When you give life to a new business, you’re also giving life to a brand. When you interact with customers, you are nurturing that brand. When you interview candidates, the way you make hiring decisions supports or negates your brand. Regardless of whether or not you’ve strategically crafted your brand, your customer service, your content, your employees, your products all help define it. And if they’re all saying different things, then you have a brand problem.
Don’t freak out just yet.
Creating and managing your brand can be very simple. The key is to keep it clear, keep it consistent, and keep it alive. While you’re building out your team, you must make sure that everyone understands the brand. Chances are, you already have the pieces. You just need to figure out how they go together in a way that supports your company, your vision, your team and your customers.
In this post, I will break down a simple list of steps to start crafting your brand.
1. Understand the value of a brand.
Before you start developing a brand around your organization, you must first value its weight among your company. A brand is not your logo, slogan or any other tactical piece of your business. Your brand is your value system, your culture, your tone. It is the way you approach communication. But most of all, it is ingrained in each of your employees. Because it is within them that brand will be carried out.
2. Define your audience.
Your customers shouldn’t solely define what your company stands for, but without them - your company would not survive.
In order to tackle this in a strategic manner, you’ll need to understand who your key target audience is. If you are already running a business, you can do this by conducting a customer survey, scheduling interviews, or post something on Twitter and Facebook asking for feedback. Figure out why people like or dislike the products you sell. Get a better understanding of what keeps people coming back, what disengages them, etc.
3. Analyze your organization.
What kind of organization do you want to create? What types of values would you like to develop? How do these things apply to each person within your company? How do they reflect your product, your customers and everything else in between?
These are the types of questions you should be asking. Your target customer is central to the success of your company, but if you do not have a strong sense of “who you are” then you’ll slowly crumble under the demands of external parties. Creating a strong relationship between the two is vital. In this step, you'll want to better define the values of your organization and how that will affect your communication approach. This all occurs while fully understanding the needs and wants of your customers. Analyzing your organization's key value structure is doable without considering your customers, but you'll find that results are more holistic with the previous step included.
4. Choose your communication tone and style.
These things can vary depending on the interaction. Although you cannot control every single conversation your team has with customers, there can be a strong framework that supports your brand and provides guidance. MailChimp has a great reference for their employees that includes key content types, possible user response and emotions, along with how the team should respond in those situations. This setup is not overly strict and allows your team to have feel empowered that they know how to handle various interactions, without constantly seeking approval first.
It is your job to arm your team with the necessary tools so that they can feel confident making decisions. Choosing brand guidelines like general communication tone and style is one of them.
5. Empower the individual through practice.
Once you have gone through these steps and have a general idea of what your brand is, you must then find a way to encourage ownership. This can only be done by tying individual employee needs, goals, desires to your particular brand. Figure out how they can carry out the brand through their individual role. Empower them by communicating how important it is they execute the brand.
Once you have figured that out, provide consistent feedback that points back to the main elements of your brand. This will feel more like a culture discussion, but what your team needs to understand is that brand = culture. This is why it must be developed by, owned by and carried out by everyone on your team. However, if you don’t guide them and provide them with practical application, the task becomes even more ambiguous and confusing. Eliminating confusion is key.
As a final note, encourage your team to support the company brand by leading by example. If you aren’t carrying out the brand as the leader, it will be quite difficult for anyone else to trust that they can as well.