We all know that we need a solid foundation to build a house. Otherwise the whole house falls down. Our businesses are the same way. We need a strong foundation to build everything else on.
Before you can hardcore market (as opposed to testing the waters), you need a strong brand foundation. You need to have a core message framework that will support all of your marketing messages. Without it, your marketing will be inconsistent and trust breaking.
Building a strong brand foundation can mean the difference in success or failure. Here's a list of things that you can do to make sure your foundation is strong and your marketing won't flop.
1. Write it down
If a tree falls in a forest? I mean, we all know where this one is going. If you get NOTHING else from this article, please understand that you must write down your brand foundation.
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Not writing this stuff down is admitting that you don't really value it, that you think you'll remember it (you won't), and that you're not going to bother take the time to carefully craft it. Instead, do the work and write it down.
Come back to visit it in a few days. See where you used the wrong wording, or need to clarify. Get it on paper so that when someone asks you what the vision for your business is, you give them the same answer that you gave the other person you were talking to last week.
Don't leave it up to your brain to figure out. Our brains aren't meant for that. Let the paper do it's thing.
2. Ask reflection questions
The last thing anybody really wants to do is sit down and write out long reflection questions. Or maybe you do. Let me rephrase. The last thing I want to do...
That being said, it's important to dig down deep for this stuff. It's rarely at the surface level that you find your answers to questions like ""Why do you do this? Why is THIS your thing?""
Instead, most of the answers come from deep reflection, sleeping on it, and continuing to sink into the next layer by asking more questions. When you think you have your answer, ask yourself if you can go any deeper.
It's not an easy task and it takes time and a willingness to put yourself outside of your comfort zone. That being said, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Spoiler alert: they aren't. By taking the time to figure this stuff out, you're going to come out far ahead of your competition and stand out to your ideal clients in a variety of ways.
3. Revisit every year
Some parts of your brand foundation will always stay the same. For example, your brand values shouldn't change. What you believe in from a high level today should be the same as five years from now. So if your brand values are changing every two months, you have a problem.
However, you may find that your purpose changes over time. You start working with a different group of clients because you realize you actually hate working with that group that last year you thought you couldn't get enough of.
Your vision may grow or shift slightly as the world changes. I don't think anybody saw 2020 coming, and it may have changed what your business does. More than one business pivoted in 2020, and your brand foundation may need to reflect that.
I have a standing appointment on my calendar every year to revisit. I don't do it more often because these things shouldn't change all the time. But it's important to keep them updated as you grow. It's just natural.
4. Don't fight with yourself
You are you. You're the only one of you out there. It's time to own it.
If someone doesn't like you or your brand, then that's OK. There are 7 billion people in this world. What's one person who doesn't mesh well with you?
Often I see business owners who are scared to own who they are and try to create a brand that is the polar opposite of their personality. Guess what? They always get found out. And it never goes well.
People have the right to work with people who fit with them. It works out better for them. So make sure that you're attracting YOUR people and not the people in your head who you think you should be attracting.
The more you embrace who you are and build your brand around that, the easier it will be to attract those dream clients who you will adore working with.
5. Understand your audience
If your audience is mainly stay-at-home moms, but your brand foundation reads like a masculine board room edict, then it might be time to do some reflecting.
People want to do business with humans they can relate to. We're naturally drawn to people who are similar to ourselves. It's that whole ""You are the sum of your friends"" thing. Sometimes we step outside our comfort zone, but we're most drawn to those we see ourselves in.
When you design your brand foundation, you want to keep that in mind. Your brand messaging and personality will be built on top of your foundation. If your foundation is vastly different from who you want to attract with your marketing, there's going to be a disconnect and you are setting yourself up for a hard, uphill battle.
Instead, understand how your target audience fits into your overall strategy and find those similarities. That's what you want to play up and everyone comes out a winner.
6. Use it to your advantage
I run into people who seem to think that your brand foundation is something you figure out, write down, and then never look at again.
If you don't use it, it doesn't serve any purpose. Instead, you want your brand foundation to be somewhere you see it all the time. It should be in the forefront of your brain. You should run your decisions through it, filter your marketing messages, and make sure that you're staying on track.
For example, if your vision is to help 1,000,000 women get a higher education over the next ten years and you're facing a huge business decision and you're not sure what to do, ask yourself, ""Will this help my vision come true? Or will it set me back?"" I'm guessing that decision just got a lot easier.
To wrap it up
Creating a brand foundation for your messaging and brand strategy doesn't have to be hard. It's always best done with a professional (you can schedule a call with me here to discuss it), but it's better to take the time to sit down and create one on your own instead of forging ahead without one.
Most business owners skip this step when they start out and then forget to go back and change things down the line. So the people who do create a strong core message built on a great foundation are the businesses who are going to stand out.