Here are the six steps you need to get your brand off the ground. Like anything, if you can organize your thinking now, you’ll save hundreds of hours later.
This framework will set you up for what you say on your website, and what your content marketing will look like.
If you skip these 6 steps, then you’ll keep skidding around later on, keep defining, and redefining who you are. That could cost you thousands in lost loyalties, abandoned fans, bad reviews, and outsourcing to specialists in damage control.
These are the 6 steps you need for an exciting, human-centered brand strategy:
- Define your audience
- Define your statement, narrative, distinction, and archetype
- Summarize it all
- Now tell your personal story, craft a bio
- Unify your message on all channels, define distinct strategies for each channel
- Make a plan to be open and listening
Lay the groundwork for your success.
And if you know anything about groundwork, you know that it’s a platform for building exciting things. With these steps, we want to help you build a brand that invigorates your team and excites customers.
1. Define your audience.
Your brand does not exist without your customers.
That’s because a real brand is more than the picture you paint about yourself.
A real brand is a dynamic reality that exists between you, and your audience. It helps them define, understand, and appreciate how you approach solving a problem.
The moment you enter into a relationship, any relationship, that you want to succeed, it becomes about more than you; it’s now ‘us’.
If you don’t have a clear sense of who you’re ‘marrying’ by setting up a brand, then you will be in trouble later on. Either from loss of loyalty, lack of clarity, or cycles of re-invention that deflate your marketing efforts.
Understand who you’d take out to lunch and what their problem is. Don’t talk to everyone. Because no one is everyone.
You can create profiles and character sheets, and that can be useful.
But what’s more useful is actually the ‘job to be done’. The common pain point that unites people across demographics, age groups, and cultures. Your audience most likely has a job to be done – that they want done in a certain way.
They may be constrained by location, income, or education level. Do you know what those factors are?
Do you know who your customers aren’t?
2. Define your statement, narrative, distinction, archetype.
Now that you have a sense of who you’re talking to, you can start clarifying your response to them as a ‘brand’.
In light of your audience and their need, what do you believe about the situation? This usually makes up a ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ statement.
Often this is the ‘why’ behind your brand, the deep reason that you exist in the first place. And lets be honest, half of the businesses out there exist to make money, and check out at 5 pm.
No one builds loyalty to a brand that evidently exists to make money off them.
People build loyalty to a brand that stands for something, and shows them how they can join a like-minded tribe.
Do you stand for something, something that would make your community, your home, your world, a better place? You can bet there are a ton of other people out there who believe the same thing. It’s likely they’re your audience.
Then you need to craft your brand narrative. You know your audience, you can define their need, or their pain point. Next, explain who you are in light of what you believe, and the special way that you solve that problem. End it with a description of what life is like once the problem is solved, to help them see the bright future that you’re already imagining.
It’s that future that people are paying for, that people are loyal to. As it’s said, people don’t buy a drill for it’s own sake, and put it on a shelf. They buy a drill for the hole it makes, and the job it allows them to get done.
Your service is most likely a tool that helps your audience get something done. Do you know what that vision is? Do you know how you’re helping them make that happen? Do you know what their lives will be like once they’re faster on their way, or they’ve reached their goal?
You’re helping them make that happen. And that’s what they’re paying for.
What’s your distinction?
What separates you from your competition? Why should someone choose you?
Perhaps its your unique response to the problem. Perhaps its your background and attitude. Perhaps its your belief, and how your skillsets fits into a vision for how things can be.
Perhaps you’ve identified a problem in your competition that leaves their customers hollow, and dissatisfied. Can you nail that, and turn it into a feature that builds trust?
Define the tone with which you will present your message. Often its your own personality, or the founder’s personality.
The archetypes are the twelve, primal themes of human nature, and most of us fit into them pretty neatly. If your business isn’t driven by a single person’s attitude, and sometimes it shouldn’t, then you need to identify the tone/theme that your audience needs.
Defining your archetype helps you identify the words you’ll use, the attitude you’ll take, the ‘flavor’ of your brand. Clint Eastwood delivers a message differently to Flo, or Frodo.
3. Summarize it all.
With all this ‘raw content data’ probably listed in documents, turn it all into a series of neat summaries.
Your brand narrative will often be your ‘About’ page on your website. It’s the one document that everyone on your team should know by heart, to get them on the same page.
Your archetype will likely never be publicly shared; it is the attitude that shows you how you write your content. Keep it consistent. Don’t sound like a Clint on one content location, and then Flo on another. Would you date someone with a personality disorder?
Lead with your vision, your belief. That’s often the ‘promised land’ that motivates your brand to keep moving. It’s the flag you’re raising against a broken, dishonest world to rally your friends, fans and patrons.
4. Now tell your personal story, and craft a bio.
Your brand is the glue that cements your relationship with your audience. Now let’s focus on who you are.
Tell your story, how you started your business. When did you start to believe in this vision? Did something happen that triggered your desire to change? What were you doing with your life before then, and what did you believe?
Now what are you doing with your life? Will you ever stop believing that this is the way things should be?
How do you implement this belief into your business practice? Remember you can never tell someone to ‘trust you’. You have to show them why they should, create a convincing case. Let them make that call.
Once you’ve done this, craft a short bio, about as long as a tweet. It should include your belief about the world, your primary experience, skillset, or approach to solving the problem. Often, you can end with a random, human element that hopes to draw a smile, like something you enjoy doing, eating, or thinking about.
5. Unify your message on all channels, define distinct strategies for each channel.
Remember the 7 characteristics of life also apply to your brand:
- Movement: What are you doing to show that you’re ‘alive’? Are you posting updates, visiting locations, creating events? Are you sharing these moments on appropriate social networks?
- Respiration: (The process that releases energy from food) Are you creating rich, valuable content, and showing how others can absorb and use it? Are you parsing news updates, market trends, research points, and turning it into content that your fans can engage with?
- Sensitivity: How aware are you to people’s comments or messages to you? How quickly do you respond? Speed of response indicates age and awareness, and today we expect lightning-fast responses.
- Growth: Are you scaling? Hiring more people? Doing more? Taking on bigger jobs? Can you demonstrate these successes?
- Reproduction: Are you having repercussions on other businesses? Are you inspiring others to carry the torch? What are these stories? Can you showcase their efforts? Are you franchising?
- Excretion: What are the lessons you’ve learned, the hard knocks you’ve taken, and more importantly, your plans for never doing it again? In fact, how are you doing a better job than before?
- Nutrition: How are you feeding the soul and culture of your business? Speakers, podcasts, retreats, books, materials? Can you demonstrate to your audience that you are constantly filling yourself with new and enriching ideas, content, or skillsets?
Apart from your website, how can your audience engage with these characteristics?
Social networks are not the same. And each audience comes to each network expecting something different. Don’t expect to blast the same content to everyone on every network.
Create content that respects the primary theme of each network.
If you don’t know what it is, then sit back, and use the network for a couple of months. Pay attention to what people do. How do successful pages or accounts use it? Research. There’s plenty of advice to get you going.
One approach is to take a distinct life characteristic, and pair an expression of it with a particular network.
Remember, you will likely build up disconnected audiences on each network. Sometimes, superfans will follow you on all networks. Everyone is expecting to see you produce content native to that network. Don’t spam your superfans with the same content. Delight them.
And lastly, remember that in all these networks, you don’t own your audience. You have access to them at the ‘mercy’ of the company giving you access.
Therefore, to ‘future proof’ your hard work, build a simple mailing list, and expect to send out an email once a month, or every two weeks, with news and updates. Be absolutely clear about why someone should join your mailing list.
‘Get News and updates’ won’t cut it. You need to provide people actionable value that they can employ in their own lives, tips and strategies, ideas, recommendations, stories.
No one builds loyalty to a company interested in gassing on about itself. Demonstrate how you are helping to make your vision a reality in the lives of those who share it with you. Make it easy for people to see how they can too.
6. Make a plan to be open and listening.
With all this hard work and copy under your belt, the next step is pretty obvious: start the work itself.
But there’s an additional, underlying, and ongoing step.
Be open. Be listening.
Throughout your work with your fans and clients, listen to them. Ask for feedback and advice for improvement. Don’t take everything to heart, and don’t commit to everything they say. As Bernie Schroeder says, “a customer isn’t always right. But they’re never wrong.”
If you’re on social networks, make a plan to check in and respond to everyone. Except the trolls.
Respond to every message. Like every comment. Engage with everyone.
Respond to emails, be courteous, and show that you’re a fantastic human to be in business with.
Set up Google alerts for your brand name and personal name. Google will then notify you if someone publishes something that references you.
‘Social Listening’ software does exist, and can be a critical way to keep your finger on the pulse. It’s often pricey.
Brands that don’t listen to what people say about them have failed the primary function of a brand.
As we discussed back in the beginning of this piece, core to a brand is the relationship between you and your friends, fans, and fellows/followers.
How long do you maintain a relationship where the other people never listens to anything you have to say? And on top of it, is completely oblivious to what other people feel and think about them and their actions?
They’re called douchebags. And we drop them.
But the brands that are sensitive, aware, friendly, and deliver a fantastic product? They’re the ones that build such a loyalty that they disrupt markets, and change the world.
Or at least the the worlds of the people they hope to serve and delight.
TL; DR: Summary
Define your audience: Do you know who your target audience is? Do you know their pain point, and what concrete issue they want to solve? Change from seeing yourself as the hero to everyone’s story, and recognize that you’re the Gandalf to their Frodo narrative. You’re helping them become a hero in their own lives.
Define your statement, narrative, distinction, and archetype: What is your belief about how things should be in the world, as it relates to your audience’s pain point?
This ‘should/should not’ statement is often your core ‘why’, the deep reason your business exists to begin with. If you are clear about it, you will do more than motivate yourself every day. You will motivate a following who believe the same thing.
What is the story your brand tells? A story is made up of people, a person with a problem who finds a solution, and is motivated to make it happen.
what is the tone you’re taking to deliver your message? Define it so that you are consistent everywhere.
Summarize it all
Take all your notes and turn them into readable text. Use them on your website, in your promotional materials. Don’t just ideate. Create. Get it out there.
Now tell your personal story, craft a bio.
Who you are, and how you started this brand is something your fans will want to know about. Often, the events in your life that triggered your need for change will resonate with your audience, and they will see themselves in the same shoes.
Unify your message on all channels, define distinct strategies for each channel.
Check all your social networks, make sure they now all align with your core brand message and tone.
Respect the mode of each social network, and don’t spray the same content to each one. Your fans can instantly tell the difference between content blasted at the masses, and content created for them individually.
Make a plan to be open and listening.
Schedule time to check your fan pages, emails, and phone calls. Always be available, always respond, and always be listening.
Set up alerts to get notifications on mentions. Ask for and listen to feedback from friends, fans, and clients.
For most small businesses, this rush of thinking and work will save you hundreds of hours of pain and re-invention later. And that will mean saving probably thousands of dollars in wasted time, lost loyalty, and bad reviews.
In the same way that no one enjoys dating a self-absorbed specialist, who has personality disorders, and an inability to relate or care for anyone else, these 6 questions help you become conscious about your brand.
Your brand sets the tone for a relationship.
And you want to be the fantastic partner your audience can’t wait to meet and befriend.
Questions? Comments? Fire away in the comments!
Dominic is Enable’s design and brand specialist. He thoroughly enjoys helping businesses find meaning in their brands and define their distinction. Coffee, cooking and binge-researching are his hobbies. When not building websites, he is delving into projects to find the boundaries of his imagination. He hasn’t found them yet.