going on there. Which is why we say, “Oh, I’m going to go with my gut.” Or, “this is a gut instinct or a gut reaction.”
How does any of this apply to the branding process?
Author and psychologist Benjamin Hardy further expands on Sinek’s point, “Your vision should be based on your why, not so much your what. Your why is your reason, your what is how that is manifest. And your’ what’ can happen in a ton of different ways.”
Many entrepreneurs and small businesses’ vision for branding extends only to what items they want, not the idea they are trying to communicate. Logos, websites, and packaging design are virtually empty vessels that need to be equipped with a clearly focused idea.
For you to feel confident investing in your business, you have to dive past the what and how; only then can you get into your why, which is your brand idea. A great please to start with branding is asking the question, What is the sharply focus idea that you want to communicate?
Communicating your brand idea is crucial in converting customers and making sales. As Sinek points out, “Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it.” Three essential qualities go into creating and communicating a strong brand idea.
Firstly your brand idea needs to be simple. If it’s not simple, you are going to lose people very quickly. The human attention span is about seven or eight seconds. If your brand idea isn’t digestible or straightforward, you’re going to lose potential customers quickly.
Secondly, your brand idea needs to be relevant. It needs to connect to your ideal customers, it needs to address a pain point or help them out in some way. Research shows 48% of consumers expect brands to know them and help them discover new products or services that fit their needs.
The last thing that your brand idea needs to be is different. I know you’re saying, Aleah, everything under the sun has been done, and you’re right. When I say different, you need to position your business to stand out from your competitors. You must create your own lane if you will. Take the time to figure out what your differentiating factors are, they are the key to standout brand identities.
A perfect example of this is Visa, back in the day when they were trying to compete with American Express. They came up with this brand idea of “Everywhere you want to be.” Now, it’s simple, people can easily understand it, it’s relevant to people who want to be out and about and want to be able to have their method of payment accepted. And it was also different from American Express because back in the day, American Express was only accepted only at certain places. So Visa’s brand idea, everywhere you want to be, was brilliant on their part and a perfect example of a solid brand idea.
Think of your mind like a computer desktop. Usually, if you have loose files on your desktop, it’s either you don’t know where it goes or a temporary file that might be thrown away later. Whereas, a folder on your desktop usually has files and documents that are of a similar kind.
Your mind processes thoughts and ideas precisely this way. If you’re building a brand, you want to think about, “How do I become a named folder on somebody’s mental desktop?” The way you do that is to consistently drive your brand idea in everything that you put out. Every association that somebody has with your brand should be living up to and delivering whatever your brand idea is.
If you started reading this not knowing where to start, I hope you see that developing a sharp and clear brand idea, something that’s simple, different, and relevant to the people that you want to reach is the key! If you start there, you’ll be miles ahead, with a sharply focused idea that’s simple to communicate.
If you want to chat with me about how to better build your brand idea or if you are ready to clarify your vision and get started with a brand identity, schedule some time to chat!