Part I

So you have a brand, it’s you, your company… you are the proud owner of a living business. It takes up most of your time, and thoughts. There is a high probability that every hour of the day you are doing something to improve your business, let people know about your services, convincing clients to buy more, designing great packaging for your products. Basically, you never stop investing everything you can and all you have to be a success, and be recognized for your exceptional abilities or products.

Because you are special and you took the courageous decision to be an independent, and it’s never easy, and you are definitively worth it!

But is your brand reflecting your value? Is it doing you a favor and adequately telling your story? Basically, is your brand up to you? Or is it failing you consistently and substantially?

This is a big part of what a brand inventory is about. What’s has your brand done for you lately?

The inventory works on two levels.
  • The first level is “ideological” and “spiritual” so to speak. It’s an evaluation of whether your brand is representing all that counts for you and which you believe people must know about you. It’s your statement to the world and there should be no prisoners! That is who you are and you are proud of it. And if it isn’t popular, and does not wash with 100% of the population… well, neither does cinnamon!
  • The second level is logistical. The main objective is to evaluate if your marketing and communication infrastructure, however embryonic, or not, is capable of delivering a memorable message, the one that represents you. This one is no easier than the first evaluation level, just different. It has more to do with organization than ideas or values.

The first rule of a successful evaluation is honesty. It hurts, sometimes. But let us not be pessimists. Often, we are doing much better than we think. What we are looking to do here is lovingly self-evaluate and start roadmap’ing our corrective measures.

So now let’s go to step one. Imagine that you were meeting you for the first time. Imagine you were listening to your pitch. Would you be excited? Would you buy from you? Would you even understand why you need to spend time listening to you?

This first step is the hardest, the most crucial, and especially the one you need to get right.

Simply because if you cannot pitch yourself and your brand convincingly, you won’t sell. Taking this logic further, if you can’t pitch your brand and get people excited about it, there is a distinct possibility that your product mix or service offering is falling short of what the market needs.

By focusing on this key question, and answering objectively the questions that arise, you will avoid costly mistakes, save time and increase the likelihood of taking the right decisions.

A good way to go about this is to film yourself on video. Putting aside any on-camera style issues, and solely focusing on your message, what are you learning from listening to you and your pitch? Are you excited? Do you see the potential? Do you understand what you and your products or service is about? Most importantly, do you objectively want to buy from you?

Getting this right will take you longer than you think, because it’s one of these apparently simple tasks, but it’s not. It in fact can be quite deceiving. What I mean by this is that this exercise is a vector of sorts that will enable you to evaluate several critical aspects of your product, service and brand.

Here is some of what an honest evaluation of your brand and pitch will reveal:
  • Is your pitch adequate? And if not, is it a question of wording or messaging, or is the problem deeper?
  • Are your products and services relevant and in need?
  • What makes you special and how will your uniqueness be perceived?
  • Is your market saturated and will your personality and message give you an edge?
  • Is your story compelling?
  • Can you fix it by “changing the wrapping”?
  • Can your USPs carry you and your brand?
  • Is your message simple and clear?
  • Are you using the wording that makes you sound professional and in control?

Doing this exercise, although potentially tough and frustrating, you will be empowered with clarity. Either to change course or strengthen your resolve to get even better at what you do and how you sell it.

Let us assume that your product and services are relevant, and that messaging is the challenge.

One of the important lessons I have learnt is that people have only a limited capacity to take in information at any one time. People also like to identify you and your brand with one thing, one category. It’s simpler for the them to associate you and your  brand with one specialty. The moment you introduce too many skills or products in one go, it is more than likely that your audience will get confused and worse, will “shut down” or zap, in front of you sometimes!!

Don’t underestimate your audience, but don’t overestimate them either. Don’t be surprised if you are in fact smarter than they are. What this means for you is that always keep it simple and direct. I once had a boss that told me “if you can’t write two sentences about what you do, do something else!”.

This also applies to your brand. Say in one sentence why you matter and look for the added value. If the sentence runs into 3 or 4 lines, that’s already too much. You should be able to explain in a short sentence what you do, why you are the best at it and how you are going to impact your customer.

You can always surprise your customers later with all the other stuff you do and know. Let them get to know you one step at a time. The one thing you are known for must never be cluttered with secondary information. It will just confuse everyone, including you.

The other thing I have learnt is that passion about what you do and sell goes a long way in convincing people that you are the real deal and good at what you do. Passion is also authentic. People like that!

So what are you looking for when evaluating your brand and what must you achieve?

Number one: You need to understand what you stand for. This means that you need to list your values, skills, advantages, differentiators and unique attributes, specialties and everything that defines you, your services and products.

Number two: You must write out one simple sentence that explains your brand, why it counts,  and what it will do for your customers. There are a few basic rules that must be followed here:

  • Each word must count. No waffle allowed! So choose strong and rich words. For people in consulting, make sure they are words that will be understood by your clients as specialized words belonging to their sector. Makes you look like a true pro!
  • It needs to be exciting and allow the lister to visualize the value or action
  • You need to convey a sense of journey, whereby the point of arrival is inherently better than the starting point.
  • You must be in a position to deliver this sentence as if you were wearing a tailored suit. It must be you at your most confident.
  • Don’t be afraid to shock.
  • Don’t be afraid to show that you care.
  • Communicate your excitement and be contagious.

Number three: Start creating the blocks of your storytelling. This exercise will serve you well as you move forward with your marketing assets. Content is important. It drives the story of your brand and it needs to be interesting and tell something important.

  • You should consider things like why you decided to do what you do. What value do you bring to your customers or what improvements you clients will experience buying from you.
  • All storytelling needs to exciting and compelling.
  • Do not drown the reader with words.
  • Think of good keywords that can be used throughout your copy.
  • Craft great sentences that can be used throughout your marketing material, including videos.
  • Never shy away from sharing your own anecdotes and experiences.

Number four: Although it’s your brand, it’s about your customers. List all the values and qualities you want your customers to associate with your brand.

Number five: Review all that you have written about your brand. Wherever you feel that your narrative is more about you than your customers, turn it around to be about your clients. Remember, your brand’s narrative needs to resonate with your clients and how they want to perceive you.

Closing thoughts

This inventory is challenging, but it will strengthen your brand message. It will also push you to reach more ambitious goals. More than anything else, you will feel empowered with a clear vision of what you and your brand are about. This means that you will become an even better professional than you already are. You will also be perceived as such.

When I was younger, I had the nasty habit of not sharing my thoughts or ideas with others. I was probably insecure and was deep down afraid of negative feedback that would have forced me back to the drawing board. However, the best way to do this exercise is to get masses of feedback and enrich yourself and your work with the ideas and comments of others. Yes if you feel strongly about something, stick to your guns. Commitment and self-belief play a big role in your success.