Today, people are bombarded with messages and options and it’s hard to know how to stand out among the crowd. But if you can think of it in more familiar terms, like making a good first impression at a party or other social situation, it might help as you develop a brand story to express who you are, what you do, and the value you bring your customers in a clear and compelling way. Taking the time to craft a powerful brand story or message is well worth it and will set you up for success.
Here are 6 essential steps to help you create an authentic and unique brand story.
- Define your brand values. (Be comfortable in your own skin.)
We exude more confidence and personality the better we understand ourselves. Before you can present a unique, external brand, you must first understand your business’s internal character. This internal identify – defined by the values that your business considers integral to its existence – is the source from which all other aspects of your brand ideally will flow. Without a clear set of core values, the very foundation of your brand and your ability to communicate it believably to anyone inside or outside your business is in jeopardy. To help you get started, here are some brand values to consider:
Responsiveness, sense of urgency, supportive, innovation, creativity, simplicity, responsibility, accountability, under-promise - over-deliver, fun, results-oriented, integrity, diligence, focus, agility, expertise, respect, value, precision, and quality, etc. Start by listing 10 and then narrow those down to the top 3-4 core values. To do this, ask yourself which values are so much a part of your business, that if they disappeared, it would cease to exist as it is. Can you stand by these values no matter what? Does the word passionate come to mind when you list a value?
Now write a short explanation what you mean by those 3-4 values. For example, how do you define “quality” for your business? These explanations may not be used for external communications, but in order to develop an authentic message, it should be in line with them.
- Identify your target audience/ideal customer. (Recognize the crowd you want to be in.)
It’s important to identify your target audience or ideal customer in order to create a message that will make the right impression. You’re more likely to fit in at the gym wearing your yoga outfit than trying to impress the high fashion crowd. Are you interested in attracting certain small businesses, technology firms, or larger product companies? As you develop your message, ask yourself if it will resonate and connect with that customer.
- Conduct a competitor analysis. (Read the room.)
When entering the party, we’ll usually take a few minutes to survey the room to decide where we want to position ourselves among the crowd. Analyzing the market to see who your competitors are will help you position your business for success. Take time to research 3-5 competitors and identify the similarities and differences with your business, and use that to help express how you are unique.
- Define your value proposition. (What moving toast would you give?)
Today, you can’t only talk about your experience or expertise to give you an advantage over your competitor. You need to express the value and benefits you provide to your ideal customer. What problem are you trying to solve for them? Imagine saying the toast at the party, what could be said about your business? “Without the help of XX and their amazing services, I never would have realized my dream of opening a new store!”
- Know your customers’ perceptions. (Respect your friends’ opinions.)
Just like asking for your friends’ opinions – everyone has something to say and it can be helpful. Identify your customers’ perceptions with a simple feedback form (3-4 questions) or a short phone interview. Look for repeating themes in their answers. You might believe it’s the quality of your work they appreciate most, when actually it’s efficiency. You may also discover there is a perception of your business that isn’t true, and you will want to address that in your message.
- Keep it simple and clear. (Be yourself.)
Trying too hard to impress can sometimes backfire – keep it simple, and let the real you come out. Make sure your message is clear and uncomplicated. Have an impartial person review your message and let you know if there’s anything confusing. Stay clear of buzzwords, acronyms, or insider phrases.
Set a goal to have a core brand message that is 15 words or fewer that really encapsulates your brand and build from that. Consider companies that have these core messages. BMW: “The ultimate driving machine.” GE – “We bring good things to life.” Uber – “The smartest way to get around.” They are impactful and memorable.
Conclusion: By following these steps you can develop that unique, authentic brand story that gives you a competitive advantage. If you stay consistent, and apply this to all your marketing communications, whether that’s your website, printed materials, social media or in your networking, you’ll build a strong recognizable brand and customer loyalty.
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