Defining your small business’s brand enables you to present the most important facts about your business in a compelling story that will help you connect with your target customers.
That’s certainly easier said than done, though — defining a business’s brand can be tough. Entrepreneurs often have a hard time creating a brand definition for their businesses. This can be because they are so because they’re so intimately involved with the business — they work in it day in and day out, and lose track of the bigger picture. Others are so passionate and involved in their mission, that they forget to explain the business to others, assuming that everyone will “get” it intuitively. Whatever the reason, this difficulty can lead to a business that doesn’t communicate clearly, that confuses customers or that just isn’t compelling.
When the going gets tough, the tough get a process
In order create a brand definition that tells your business’s story, you need to define 4 things: who you are (the personality and motivation for your business), what you do, what makes you different from your competition, and your target audience, or the people to whom you’re telling that story.
How do you do that? Here are 7 ways to come up with an interesting, engaging and compelling brand story for your small business — and it won’t be too tough.
1. Capture your thoughts about your business — in writing. If you were writing a novel, it would be important to start with an outline instead of trying to write the narrative straight from your imagination. The same is true for your business. Taking the thoughts and ideas that you have about your business and recording them can help you take the first step towards being both organized and thorough when creating your brand definition. If writing isn’t your thing, try talking about your business into a voice recorder, and then having the recording transcribed; speaking about your business may be more natural than staring down a blank page.
2. Start with the easiest section. Is there one portion of your brand definition that seems easier to articulate than the others? Beginning with something easy and quick can give you the momentum to move through the rest of the process. For example, if you’re really clear on what you do, it can help to get that down first and then to move forward from there.
3. Scrutinize your marketing materials. Read your own website, blog, and marketing materials with a curious and critical eye. What do you say in them that really reflects your thoughts on your business? And, what parts of your marketing materials appeal to your audience? Look to your materials to see what’s working and what you should continue to use. Remove yourself from them as much as possible so that you don’t overlook any subtle messages. And be sure to consider the things that you’ve said a thousand times before — those bits can be the most genuine. Go back over your past marketing materials as well — you can get a lot of valuable information out of your own history.
4. Review others’ thoughts about your business. Go through your customer testimonials, emails, conversation or past feedback, review those to get gems of insight. What do people continually say about you? What comes to you as second-nature, yet still gains you compliments? How do others introduce or refer you? Listen to people who are talking about you — and see if what they’re saying rings true. If you don’t have testimonials yet, this might be a good time to go out and ask for some — they can help you in both your branding and marketing efforts.
5. Sift through questions you’ve received. Customer questions can be a gold mine filled with requests for the types of information that belongs in your brand definition. You’re not looking so much for questions about the logistics of what you do — your delivery, process, contracts, or policies (though bits of these could contribute to your brand definition). More often, you’ll be looking for questions about your beliefs, background and motivation, the answers to which could as a backbone to your story. Questions have the added benefit of coming from your target audience — so you already know what they want to know.
6. Compare yourself to the competition. Read your competitors’ websites, blogs, newsletters, and any other marketing materials you can get your eyeballs on. Seeing what they’re up to, what they talk about and what’s important to them can help you to identify your brand — especially how you’re different from them. Look for their brand stories, and use them as a template — fill your unique information into their overall format. Consider doing some hands-on research as well — purchasing their products or services so that you can experience them (if that’s practical).
7. Ponder where you want your business to go. Your brand definition should be about both what you currently do and what you wish your business will become. You won’t want to create a brand story that you’ll then have to change in a years’ time — or even within a couple of years. Think about the direction you’d like your business to take in the future. If you can’t predict the future, then changing the story won’t be the end of the world — but there’s no harm in trying to create something that will last.
You can choose from and combine these 7 approaches in whatever ways you need to help you work out who you are, what you do, what makes you different and who you’re talking to. That’s not so tough, is it?