This article is part of a series exploring the power of asking What business am I really in?
How you answer this question will shape your productivity, your branding and marketing, how you price your offerings, and how you can expand your offerings.
In Part 1, I shared how asking this question can extract us from our pre-conceived ideas that we tie to our roles and help us view what we do through a wider lens.
In Part 2, I shared how this question impacts three core drivers of productivity: your purpose, product and priorities.
Today, let’s look at how understanding what business you are really in impacts your brand.
What is a Brand?
There is a lot of confusion about what a brand is, and it seems to begin with how the American Marketing Association defines brand.
A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
This is not the best definition of brand, and it’s where the confusion often sets in. Many people think that the brand is the logo, wordmark, or tagline associated with a product or company. These are the items that we can protect via trademark registration.
Companies unveil a new logo and tagline and call it a “rebranding.” But these visual representations are brand elements; they are not your brand.
So what is your brand? For our purposes here, let’s look at 2 better definitions:
(1) Brand = What You Stand For
Your brand as you define it is a statement about what you stand for. What is the purpose of your business? What ethics do you bring to your business?
Essential to the discussion of what you stand for is your core values. Without a clear vision of your core values, it is impossible to represent what you stand for.
(2) Brand = Emotion and Experience
Seth Godin defines brand as
the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. — Seth Godin
The Branding Journal fleshes out this concept to underscore what, exactly, lies behind the consumer’s decision:
You can consider a brand as the idea or image people have in mind when thinking about specific products, services and activities of a company, both in a practical (e.g. “the shoe is light-weight”) and emotional way (e.g. “the shoe makes me feel powerful”). It is therefore not just the physical features that create a brand but also the feelings that consumers develop towards the company or its product. This combination of physical and emotional cues is triggered when exposed to the name, the logo, the visual identity, or even the message communicated.
Both Godin and The Branding Journal hit on the crucial point that, ultimately, your brand is defined by your customer — specifically, the customer’s emotional experiences with your product or service. core component of brand is emotional experience. The visual branding elements — name, logo, wordmark — trigger the emotion that the consumer feels about your business or company.
Who Defines Your Brand
It’s important to understand that regardless of how much you invest in advertising and marketing to define and promote your brand in the marketplace, your customer is the one who ultimately defines your brand.
This means that when defining your brand, you must consider how what you stand for will translate into the experience you offer your customers through your product or service.
Linking What You Stand For and Your Customer Experience
How you define your brand speaks to what you stand for.
How your customer defines your brand emanates from the customer’s experience.
Ultimately, you want your customer to have an experience that is aligned with what you stand for. That’s how you build a an outstanding and successful business.
Your core values tie these two concept together. If you and your employees act in alignment with you core values, you will deliver an experience to your clients that is also aligned with the same values.
What Are Your Core Values?
Once you understand that your core values drive your brand, you must identify your core values.
This often seems to be easier said than done. You may notice that people often list a given set of values, but their actions speak to a different set of values.
They either have no idea what their values are, or they say what they think sounds good but do what works for them. This is human nature. We will default to acting in the way most consistent with oue identity. Often this is unconscious.
What Business Are You Really In?
This brings us back to the quiestion of, what business you are really in? and how it impacts your brand.
Answering the question what business am I really in? is a clear path to articulating your core values.
How you define the business you are really in is, in effect, how you define your business identity.
This question is a path to defining your values. If you’re struggling to articulate the answer in words, look at your actions. How you speak about and to your clients and how you work with them will tell you a lot about your values.
Remember, whether we are conscious of it or not, we act in accordance with our core values.
Case Study: Real Estate Agents
Let’s illustrate this with a case study.
As I shared in Part 1 of this series, most people think that real estate agents are in the business of “selling homes.”
I view my business differently. I am really in the business of coaching my clients through big life changes. Among other things, I help them navigate uncertainty and make decisions that are in alignment for them.
Although the purchase or sale of a home is often the desired outcome for my clients,
sometimes, the best decision for my client — what’s in alignment for my client — is not to sell or buy a home.
If I were in the business of “selling homes,” I might be focused on my quota and goals for how many homes I want to sell. This might cause me to use salse-y tactics to pressure my client into buying or selling when it’s not the right move for them.
Defining my business as a coaching practice reminds me this is about my client; it’s not about me. I guide my clients to act in their best interests.
As you can imagine, within the same industry, you can have people who operate in very different ways, depending on how they define what business they are really in.
Take some time to reflect on how you run your business and the core values you bring to your work. This will create the basis for your brand. Becoming aware of your values will also help you maintain alignment between your actions and your values.
What business are you really in?
Please share in the comments.