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biz ladies: Connecting With your Brand


Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from life design coach Emma Gwillim. Emma helps women discover their unique sparkle, take bold steps to transform their world and create the lives they dream of through various training, coaching and one-on-one sessions. Today she offers some guidance on creating and maintaining a strong brand connection with your consumers. Thank you, Emma, for this helpful post! — Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump . . .

There’s a lot to consider when you visit your local coffee shop. Grande or venti? Full-fat or skinny? Any syrupy twist on the flavour? Drink in or take-away? I often feel the need to rehearse and perfect my order long before reaching the front of the queue. But have you ever considered why you’ve chosen that particular brand of coffee shop in the first place? Maybe you have, but chances are it was pretty much “pre-destined.” Therein lies the result of creative minds and a hefty marketing spend.

Many of you entrepreneurs and small business owners may not have the privilege of a juicy budget to market your wares, but there is still every reason to consider why your customer should buy your product or service over someone else’s (or even at all) and how you present that “reason to buy” to the world. What is it about your brand that appeals to your customer? I’ll dare to go further: Can you even articulate what your brand is? Whether you’ve been in business five days or five years, being clear on what your brand stands for and having a firm grasp of how your customers perceive it are fundamental to your success. Dramatic as that might sound, if you ignore the ever-changing wants, needs, and feelings of your customers, you do so at your own peril.

Before you frantically begin wading through “branding” search results on Google, let me tell you this: Branding is SIMPLE. Forget the marketing speak and the high price tag. If you humanize your brand and simply connect with its unique qualities, you’re already winning.

Using experience from my former life as a marketer, I’ll share some top tips to making friends with your brand.

1. Get acquainted. Elizabeth Gilbert suggests, “Tis better to live your own life imperfectly than to imitate someone else’s perfectly.” When you look around at the people in your life, consider the individual qualities each brings. No one is the same, and why would they try to be? And so it goes with your brand. Make your introductions; get to know its true, unique personality and what makes it that very special, authentic original. People buy people — they buy brands they can connect with, not a product or a service. What will make someone choose yours? Get clear on what your brand’s personality is. Imagine introducing it to someone else at a party. What would you say?

2. Make a connection. What’s the truth about your product/service? Why is it out there in the world? What purpose does it serve? Begin to think about the values that underpin your business — perhaps you sell a product that brings beauty or comfort into peoples’ homes, or maybe you’re all about artistic expression and creativity, and these attributes are at the heart of the art you create and sell. In befriending someone, you acknowledge that your values are in some way aligned, and the same must be true of your brand and your customer. Aim to identify your brand’s three key values.

3. Assert your worth. My personal friendships come in different shapes and sizes: There are the sociable friendships largely based on cocktail hours and fairly regular chit-chats over dinner, the solid friendships that have witnessed many years of shared experiences, and then — the most precious — the lifetime friendships where, often, a gem of a friend knows me better than I know myself. Each friendship, special in its own way, has its place and brings something different to my life. If you consider your brand in the same way, would it be the go-getting party animal, the loyal comrade, or the cherished confidante? All are equal, all offer something different to your customer. Be clear on what your brand brings to someone’s life. What does your brand make your customers think, feel, and believe about themselves? What need does it fill in their lives? How does it make your customer’s life just a bit better? When you hone in on the role your brand plays for customers and the need it fills, it will give you a clarity of vision as you plan other areas of your business, such as your pricing strategy or the copy on your website.

4. Find your voice. How does your brand speak to people? You should be clear enough now on your brand’s personality for this answer to spring to mind, but put it down in words. Would it speak with humour or gentle, considered thought? Is it the aspirational person you look up to or the down-to-earth girl next door? How does it look? Is it an on-trend follower of fashion or a rule breaker? In doing this exercise before, I’ve torn pages from magazines and printed pictures from blogs that clearly expressed all the things that made up a brand’s unique personality. I’ve even “borrowed” qualities from celebrities. For example, would she be “grounded” like Jennifer Aniston, “wholesome” like Reese Witherspoon or a “controversial” it-girl? What would she eat and drink in a restaurant? Where would she holiday? Where would she live? What does she do in her spare time? Where would she be seen? Where would she avoid like the plague? Get creative with bringing your brand to life.  Play on Pinterest. Cut pictures from magazines. Create a vision board. Be authentic and be true to what feels right for you. And ensure that this tone is reflected when you interact with customers, be it on your website, through your customer service, your shop, and so on.

5. Have confidence. OK, every now and then I look around my friends and think “I wish I had her wardrobe,” or I’ll feel a little envious of my friend’s go-on-forever legs, but I know there’s little point to wasting my energy wishing for things that just won’t happen. My genes have other plans for me! And my friends assure me that they love me just the way I am, even envying a little of what I have. And so it is with your brand — stop comparing. Do you hear me? There is no bigger waste of your precious time and energy than looking around at your competitors with an “I wish” mentality. Value your brand, what makes it (like you) a complete one-off. Channel your energy into crafting your brand and your business into the very best version of it — there never has been and never will be your unique blend of skills and perspective, so get busy with what you have right in front of you.

6. Be consistent. Finally, have form. Give people a reason to believe in your brand and trust it — the key to this is being consistent. The clearer you can get about your brand’s personality, the clearer this will be to your customers. And this might lead to saying no to some opportunities to promote your brand because, frankly, they’re just not you (your brand, that is!).

Ensure your business strategy aligns with all that your brand represents, and your customers will repay you with loyalty and friendship for life.

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12 Comments

Jill

Great post! Thank You. I am an equal partner with my husband in our business and our brand is really a reflection of his craftsmanship, skill and passion. I’m the side of the business that “puts us out there” so to speak. My challenge has been in reaching people who don’t already know us. Our customers who know his work get the connection, so my challenge is making sure potential customers who don’t already know us, make the connection as quickly as possible. Point #2 is a great conversation for my partner and I to have immediately. He knows the answer but can’t always express it verbally. He’s an artist, I’m a communicator! This is a great guide to continuously check in with.

Christie

Thanks so much Emma for the fantastic advice. I recently launched my own handmade business about a year ago and I wonder about the notion of a brand’s evolution. Much of my brand now focuses on the re-use and recycle of vintage materials in my work but I imagine this may not be a sustainable practice, depending on how my inventory needs to grow. Do I hold true to re-use and the one-of-a-kind uniqueness factor or is there a way to allow the brand to evolve as the (potential for) product demand evolves?

Thanks!

Jill

Fantastic post- wonderful advice just when I needed to hear it. Thanks so much, Emma and Design Sponge! Nice reminder that brand awareness doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.

Melanie

Oh this is so speaking to me! I love the part ‘How would you introduce your brand at a party?’ It’s a great way to think about your brand. I will be getting started on answering these questions tonight!
Thank you!

Jen

This is a terrific read! I’ve been working on this myself, and know I need to flesh out my brand beyond “optimistic” and “retro chic Americana”. Not much to go on there! Thank you, Emma and D*S!

Courtney

This is really wonderful advice. When you’re starting out, it’s so easy to get caught up in what seems right, not what feels right. In all areas of life, too, not just business. I’m going to keep this post bookmarked for sure.

Mary Collins

Great post, Emma! Thank-you. I’ve been working on this issue, but I’m not clear on it yet. I’m going to use your post as an exercise to help further define my brand. It’s so much harder to see ourselves clearly than to see others. Thanks!

Monica

I have a lot of trouble nailing down what the “tone” of my brand is supposed to be, so I love the idea of thinking of your brand as a person\friend and asking questions from there. Thanks!

Heidi

Lovely, thank you! Good idèa to personalize the concept! I’ll go and get myself a big frame to make my vision board on today. :)

Amy

Great post, it sums everything we all want to achieve for ourselves and our business. Thanks Emma & D*S

Char

Great post! It is so easy to get it wrong, and not think of your brand as part of yourself.
Thanks Emma :-)

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