Congratulations on taking a leap of faith and backing yourself. Running your own business can give you the ‘tummy rumbles’ from time-to-time, but, when done correctly, it can be extremely fulfilling and rewarding.
Having started 2 companies in more recent years and led a couple before that, I hope this article will provide you with some actionable insights. I speak from personal experience about company branding strategies, which we have implemented for our companies and in partnership with our clients.
Where do you start with company branding?
It all starts with a plan. Seems obvious yes, but a plan is the key. You will very quickly find out that your time is your most important resource. An effective plan will enable you to spend your time in the areas that will deliver the most relevant outcomes. These outcomes will change as your business matures and finds its niche. The power comes from being consciously aware of these outcomes and ensuring you are not distracted, treading water or ‘wasting’ time on areas with little to no return.
So how can you create a brand?
A brand is not simply a logo. A brand is how your target audience feels about your company. What do they say about it? How do they describe it to friends and family? Why do they continue to return to you and not the competition? There are many, many elements that make up company branding.
We often see clients who almost freeze at the prospect of committing to a brand which encompasses their identity (often called a logo). We get it, the whole process can be confronting, but the number one thing to remember is that your identity can indeed be tweaked over time. For example, check out the evolution of the famous Apple Logo from its first version to today’s.
Our tried and tested process
You need to be able to clearly talk about your business. You need a mission statement that communicates what you do, why you are unique and who you serve. This needs to have a lasting affect on as many aspects of your business as possible. It will become your ‘North Star’ and help you to wrangle the many decisions you will be faced with.
Our process to facilitate the creation of a mission statement involves exploring 6 aspects of your business:
- Culture – How would your community describe your company?
- Customers – How would you describe your customers?
- Voice – How do you sound to others?
- Feeling – How do others feel after interacting with you?
- Impact – What tangible impact do you have on others?
- X-Factor – What makes you radically different or unique?
This may seem tricky or cumbersome, but trust the process. If you don’t know your company’s mission or primary goal, then how do you know when you are successful or even heading in the right or wrong direction?
This activity is best done when facilitated by a marketing professional, but it can certainly be effective when completed by all stakeholders of your company in an open format.
You start by writing down all of the words that enter your mind for each of the six areas. So, for example in the Culture column for Wolf IQ, we have words like, trusting, knowledgeable, dynamic and real. Once you have completed the words for all 6 columns, go back through them and underline the top 5 words in each column. The words that most resonate with the majority of the people in the room.
Next, you go through and circle the single word out of the 5 underlined words that most resonates with the group. These now form the basis for your mission statement. Simply drop the word in the spaces provided at the bottom of the worksheet. Sometimes it forms a coherent sentence, other times you will need to workshop it a little. Either way the end result is a considered mission statement with grounding and relevance. It’s not simply ‘plucked’ from thin air and filled with unnecessary words.
Now that you have your mission statement, all aspects, decisions and discussions should refer back to this statement to ensure consistency. Items like a logo, your website or even your next recruit will make sense when viewed with your mission statement in mind.
Pro-tip: Even if you have been established for years, you can still run this activity in your business. You may be surprised by the findings and it’s an amazing way to take the pulse of your business when you involve key (or all) team members in the process. Often it’s crystal clear to owners, but employees may shed some interesting light using the gift of looking from the outside in.
Good luck and shout out if you get stuck.