"Mirror, Mirror on the wall… Who's The Fairest One Of All?" The wicked witch uses this line to ask her magic mirror about her beauty, and time and time again, the mirror always says, "Why, you are, of course!" Then, one day, the mirror answers "There is one fairer than you—and her skin is white as snow." This simple truth sends the witch on a rampage. She disguises herself, poisons poor Snow White, and puts her into a magical coma.
This tale of jealousy and deception cautions children everywhere that nothing good can come of vanity. But if you ask the average small business owner what differentiates their business from the competition, one of the first answers you'll hear is "Why, I do. I'm the best at this in the land!"—or some variation on that refrain.
Vanity is not the "fairest one of all."
Vanity, even when backed by your business acumen or experience, is never pretty. And it's not universally attractive to customers—unless they've worked with you in the past or know you socially. The fact that it's you running your business probably won't mean much to the average new customer.
Customers and prospects are more concerned about their needs, their businesses, and their situations than they are about how good you are. What they want to know is how you're going to help them. And if you're a one-person business, they're likely to be more concerned about the fact that you're the only one there rather than being thrilled about your experience.
And this is where a brand steps in.
Your business brand's job is to take your one-person business and make it seem established and stable—rather than fly-by-night and risky to work with.
A brand should also make your business seem more "businesslike"— and that means credible, dependable, and customer-focused. A business brand can help you position your business as helpful, concerned about clients, and capable of delivering.
Finally, a brand allows you to speak about and present your business as a separate entity—instead of constantly talking about your, you can talk about your business. In other words, a brand helps to take the spotlight off the entrepreneur and give the business a personality of its own. This allows you to do a bit more "crowing" about your business, without seeming as if you are bragging about yourself.
Keys to separating your business brand from you.
1. Think about how big you want your business to eventually be.
If you're planning to stay a one-person business, then your business's brand can probably be closer to your own personality than if you're planning to grow your business and eventually hire employees. If you are planning to hire people, make sure that your employees will be able to demonstrate the brand characteristics you choose.
2. Look at other businesses in your industry and how they present their brands.
This can help point you in the right direction for your brand and also help you make sure your brand will stand out. Look at the things they talk about and how they talk about their businesses.
See which business's materials and brands you're most drawn to and the lessons or suggestions you can pull from their materials and repurpose for your own. Just don't copy them exactly, or your brand won't be unique. Look at the pictures they use and the words they describe their businesses with—both elements contribute to your brand.
3. Figure out which of your personality traits are most valuable to your business.
The best way to do this is to think about your target audience and the reassurance it needs to go from being interested in doing business with you to making the committment.
Some of these traits are likely to be those expected of any business worth working with—fair pricing, good service, and the list goes on and on. So you also need to think about the factors that differentiate you from your competition. You also want to focus on factors that make you appealing to the people you want to hire you.
This is a pretty tall order, but try out your brand on your target audience and see what resonates with them before "carving it into stone"—which, in the case of your brand, means before you print any marketing materials. Test your ideas out with temporary materials or by incorporating them into an elevator pitch at your next networking event. At the very least, call up some of your best clients and run your ideas by them.
4. Consider creating a logo as the face of your business.
If you use a photo of yourself as the primary graphic for your business, it suggests you're always going to take personal care of all client accounts—which isn't a message you should send if you're planning to grow your business or hire subcontractors or assistants. Using a photo also brings in the vanity aspect again. "Look at me, I'm here to do business with you." may not be the best message to send.
If you keep these 4 steps in mind and create a brand that leaves you and your vanity out of the picture, your business won't come across as a wicked witch. Instead, you'll create a brand that will make your business "the fairest one of all" to your best clients and help you live happily ever after.