Know Your Business – Identity, Branding & Messaging.
Whatever your background that leads you to starting your business, at some point you need to look at how to move your business and ideas forward beyond your immediate network. It’s at this juncture you realise that the answer is marketing, but have no idea where to start, or who to turn to for advice that’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg!
The following ten articles (plus this one) will guide you through the various marketing methodologies, practices and tactics required to assist you in the development of your marketing strategy. I will take you through the key marketing areas your business should be addressing, starting with the basics – Marketing Foundations and Fundamentals, before working our way through to Campaign Design, Lead Generation Tactics and finally, Strategy Development.
Regardless of how long you have been running your business, let’s start by highlighting the first foundational step to address – Know Your Business. Who you are, how you do it, and what you do. Once you have your Who, How and What defined, the rest will start falling into place.
The main problem businesses face, is that they can clearly articulate the What and How, but not the Why. Simon Sinek, the author of “Start With Why”, explains how it’s so much easier to look from the outside in (What -> How -> Why), when really it should be the other way around. As a business owner, you need to be asking yourself: What is your purpose, cause or belief? Why does your business exist? Why do YOU get out of bed every morning? Why should anyone care?
Perhaps now is the time to start writing these out and assess whether your answers match the current direction of the business, and even the type of customers you service or want to attract.
Once you have identified the crux of the business, the next phase is to decide on your corporate identity, how to brand the business, and what are your key messages (including tone of voice). To get started, let’s look at what it means to establish your corporate identity.
- Corporate Identity is a combination of colour schemes, designs, words, etc., that a firm employs to make a visual statement about itself and to communicate its business philosophy;
- It is an enduring symbol of how a firm views itself, how it wishes to be viewed by others, and how others recognise and remember it;
- It is a sensory-experience conveyed by things such as buildings, décor, logo, name, slogan, stationery, uniforms, and is largely unaffected by its financial performance;
- Corporate identity is either strong or weak, and is a permanent construct unless changed deliberately.
The above description probably sounds a lot like establishing your brand, but the key differentiator between the two is that your corporate identity focuses on your business philosophy, while your brand portrays the company’s personality.
Your company’s Vision and Mission Statements are part of your corporate identity, and if you’re in need of some inspiration, then let’s take a look at one of the world’s most exciting organisations. Tesla Motors has transformed the car industry, listed below are both their Vision and Mission Statement.
“Tesla’s vision is to create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.”
“Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
I love the way they have succinctly expressed who they are and what they do. Many organisations struggle to express their vision and mission in just one sentence, and to use another example that’s completely the opposite in style, here’s what you can find on HP’s global website:
“Our vision is to create technology that makes life better for everyone, everywhere — every person, every organization, and every community around the globe. This motivates us — inspires us — to do what we do. To make what we make. To invent, and to reinvent. To engineer experiences that amaze. We won’t stop pushing ahead, because you won’t stop pushing ahead. You’re reinventing how you work. How you play. How you live. With our technology, you’ll reinvent your world.”
While you shouldn’t need paragraphs to express your vision, HP is a massive organisation with fingers in many pies. They needed to take a broader view, but in doing so haven’t been able to articulate anything as concrete as Tesla, whose sole purpose is being an electric car company.
Be clear, be concise, and start to think whether your organisation’s vision and mission needs to be reassessed.
The next stage in this process is to ask, what is a brand?
- The brand is all that is communicated visually and verbally to portray the personality of the organisation, its products and services.
- To be successful a company’s brand must fit congruently with its products, services and the markets.
- Good branding takes all the parts into consideration, from the way the company behaves (Brand Personality) to the way it looks (The Visual Identity).
- Branding conveys sentiment, it can be perceived as positive, negative, or neutral.
A great way to figure out what your organisation’s personality should be, is to run a Branding Workshop and bring in a design agency that aligns with the company’s vision and mission. There are many graphic designers out there, but you need to find the one who understands your company’s psyche in order to create the right visual identity.
A word of caution: if you are building a website to represent and promote your business while you are still defining your brand, don’t rely on the web designer to make all these crucial branding decisions on your behalf. Web designers are specialists in their field, but they will not be able to convey your true personality and effectively communicate that to your audience.
That said, finding a designer or design agency is not an easy task, so when you are ready to take this step reach out to peers, friends and family, and always get at least three different designers to pitch for your
business. Provide them with the same brief and see what they present back to you, and with any luck, at least one of them will ‘wow’ you with their talent and match your needs and personality.
We’re finally at the tail-end given identity and brand have been covered, now it’s time to focus on your messaging. Building on your vision and mission statements, it’s time to look at who you are targeting and the language required to capture your audience, but don’t forget to include your personality, aka, tone of voice. You will most likely need to address both business and technical contacts, so make sure you change the context of the conversation accordingly. Zero in on the different pain points, the benefits you provide and always think of your ‘why’, because they are going to be asking/thinking, ‘why you?’. Put yourself in their shoes as they will want to know what makes your business, people and offerings better than your competitors’.
Some great examples of targeted messaging to specific industry groups can be found on Dimension Data’s website. You may not be targeting specific verticals, but the language, tone and focus of their messaging will help you understand what you need to create to ensure you are communicating effectively, while representing your brand at the same time.
Knowing your business might seem obvious until you start this journey and realise there are many more elements that must be considered. This is only the first step, and it should involve everyone in the organisation, as it will affect everyone from the MD through Operations, Finance and Admin. Every staff member promotes your business, and not only should they be across your identity, brand and messaging, but be 100% on board with the direction. Otherwise, the truth and honesty of your ‘Why’ will not shine through to your customers, partners and prospects.