Your brand helps you stay in your own lane.
We brand for many different reasons, but one of the biggest payoffs when you put in the effort to define and live out a brand strategy might be an unexpected one: personal effectiveness.
Branding isn’t just about how you show up in the world from an optics point of view. The strategy that you develop is also one of your greatest internal navigational tools to get where you want to go, and do it effectively.
Honour your brand strategy every day, and you’ll feel the results of more focused efforts. Think of a sprinkler versus a hose. Say yes to everything, and you remain a sprinkler. Let your brand start guiding your efforts into concentrated, consistent actions, and you’re a hose, baby!
Hoses say no. Sprinklers convince themselves one more yes won’t hurt.
The “Finding Focus” Series.
This post is the first in a short series that will show you how to use your brand strategy as a powerful decision-making tool that will help you focus your energies and grow your business. That includes sifting through ideas and figuring out where they go, knowing when to change course for a new opportunity, and knowing when you’re better off saying “no.”
It’s all Decision Making.
Going off-course or diluting your message doesn’t just happen. Every inch you gain or lose in your business journey is the direct result of a decision. Improve your decision-making, and you’ll grow your business.
With a well thought-out brand, you only need to make the big decisions once. Then you can use them as guideposts for the smaller, tactical actions you take every day.
This first post will show you how honing in on your true value acts as an anchor for easier decision-making.
Focus Strategy 1: Know (and Name) Your Value
It’s simple; you’re going to deliver the most value to your clients or customers when you are operating in your element (or in your zone of genius, as Gay Hendricks would put it.)
So what’s your element? I’m going to offer up two of my all-time favourite questions (yes, I have favourite questions… a hint at my own element!) to get to the answer.
Question 1: What are you?
There’s some things you have always been; that you innately are. What are they? Put a name on it. What were you born to be?
And if you’re internally rebelling because you’re not the kind of person that likes the idea of being labeled, bear with me. This isn’t about limiting you, it’s about freeing you up to be only you. It’s about claiming what you are so you won’t be pigeon holed as the wrong thing.
At one point, Oprah stopped seeing herself as a talk show host, and stepped into her role as a teacher, and I’m sure you can see how that has shaped her enterprise.
Start with the obvious.
What are you first and foremost in your business?
I’m a strategist. And I’m an advisor. I have clients that are artists, event creators, teachers, curators, conversationalists, writers, helpers, designers, and researchers.
Let me give you an example of why this matters.
Have you ever agonized over whether you should start a blog? Or perhaps a new social media channel? I’ve sat down with many creative business owners who were fretting over the need to become a writer to blog and grow their business.
My answer to this dilemma is always the same: the purpose of writing a blog is to create the desire to engage with your site and your brand on an ongoing basis. How can you achieve this same result as an [artist, curator, designer, etc.]? It’s usually still technically a blog, but the format of that blog becomes vastly different when it’s run by a stylist vs a researcher vs a community builder. There’s power in finding ways to do business without having to step out of your primary role – especially when it’s a role in which you thrive.
Knowing what you are in this respect also helps you turn down opportunities that will spread you too thin or pull you off course. It’s one of the primary internal checks for knowing when to say “no” to potential projects or work.
It should mean something.
Stop and think about what being a _____ really means to you. If you find the obvious boring, having quirky and engaging titles is a fine practice for adding some interest to this process, but make sure there’s actually something to them. Take them to heart. I’ve seen titles like “Master of Fun” or “Chief Mischief Officer” that could set the stage for some seriously cool brand focus and trailblazing, but only if they really mean it.
Finding Focus Action Step:
Choose 2-3 titles that best describe your role in your business (and the world). Know what it really means to you, and stand by it!
Question 2: What are you made for?
I can’t get enough of this question, because I believe strongly that we are all made for something. Or at least made for certain things and not for others.
I’ve worked with people who are in their element when connecting others and building communities. Others who are in their element when teaching. Others when storytelling. Others (like myself) who are systems junkies and love to sift and organize concepts for hours.
The point of this question is to get to the heart of how you naturally, easily create value for others.
What makes you great at what you do?
This doesn’t need to be a big discovery exercise (unless that’s what you need right now, in which case, I’d recommend starting with StrengthsFinder), so stick to the activities that relate to what you actually deliver in your business. If you’re a photographer, you might be in your element seeking and showcasing understated beauty. Or maybe you’re more technical and it’s actually your affinity for perfect lighting that makes your work shine. No answer is wrong if it helps you deliver true, unique value.
Finding Focus Action Step:
Bring all of this thinking home by completing this sentence with the most important ideas:
“I create the most value when I’m ________.”
It can also help to turn some of these activities into labels. For example, my love of creating systems makes me a “toolmaker” or “system creator.” What are you being when you’re creating value by doing what you’re made to do?
Bonus Section: Tie in your Promise.
Finding out how your answers to the questions above align directly with your big brand promise helps you be sure that you’re standing your ground in the right place – one that leads to sales and success.
A brand promise is the customer-facing expression of your company’s value at its very highest level. It’s what your people actually want from you, and definitely follows the “sell them what they want and give them what they need” rule. It should be in language that resonates with them.
So what is your big umbrella statement about how you make your customers’ lives better? You’ll often find these promises hitting you right in the face on somebody’s homepage or sales page.
- Tara Gentile’s is “Business Strategy to break through the noise.”
- My client Megan helps you “get the most from your garden.”
- Shopify offers “everything you need to sell anywhere.”
- Another client, Jennifer, helps companies “breathe fresh air into their organization.”
If you don’t have this nailed down, then just keep it simple. It doesn’t have to set you apart, it only needs to express what people ultimately want to buy from you.
Sell shoes? You keep feet warm and stylish. Boom. Health coach? You help people feel their best to be their best.
Finding Focus Action Step:
Okay, have your brand promise down? It’s time to bring this all together as one big expression of your value to keep you anchored in what you do best.
What are you?
What is your promise?
When are you creating the most value? What other titles do you have when you’re in your element?
Here’s mine. (Remember, this isn’t marketing copy, it’s for internal sanity purposes!)
I’m a brand strategist and advisor.
I help visionaries create remarkable brands that focus their energy and grow their business.
I create the most value when I am helping people identify and own their unique advantages and point of view. I’m a relevance finder, idea organizer, message articulator, system creator, and maximizer.
Anything that falls too far outside of this definition probably has no business being on our plates. Pretty freeing, right?
Keep your Hat On.
Keep this value statement close, and become aware of when you’re taking off these hats in order to take on new ones. Start turning down opportunities that don’t fit your defined role and promise of value and you’ll notice an increase in the opportunities that do.