One of the things I work on with my mentoring and consulting clients is their “Brand”. Having that outside viewpoint and guidance can help them get to a stronger point than trying to struggle alone. It is difficult to be objective about ourselves.
What, though is a strong brand? How do we create one? Do you even want to?
Unfortunately “Brand” is one of those words. It is associated with woolly thinking at best, and BS at worst.
Simply put, the largest and most important aspect of your brand is your reputation.
Famously, whatever is said about you when you are not in the room.
A brand is a triggered memory, a remembered feeling or experience, the association between stimulus and response.
It might not be any one thing but a combination of elements that brings to mind someone or something. Or it could be the minutiae that matters.
Most brands are actually accidental. There are very few individuals or companies that have the time or resources to go so heavily into designing and defining their brand as the Fortune 100.
It works the other way though, and anyone can do this.
Rather than start with what you want to project, discover what people already associate with you. It can be an extremely illuminating process.
What do you want people to think about you? What do you want people to say about you?
When people have a positive experience and they clearly understand what you are about, then you get referrals. You get positive word of mouth.
Now part of that is being awesome with everyone you work with, and another part is around your messaging so people know and remember what to say. Much of it though is getting all of your communications in line and focusing what people see, hear and read in your communication and behaviour.
When you drill down into what people are already experiencing, when you audit your website, your content, speeches, your products, networking and your social media activity, then you have something to work on.
The positive aspects you can build on. Draw attention to the good points and discover where those attributes originate.
Negative aspects are challenges for you to counter.
We often think of brand as being important only when considering products and customers, but brands can boost or harm other relationships too.
Put it this way, if you were going to partner with someone or a company, could you name brands that you would want to be associated with and brands that you would run far away from?
There are brands out there that could improve your reputation by association, and others that, well, some smells don’t wash away so easily.
You need to consider this when working with others, plus you want your own brand to be a magnet rather than a stink bomb waiting to go off, right?
The experience of dealing with you or your company will have a lasting and vivid impact. While this should be common sense, we all have so many bad experiences with people and companies we could not ever suggest that is “common” knowledge.
When I pulled my services page down during the Summer and Autumn a part of me wanted to take the services away permanently to focus on lower cost and less time intensive products. What has changed my mind was partly the negative reaction from a few people who had been considering taking me up on these services. People expected to be given the option of access and 1:1 advice from me, even if they were not ready for it right away. Having that available from someone they felt they could trust and talk to was a comfort factor. I hadn’t realised that aspect of my reputation or brand and taking it away could cause an issue if left untreated.
Essentially my behaviour and communication was leading towards a next step that no longer existed. While probably not a deal-breaker, it is certainly an area ripe for causing frustration for the people who need that solution.
You likely have an aspect to your brand that you are overlooking right now. Who knows what confusion or frustration you could be causing.
A better brand can give you more exposure and profit, a bad or inconsistent brand will slow or hurt your reputation and cost you money.
You are making promises and you are leaking information about yourself and your offering. Most people who do not get a grip on this have mixed messages and incongruent behaviour. This can lead to people misunderstanding, having a cloudy or vague idea, or being very disappointed when the reality doesn’t match what is in their imagination.
Poll, interview, survey or email your customers and your readers. Talk to your friends and peers, the ones unlikely to give you only the good news. You might find that you don’t get clear answers, but work through it.
Perhaps your brand is built from what you are not? Do your customers and audience express your attributes in terms of who or what you are different to? This is also important. Positioning your point of difference is crucial to standing out.
Could it be what you think you are projecting is not what other people remember?
I’m still working on a way I can bring back my mentoring program. First step was to rename it to Mentoring Program 🙂 If I can work out a way to offer it where I will not tie up all of my time then this will have been a super valuable insight and the few people who get in will get a lot of support from me as it is obvious that is what you want, I was just too stubborn to recognise that. Sometimes the painful truths turn out to be the best over the long term!
The key message here is not that you need a new logo. It’s much, much deeper than that.
Your impact on people is going to make a huge difference to your business, for good or bad.
Step 1 is discovering the good or the damage that has already been done!
Are you aware of your brand? Do you consciously work on it? Please share your thoughts in the comments …