By Mark Creedon
A better understanding of branding
The first thing I need to say before I share this secret with you is that I am not a marketing consultant. I don’t have a marketing degree and I have never worked in marketing.
Now that we have that clarity, let’s talk about what I can share with you. As a business coach I work with some of the best and most successful entrepreneurs in Australia. I’ve watched them take their personal and company brands to great heights and I have seen them build very successful businesses through very clever and strategic marketing campaigns. It is that clever strategic thinking That I am about to share with you.
In this chapter we are going to consider how you build your brand, how you get your buying customer to understand your product or service and then the very simple ways that you can spread the word and attract business.
Know the good and the bad
One of the first things I have a new coaching client do is to complete a SWOT analysis not only of their business but of them personally. There are a number of reasons for this, but it is the secret to attracting and managing great people in your business.
Firstly, from a brand development perspective, it is important to recognize that we each have a personal brand. Understanding this will enable you to separate yourself from your business when you need to and that is the secret to longevity. It will allow you to develop a succession plan, an exit strategy, and give you the opportunity to develop a true legacy with your business.
Perhaps, like me initially, you are your business. If you are in a service industry, you generate the business, do the work, perform the role of the bookkeeper (in which case you need to know finance management and everything in between, then the idea that there can be essentially two brands within your business will be unthinkable.
But even in that scenario, if you start to outsource roles within your business and leverage off your knowledge and expertise you can start to develop scalable products which have a separate identity. It is the only way you can manufacture “goodwill value”. Otherwise, the business is just you and therefore without you it has no intrinsic value.
Do you know brand rules?
We know that the world is changing rapidly and what worked five years ago may no longer be relevant. Consumers are bombarded on a daily basis with a never-ending stream of messages all vying for their consumer dollar.
So, in light of this new reality, here are some simple steps you can take to get your brand ready to compete in that very competitive landscape:
- Answer the question “why”. Why are you in business?
What is your central purpose? This is a time to be brutally honest with yourself. You may think that the most common answer would be “to make money” but in fact in my experience it isn’t. My clients see money as the bi-product of what they do. It is the reward for being in business but by no means is it their reason or their “why”.
You see, money comes and goes and it is really just a commodity. It is a nice commodity to have and life is a whole lot easier with than without it, but it will not provide you with a central purpose. Maybe you are in business to help people, maybe it’s to change perceptions, or maybe it is as simple as that you want to achieve status or have a professional qualification. Hopefully you are in business because you love it and it is your passion.
The clients I enjoy working with are those who run their business because it is their passion. The business therefore became an extension of that passion and so growth became relatively easy.
Just keep in mind, because you have a passion does not guarantee success in turning that passion into a business. It is an amazing and often essential ingredient, but even in our new disruptive, digital world nothing replaces commitment, drive, determination and strategic hard work. Luck can play a part but as one of my longest serving clients says, it took him 20 years to be an overnight success.
- One you’ve answered why you are in business you need to use that answer to create the story. This is the “who”. Who are you? By now you have clarity around why you run your business but what do you answer when someone asks what you do?
A simple exercise I use with my clients is to say, if you met someone at a social function on the weekend and they asked what you did, how would you answer? At first glance this seems like an easy straightforward question to answer. But what if I asked you to answer in a way which compelled the person to want to know more, to engage with you in a longer conversation all about you and your business, or even better still to actually buy your product or services?
This is where the distinction between your passion and your story become relevant. If someone asks you what you do and your answer is not compelling it is more than likely that they will never get to hear about how passionate you are. The answer to the “what” question needs to be immediately compelling. It needs to be infused with your passion and it needs to beg the very next comment to be “tell me more”.
I consider myself to be extremely fortunate. I love what I do and I get to do what I love for a living. Clients pay me substantial sums of money to coach them, which is my passion.
I get to mix with entrepreneurs and I constantly learn from my clients as well. What a dream job! But let me ask you this. If you met me socially and asked what I did for a living and I answered “Business Coach” would you stay around to ask another question? It’s OK to be honest, I can’t hear you.
You see if I answered that way, I would never get to tell you about my passion, how working with my clients and seeing people achieve their dreams and goals is what motivates me, or how seeing my clients go through very real personal change, which has an amazing positive impact on their business is what gets me out of bed everyday.
I wouldn’t get to tell you how speaking at industry events across Australia and internationally is a huge buzz for me or how having a client tell me that I have changed their life is enough of a reward that I would do it for no money at all. I also wouldn’t get to tell you how being paid allows me to give back, to make a positive contribution to the business community, to mentor young business owners who simply couldn’t afford my fees. And to contribute to my community and society at large in the hope that I can leave this world just a little better than it is now, to leave a legacy for my grandchildren.
I wonder if you would get that chance when you are asked that question?
That is why I encourage all my clients to develop and practice their story so that they end up with a clear and compelling answer to the “what” question. Remember I asked before how would you react if I told you I was a Business Coach? What if my answer to the “what” question was that I am the “unreasonable friend” to some of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs?
Would that make you ask more?
- Finally, once we have the “what” and “why” answered we can focus on the how. This is about developing strategies to get your brand out into the market place. I’m not going to talk about marketing and I’m certainly not going to tell you the secrets of social media. But I will encourage you to get an understanding of it. Social media is undoubtedly here to stay and will also undoubtedly change and develop rapidly.
I recently attended a Roger Hamilton seminar where it was stated that there would be more developments in technology in the next five years than in the past 20. The industrial age is undoubtedly finished and there is a new world order particularly in the online and social media space. It is now a specialised field and one in which I also take advice from specialists. What I will talk about now, however, is tried and true strategies for getting your brand, both the brand of your business and your personal brand into the big wide world.
I encourage all of my clients to spread the word of their brand at every available opportunity. My very dear friend Kevin Turner is one of the most influential people in Australian real estate media often says you never know who you are standing next to. So, whoever it may be, seize the opportunity to tell them who you are, what you do and why.
If you have it confidently developed, then your enthusiasm will be infectious.
- The fourth rule is simply to be authentic. Even though the world is faster paced than ever before, the digital age has meant that consumers are also far better educated. Researching you on the web is easy and if the story you tell, doesn’t match what people read about you online then you are wasting your time. Just as importantly, though, having a business and therefore a brand that you can wholeheartedly support and one which represents your values and ideals is so much easier for you to believe in, to support and commit to, and to make the sacrifices which we all have to make as our business grows.
Being authentic will attract the right people whether as consumers or as team members and it will also drive loyalty to your brand, something which is essential even today. If the brand you have developed is not representative of the goals and purpose you have set for yourself then you have a lack of congruency and the operation of your business may ultimately become a burden. Take some time out to look at your brand and make sure you have met these rules. If you haven’t, change it now, set about creating a new story, the one which best reflects you.
Mark Creedon is the founder of Business Accelerator mastermind by Metropole and business coach to some of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs – helping them build a true business, not a job.
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