Far too often I am brought in to consult a board or CEO on the importance of their ‘brand’ — only to realise it is the last item on their priority list.
The word brand has been diluted so much that it now represents (to those at the top of the hierarchy) just another fancy way to say ‘logo’ or ‘mission statement’.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
Your brand is the core of your business. Period.
All this time, businesses have been designing plans and roadmaps without first taking into account even the slightest consideration of their brand.
Your brand needs to come FIRST. Before your financial planning and business planning. Before absolutely everything. Even before hiring your board!
Your brand is the reason you exist… Why you sell what you sell, why your customers or clients choose you. So why treat it as if it is the least important item on the agenda? Most likely because you don’t understand what ‘branding’ really is.
Here is a guideline on what brand really does represent (no, not the pretty little logos designers come up with – that is just the fun stuff at the end).
1. Your core values
This means the core values of the chairman, the CEO and the board. They need to be agreed upon by everyone and it will dictate who you are and what you do.
For example, if integrity is a core value then you would follow this throughout ALL your decisions, from what types of clients you associate yourself with right through to how you handle an employee complaint.
2. Your passion
Why did this company begin? What is the underlying passion that is the foundation reason that this business exists (and no it isn’t about money). What drives the chairman or the founder to be the best in their niche market? This needs to be communicated and believed by everyone in the company.
3. Your purpose
This is where developing your brand helps your business planning. What do you want to achieve in 12 months or 10 years? Is it clear? Is it in line with your values and your passion? Is it agreed upon? This will dictate all the decisions you, your team and your staff make. How can they help you achieve this plan if they don’t know where they are headed? This is where your VISION as a leader comes through. It is driven by your values and fuelled by your passion.
Put simply, whatever your attitude is as the boss, don’t be surprised to see it mirrored from the people around you. You need to have the correct attitude from within and in line with your values, passion and purpose if your brand is to positively influence the future of your business. If your attitude sucks, then fix it. No one wants to do business with a whinger, an agro or a wet blanket.
5. Six key words
Now that you have worked on those four steps, your final step is to work out your six key words. These need to be the company’s six words that resonate in all decisions and activities.
For example, if service is one of the words then all staff need to know this, they also need to then be equipped to be able to deliver such service (training and guidance), and above all you need to lead by example in how you service others.
The six words need to be agreed upon at board level and before you devise your plan for the future. These words are not face value. They are the pillars on which you are going to build a reputable and successful business for the future.
Once you have mastered all the five steps, THEN you can plan for the future.
What about the pretty little logos and style guides, you ask? Oh yes, that is what I like to call the ‘fun stuff’. That is the visual representation of your brand. Your visual brand.
There is no use changing your ‘look’ for the sake of it. Don’t let your marketing department or brand specialist spend your money for a Band-Aid approach to a serious issue. Stick to the steps above THEN have your brand updated or changed to reflect that.
Check out my branding episode on Amanda Rose TV to help guide you through developing your brand (you personally and then for your business) before starting your next board or executive meeting.
Five steps to creating your personal brand: