Whether you’re new to “branding” or ready for a checkup, strengthen your brand with these three simple steps.
1. Create a short “brand statement.”
Forget the elevator pitch. You want a sentence or phrase so short and clear, it could be a TEXT (no titles, abbreviations or emojis).
My old brand statement was short but not clear. Although this unofficial qualifier attracted some lovely clients, it’s a perfect example of what NOT to do for this step:
“I help my clients heal the world.”
- Am I… a pharmaceutical sales rep?
- Am I… a builder who specializes in hospitals?
- Am I… an executive coach for physicians?
Brand clarity is essential, especially for an individual artisan who IS her brand. Even with my title of “writer and editor,” I needed an extra minute just to explain my work. Warm and fuzzy, emphasis on fuzzy.
My brand statement today:
“I help people find the words to finish creative projects.” *
Get inspired. How does your work help?
The right statement will “click.” It will energize you, flowing into future conversations or opening those 60-second commercials you deliver at networking events, even if it doesn’t wind up on your website.
- Instead of “I speak to companies about my time in the military,” consider “I help corporate audiences understand PTSD.”
- Instead of “I coach online daters,” consider “I help people attract and choose the dates they really want, online.”
- Instead of “I deliver financial planning workshops,” consider “I help people change their relationship to money” or “I help people use future dreams to stop ‘leaking’ money.”
Your brand statement makes it easy for anyone – including you – to understand what you truly offer. Any questions it creates in a reader or listener should spring from curiosity, not confusion.
If the brand statement inspires a tagline, slogan or marketing message, that’s just a bonus, not the goal.
2. Choose up to three (sometimes four) words to describe your brand.
This is not a list of “keywords” to use on your website, or even publicize. Metrics matter, but brand descriptors aren’t meant to be measurable – not directly.
Think about how you want people to experience your business. How do you want people to feel? What do you want your business to be known for? What’s your flavor?
These brand descriptors can also help your team (website designer, social media manager, etc.) understand what belongs on your social media properties and website vs. what types of humor or other content would be “off-brand.”
Whenever your marketing materials use words or photos aimed at evoking feelings/experiences on your list, SHOW, don’t tell. Words can set a mood just as photos do. In marketing as in fiction, setting a stage is more powerful than making a demand; no one wants to be told how to feel. If you’re reading a favorite novel, does the author tell you a character is “often angry,” or does the author let the character throw things and break things instead?
From your list of brand descriptors, define how those words might inform your content, both visual and written. For example, “fun” would express itself differently for a motivational, entertaining speaker known for using comedy to wake up conferences than for a children’s birthday party company. The latter might include clowns. In my world, clowns are the opposite of fun, but that’s more of a personal opinion.
3. Define your brand targets, lifelike avatars with their own personal opinions, challenges and fears.
You’re creating “characters” in this step, not groups or general descriptions. Name them. Give them preferences and pet peeves. What are their fears and conflicts? What do they WANT? What are their true needs and deep desires? Frustrations? Internal and external obstacles between them and something they want to be, do or have?
One of my avatars is a business coach with books and other creative ideas in her head, words and designs she’s always planning to articulate someday. Her website, if she has one, is not as powerful and dynamic as she is. She bounces between extremes, either ignoring the need for fresh content or suddenly pelting her audience with similar, hurried messages until she sees a list of “unsubscribes” and cycles back into silence. When she slows down, she thinks about her “legacy,” what she wants to be known for in this world at the time she leaves it.
She pressures herself with a persistent, internal whispering that life is short.
I care about what happens to her (or him, a popular speaker with a dusty manuscript – an uplifting, unedited collection of life lessons printed years ago from a computer he no longer owns). All of my avatars show up as real people, potential clients with different characteristics but the same core needs for an inspirational writer, an editor or a writing coach. They are why my business exists.
* Final note: My full brand statement is slightly longer.
“I help people find the words to finish creative projects they care about.”
Why are those final three words important? I believe we are all creative. If my clients are feeling blocked or telling me they’re “too busy” or “I’m better at teaching/speaking than writing,” often it’s because a project matters to them.
Those silent nudges to share something true and real make us feel vulnerable. Starting seems easier than finishing because, until we face it, our vulnerability makes procrastination louder than inspiration.
We can’t force creativity, but we can create a friendly environment for it.
If you freeze at your keyboard when you sit down to craft an e-book for your business, a speech for a new audience or another professional or personal project, take a different approach. Use a talk-to-text function on your phone. Capture small ideas on sticky notes, in notebooks or even on napkins. Creativity often arrives “sideways” after you ask for it, so get ready. The opening for a new chapter in your book might sneak up on you in the shower. You could have a flash of insight as you park your car before a meeting. Get in the habit of being open to whatever you want to arrive.
The vulnerability fueling your hesitation is a sign that you have something powerful to share.
Listen for it. Capture it. Finish it.