Back in 2009, Simon Sinek gave a TEDx talk on "Start with why" where he explained the concept of the Golden Circle:
The key takeaway from this talk is that most companies do their marketing backwards, meaning that they start with “what” and then move onto “how”, often not ever explaining the “why” for their organization in their marketing and branding messaging.
Simon argues that great companies don’t move from the outside in:
What → How → Why
Instead, they move from the inside out:
Why → How → What
We need to remember that people don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it. As small business owners and entrepreneurs, we have the unique advantage of being closer than most leaders to our 'why'... yet most of us have difficulty defining not just what our company does, but why we do it.
We ask all of our client to take a step back and think about their 'why', especially before engaging in any branding or messaging efforts. To help you gain clarity around your 'why', ask yourself these questions:
Whether you have an established business or are in the process of building something new this year, enhancing your branding is probably at or near the top of your to-do list. Brands are not built overnight, and good brands are constantly evolving. Additionally, we’re all dealing with managing our brand across an ever-growing number of channels and trying to stand out from the noise. That’s why we’re excited to share 3 tips to help you improve your brand—steps you can start to take today that will have a big impact on how your business shows up—in person and online.
Let’s get to it!
#1. Get personal
Chances are, you have built – or are looking to build – a business around something you absolutely love to do. Does your branding capture that passion in an authentic way? People are drawn to brands they know, like, and trust. Is your brand truly reflective of who you are, what you do, and why you do it? Brand authenticity can only happen when a brand knows what it stands for, why it exists, where it came from, and where it is going. You know your story, now let people get to know you.
Write down three words you’d like people to use to describe your brand. Do a quick audit by looking at your website, social media feeds, business cards and print collateral. Are those three words reflected in your current branding? And, just as importantly, does your branding feel genuine – like someone your customers would want to know and connect with in real life? If the answer is no, take some quiet time to reflect and capture (write it down!) the authentic essence or spirit of your brand. If you are having a hard time, ask others... friends, family, and (most importantly!) your favorite customers may have valuable insights to share!
#2. Be consistent
How you show up online and in person should be consistent and aligned with the brand you have created. Think about well-known brands like Starbucks, Apple, and Target. Their branding is the same in their stores as it is on their website, across social channels, on merchandise, and every other place you’ll find them. The consistency creates credibility and also helps you remember them. The same is true for your brand.
It's important that your brand is consistent across every part of your customer experience, whether it’s at your store, on your website or in your personal interactions. A brand book or style guide can help you establish consistent brand guidelines for print and digital branding. And once you've established your brand, resist the urge to constantly tweak the design elements unless you have a compelling reason to rebrand. Any significant change or deviation from your visual branding or brand messaging—especially if it occurs without warning—can seriously damage your brand’s authenticity and shake your customers’ trust.
Again, do a quick audit of your website, social media feeds, as well as your physical storefronts and print marketing. Do you use the same brand name in your URL and social handles? Do you use the same logo in each place? Are your colors and font consistent?
Make sure your brand appears consistently at every level and across every platform. It’s important to maintain a consistent visual identity in your branding, since that’s how people will recognize your brand. You can use free design tools like Canva to produce marketing materials that are consistently on brand. It’s also important that your brand sound consistent. We’ll provide some tips for finding your brand voice in a future post.
#3. Have a conversation
Authentic brands don’t just talk about themselves, and they don’t just post promotional messages and offers. Take the time to listen and engage with your customers– online and in person. Ask for input, share interesting and useful information, respond to comments and questions, and be personal. It is worth noting that 83% of consumers say they like it when a brand responds to them on social media. Do your part to engage and keep the conversation going. (And remember, a sales pitch is not a conversation.)
Find and follow 5 Instagram accounts or Facebook pages that you believe your target customers would engage with. Spend time reading through the comments and discussions. Make note of what questions and concerns are being raised. Make a list of relevant hashtags. This will help you understand what your customers are talking about, what they need and how you can be of service in the best way possible. Now, use what you've learned to start a conversation on your own social channels.