| Branding

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Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a business owner who has been working over the past year to launch her business. I was part of a team of volunteers helping this entrepreneur who was struggling with how to present and sell her workshops that are in the area of corporate wellness. She wanted help defining what benefits and messaging would resonate most with her buyers.

I tell you about this scenario as a way to demonstrate the journey many business owners go on as they build their business, develop a brand, and then market their product or service.

It’s helpful to think about this journey in four steps. Doing this work in a progressive way is best, and I want to show you why.

1. Define your offerings: build your product or service

In this case, the business owner had spent the past few months turning some of her typical consulting engagements into packaged workshops. She had considered a few ways of selling her services: from highly-customized consulting; to workshops; to online content and more. After testing and piloting some programs she had settled into an outline for her core offerings—a suite of workshops. She was also starting to get a picture of who was most likely to buy from her.

The first phase of product definition needs to be based on the concrete details of what is realistic to do. You have to be able to deliver what you’re selling. Don’t try to sell something that you cannot actually fulfill, and make sure your business model is profitable and has sufficient market demand.

After you’ve roughly defined what you are selling, there are many ways you can adjust how you position your product or service. Making even minor changes to your delivery processes, your packaging, your pricing and many other details can affect how appealing the end product or service is and this leads us to Step 2.

2. clarify your benefits and messaging

At this point, many business owners tend to get really focused on the exact features of what they are selling, when  it’s really the time to step back and think about the benefits. Turn your thinking around and start to talk and write down the ways that your product helps your customers. Think about why they might choose you over other options available to them.

This is a good time to interview your early customers and see why they bought from you and what value you brought to them. Brainstorm phrases you might use in a sales presentation. Think about how you can quantify any results of using your product or service.

Writing a Unique Value Proposition is a great exercise to clarify your message into one succinct sentence, and if you need a tool to help you with this process, we suggest you look at Branding Compass.

When we met with the business owner, she was looking for insight on this second step in the brand development process. Engaging others to read your web site copy, or to listen to a sample presentation or to evaluate your value proposition is very helpful. It’s often easier for an outsider to provide feedback, than it is for us to be self-reflective about our own business.

Coming out of this step, you should have identified the benefits that are exclusive to you and your company.

3. visualize your brand

As part of our meeting with the business owner, we all agreed that one of the real benefits of her unique wellness service was that it was extremely efficient. She had a very targeted approach and in its simplicity, it could be universally implemented across many diverse working teams.

Look at that sentence and pick out the key words: efficient, targeted, simplicity.

These are the types of values that should then define her brand.

As we looked at her web site, we found it was packed with information. The exact number and titles of the workshops she was selling was unclear. It did not visually demonstrate efficient, targeted and simplicity.

A brand that is efficient, targeted and simple should use minimal words and a clean visual style.

Connect your benefits with your visuals for a brand that resonates with your customers.

You may have heard that it’s a mistake to start designing your logo or other brand visuals until after you have a clear value proposition, ideal customer, benefits and market position defined. Get clarity around your messaging and value proposition and then use this as the foundation for design and visuals.

4. broadcast your message (aka Marketing)

If you begin promoting your product when you don’t have a clear message, you just end up making a lot of useless noise. It’s very difficult to connect with prospects when you don’t have a clear value proposition. They can’t figure out what you do or imagine themselves using your product.

You may be at that point, where it takes you a really long time to describe what’s unique about your business. Maybe you can only sell yourself if you have fifteen minutes of someone’s time.

If that sounds like you, you need to get good at explaining what you offer and its benefits. Once you can do that, you will have a solid direction for developing a visual brand that reinforces that same message. Eventually, your message should be so clear that your web site, for example, quickly draws in your ideal customer when they visit your site.

Repeat and refine

I hope my story of this entrepreneur’s experience highlights the right step-by-step process to use to build your brand strategy. It’s likely that your product or service will continue to evolve. If you’ve newly started your business, you are probably aware that your products and services are still changing. But nowadays, all successful businesses are continually changing.

You will also continue to get a more clear understanding of the real value you provide, so keep looping through these four steps.

  1. Define and build your product
  2. Clarify your value
  3. Visualize your brand
  4. Market your business

Every company that is actively growing is following this loop. Your first time through, it is likely you’ll miss the mark. That’s a good reason to keep branding costs low in the beginning until you have more confidence in your direction.

If you try to define your brand when you don’t know what the most important elements are of your value proposition, you frequently end up with a logo or visual style that is mismatched with what your brand represents. But that doesn’t mean you need to freeze up and wait for the perfect moment, either. Your brand will continue to be adjusted as you grow and a strong brand will evolve with your changing offerings.

It was great to watch our new business owner take these steps. She was not jumping ahead and investing heavily in branding when it wasn’t the time yet. And when she does make the leap to redesign her logo, she will have a clear vision of her brand and message that will drive the writing and design.

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