| Branding, Business, Startups

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This week is Maine Startup and Create Week. Whenever you gather together business owners and aspiring  entrepreneurs, you hear a lot “why I started my business” stories.

As part of the team of many volunteers who work to put on this event, I created the session: Crafting Your Message. With my work at Visible Logic and from helping entrepreneurs at House of Genius, I see how important (yet difficult) it is for business owners to find a position for their product in the marketplace and craft their message to build a distinct brand.

We had three great panelists: Ezra Fishman, Wistia’s head of marketing; Chris Avantaggio, founder of LiveME; Emilie Sommer—owner of emilie inc. photography; and our moderator was Meranne Behrends, Group Planning Director at VIA.

Many startup stories focus on someone’s passion or their success in building a new product. For many solopreneurs it’s about turning a hobby into a business. For makers it’s expressing their passion for creating, building and inventing.

But often missing from these tales is why anyone else should care.

What's in it for me?

That’s a bit harsh, but the truth is that to attract customers your brand story needs to pivot from a focus on you to offering a product or service other people will care about.

We’re all selfish

As Meranne reminded us, “we’re all selfish” and you need to show your prospects what’s in it for them.

The three panelists gave three unique views on how they turned their brand from something about them, to something that attracts customers.

Emilie Sommer has the classic solopreneur story of building a business around her talent. Emilie was an experienced photographer, in  photojournalism, but wanted to to be involved with more happy events such as weddings. She has turned that message into teaching her customers about the importance of creating their own legacies which she helps them create with her photography.

Chris Avantaggio first designed his t-shirts for his friends. After he realized there was demand for the uniquely-designed shirts that captured the spirit and love of Maine he’s been able to build a business that connects with people emotionally.

At Wistia, a significantly larger company than the previous two, they were less apt to fall into the hole of being all  about the founder’s vision. But Ezra made an important point: rather than promoting all of their features equally, they learned that certain features held the most value for their customers. So, Wistia focuses on promoting the benefits of those specific features. By listening to early customers, they were able to refine their message to be most appealing, and focused helping prospects to quickly understand how Wistia can help them.

Build a brand is more than just looking in the mirror and presenting a great face for your product or service (although that is important). Put that mirror down and learn what your prospects are looking for.

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