"Your brand" is talked a lot about these days, but what is your "brand"?
Your brand is not your logo.
Coca-Cola is not about the logo or even the shape of the bottle. It includes all you feel when you think about Coke - fun, young, outdoors. Apple is not about the backlit macintosh apple with a bite out of it, it is all that it entails - design quality, Steve Jobs, the whole ecosphere of physical and software design surrounding tech.
Everything about your business must align with the brand - the way you and your team behave, how you appear to customers, the business' values, the business' model, the messages it gives out and even the look and feel of marketing and ads. And yes, at the end, your logo needs to reflect and represent all that.
In a small business, your brand starts with you because your business is identified with you, so let's start with it being your business. You need to be you whether that "you" is operating in business mode or in private mode.
Here are the 5 things to do to create your brand.
1. Start with what you stand for
Write down the 10 most cherished values you hold - then narrow it down to 5 that truly represent the person you are.
They don't have to be about business. They might be about your values on ethics or on society such as "honesty beyond reproach" or "I believe in an inclusive society." They might be about what you hold dear in your life such as "family above all." They might be about your style like "casual and comfortable" or "organic and natural."
There are no right or wrong answers.
As you collect the 10 and then narrow to 5, ask yourself if these are core values - if you were ever in a position where you have to choose between one of them and total disaster e.g. business closure, would you give up the value? For example I have met many people who have included "honesty" as one of their values - and then gone on and told me about the time they cheated on their tax or told a white lie to win a contract.
Your list of 5 need to be your "will-die-for" values.
Once you have your 5 core values, ask yourself how many of them translate to your business. Hopefully most if not all 5 should be capable of being reflected in your business otherwise you are going to feel so conflicted if you had to make a business decision that breached a "personal" value.
What you should thus end up with is the definition of your personal brand - "this is what I and my business stand for."
2. Find your target market
You need to be very clear who you serve. In online business, people talk about their "avatar" and in the old sense, this was your target market demographics.
Describe your ideal customer in terms of what they are, what gender and age, what they do, what they like. What do they struggle with and need solutions for that your product or service will help with? What benefits are they looking for? Creating a brand to appeal to everyone is an exercise in futility.
Once you have defined your target market, ask if your core values appeal to this target market. If so (hopefully or you may have to rethink your product, business model or target market!) ask yourself how you need to portray your personal brand to the target market.
If your business was about training people to use MYOB, you will find that training a non-finance trained person on "how to keep the books on MYOB" is very different from training an accountant on how to use MYOB. You can't create a brand about the way your training shows an accountant how to use MYOB and hope to attract small business owners who don't know anything about accounting.
So your messages about your brand - and therefore how you behave, what product content you create, what images you use in branding - have to be uniquely represented to different target markets, and target market segments.
3. Find your uniqueness
Having found your values and behaviour sets, and identifying your target market and their needs doesn't make your brand unique.
Now you need to find what makes you unique, from within your brand.
Your uniqueness could come from your business model - "I'm the only one offering 5 minute pop-up training on my expertise."
It could come from your product or service - "I'm the only one that sells healthy gluten-free cocktail canapes."
It could come from your delivery methods - "I'm the only one to personally drop off your order, with a flower attached."
It could come from your style - "Hey, my video courses on how to clean the house are funny, quirky and fun."
It could come from competition - "Why would you buy from that traditional old store when you can get sleeker, cutting-edge stuff from me?"
You can be unique because your product is unique, or you serve a very narrow market niche that nobody else serves, or you could be unique because you serve a unique industry or slice of demographic like age-range.
Whatever it is, make your brand pop out from the others.
4. Describe your brand as a personality
I started with you, now let's move from you to a "person" that represents your brand, and not a logo, vision statement or an avatar description or a list of values. If your business (not you now) was a "person" how would you describe them? Would they be predominantly a male or female person? What would they wear and what style would they like? What age might they be and how would they express themselves?
You may never describe these characteristics to a customer, but knowing them would help you become more precise about your brand.
Once you've brainstormed this through, start to write some characteristics about your business brand, described as a person. Incorporate all the thinking from the previous steps.
For example you might say that "My brand is an older man who believes in social equality and helping people to become the best they can be. Through core values that are the same as mine he serves older gentlemen regain confidence in themselves and find romance again after a death or other separation. He totally understands his customers' needs, especially about privacy, and is unique by providing an "after-first-date" counselling service."
5. Take your brand to other areas of your marketing
Now that you have a clear idea of your business brand - and how you wrap around it - think about that brand-person's characteristics and translate them to the other areas of your marketing activity.
Let's take the logo. What colours might be in the logo? They should be the colours the "person" you described your brand to be would like. My description above of the "older man" would probably not be associated with pink, but perhaps blues, grey and dark reds (think of a conservative business suit and tie). The font is unlikely to be something loose and wild but measured and more conservative.
What about brochures and websites? Think of the language that the person may use - understanding, measured, unbiased, honest.
If you have team members ask how they would represent that person? How would they speak and behave in line with the look and feel of that person?
So now that you have "fleshed out" what your brand is, start to speak from that position in everything that you do. Get your team engaged and on board with the description and review every time it is used to see that the brand is properly delivered.
Marketing is a long journey and everything has to be lined up. It's a far easier journey if you know "who" is taking the journey for you, so that you can reflect and portray that journey from the heart.
If you want to know more about targeted marketing to find your ideal customer, read my book called "SMART Marketing - 7 Easy Steps to More Sales" available on Amazon.
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