When we use the word brand, often we think first about major international brands such as Coca Cola or Apple. But small businesses have brands too, and in a crowded market place your brand can be a big point of difference between you and your competitors.
As a small business, I think it is vitally important to know what your brand values are and be able to communicate them. By this I mean being able to explain what your brand means, what you stand for and what are the values underpinning your brand. I think there are several reasons why you need to articulate and communicate your brand values, before we start to think about any of the visual aspects such as design or photography. These are:
- Knowing your brand values helps you be consistent and clear in your customer communication
- It helps build that all important “know like and trust” journey with your customers
- It enables you to communicate authentically and customers respond to authentic marketing
- Your brand values can be a really helpful recruitment tool, ensuring you recruit people who can demonstrate those values
- And let’s not ignore the link between brand and price – a clearly defined brand may help you command a premium price with your target customer
So how do we go about defining our brand values? If you are a sole trader, it is absolutely fine for your personal values to be your business brand values. But if your business is slightly bigger, or if you haven’t given this any thought before, here are 5 steps to go through.
What do your customers value?
Hopefully you have done some work to define your ideal customer and their relevant attitudes to your product or service. Going back to this work will help you explore what they value in your service. Of course your values may not align exactly with theirs, but there should be a good degree of correlation, otherwise you may be targeting the wrong person.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
In the process of auditing your marketing you may have completed a SWOT analysis. This is a great tool for identifying your strengths and weaknesses and from there you may be able to see the link between what you are great at and what you value.
What are your competitors’ brand values?
Do your competitors articulate their brand values on their website or in their marketing? I’m not suggesting that you should copy them of course, but it is interesting to see what they say. You may want to deliberately choose to be different, and you may think it is very important to explain why you are different.
What does your team think?
If you have a team, it is important to capture their input. Not only will they have a view on what your customers want, but if they are delivering your service, they will have opinion on what your business stands for and what makes it unique. One way of capturing their views is to provide a very long list of values (do an online search or use the one in the Personal Branding Toolkit) and ask everyone to suggest their top 3 values in order to come to a company consensus.
What’s the story of your success?
A more creative way of establishing your business values is to think about a time when you did a great job for your customers. What happened when everything was going right? What values were at play here, what was the feedback and how did it make you feel? When you tell the story of success, what values come up for you?
If you know what your values are you can start to use them in your business. You can define the behaviours that everyone needs to work to in the business. You can define process, or tackle areas that aren’t working. You can recruit new people who display those values and you can use the values as a framework to support and reward your team.
For more on this subject, you can listen to episode 7 of The Marketing Room podcast
You can also see the Free download: 5 steps to successful personal branding for introvert business owners
Or buy the Personal branding toolkit for introverts