“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” 
-Roy Disney

Brand values are a set of guiding principles that shape every aspect of your business. They’re at the very core of your brand and dictate your brand message, identity and personality. They affect every single aspect of your business: the people you hire, your company culture, the business decisions you make, the way in which you grow your business, the customers you decide to engage with and the customers you decide to fire. And yes, values are the main reason customers will connect with you over the competition. In other words: getting your values right is vital not only to your brand but to your business as well.

But we often overlook this exercise in favor of focusing on ‘success’ and generating revenues. Mistake. Growing your business with a revenue focus instead of a values focus may yield revenues in the short term, but sooner or later there will be plenty of struggle and dilemmas and no peace of mind. Let’s avoid this for your business and your brand and set you up to grow with intention. 

When I work with clients to identify their values, I rely on a number of inputs; most of them come from the “brand’s DNA” – those qualities that distinctly make up the brand, that are authentic to that brand and, if removed, would fundamentally alter the brand for the worse.  Today I’m sharing with you how I map out brand values for my clients; hopefully this can be a guide for you to gain clarity about your values so you can grow your business in a way that fully supports your goals and vision. Side effects include having a clearly defined brand identity, personality and brand tone & voice and knowing your brand boundaries. 

Start With Why

One of the first things I uncover with my clients is why they decided to start their business. As I point out to them, “You could literally do anything with your life. Why did you forego the other myriad possibilities and choose this option? What was the driver? What was so clearly missing in the market, or what was so compelling about your idea or approach that you felt you had to start your business?”

Reflect on your business and take your time. This answer should carry a foundational brand truth: how you saw an opportunity to do things differently, or approached the same market from a new perspective, or changed things up in an innovative way such that the customer experience became distinctly different and better from what was being offered. From this answer, you should be able to glean a few core value words. Write those down. 

The Behavior Behind the Brand

Next, I ask my clients to talk through the behavior that exemplifies who they are at their natural best. You know… when the whole team is firing on all cylinders, everyone’s in sync and knows their mission, and there’s a true rhythm and joy in the company. I ask,  what behaviors are visceral to creating that type of environment? 

My goal is to uncover the 4-5 behaviors that are inherent in best performers and so genuine to the business that if the team were to suddenly stop doing those behaviors, the business would be fundamentally different and no longer your business. You’ll want to do this with your brand, considering the behaviors you feel exemplify the best version of your company. 

Finally, I turn to customer insights to uncover the behavior and characteristics that customers gravitate towards. Often, there are qualities overlooked by a client who takes for granted that expertise is everywhere (it’s not) or that everyone offers exceptional customer service (they don’t) or that people will tell you what you need to hear (if only). What comments do you hear on repeat about your team and how they have handled the work? What do your customers deeply value about the way in which you conduct yourselves and do your work? Note these words. 

At this point, you should have a decent list of words, you’re aiming for between 10-15. Begin by systematically reviewing them and noting which ones more strongly resonate with you. Avoid words that are too close to one another; each value should be distinctive. As you narrow down your list, aim for 3-5 values.  

Verbs, Not Nouns

I avoid nouns when defining values. Particularly in the case of brand values, nouns tend to be conceptual ideas and these get distanced and removed from actions and behaviors that we want to manifest in our company. If I say “integrity” or “innovation” there’s a gap. What exactly am I supposed to do to be innovative? Of course I have integrity, but I’m not entirely sure how I show it at work. Which means there’s room for mis- or -interpretation. 

But if I say “do the right thing, even if – and especially when – it’s easier to do the wrong thing,” or “see the problem from a different perspective” there’s no question. Every employee will instantly know what to do if a customer asks for services they really don’t need. Every employee will immediately know that conventional thinking isn’t going to cut it at this place, they need to dig deeper.

As you think through your brand values, push yourself to use verbs and don’t hesitate to define your values in clear terms, so everyone knows precisely what you mean.  Define the behavior you want from your team – internally and maybe even externally.  For one of my clients, an accounting firm focused on doing accounting and also teaching financial literacy as a means to develop stronger business leaders, I chose “Hold Yourself Accountable for Your Success” as one of their values for the employees and their customers alike. They loved it so much that it ultimately became the tagline for Monarch CPA.

Your Values are Not Aspirational

Finally, as you come up with your list of values, please note that your brand values shouldn’t be a stretch for you and your team. They shouldn’t be the company you want to evolve into, in five years.Your values need to reflect the best version of your business today, and the behaviors that make that possible. Be honest with yourself and your team about the behaviors that make up your values.

Still need some inspiration for your brand values? I like brand strategist Lisa Furze’s list of brand values that I’ve included, below. This might spur some creative thinking for you. 

Finally, if your brand needs some help and you’d like to work with me to help define your brand values, please reach out. I’d be so delighted to help make your brand magnetic to success. 

A list of Lisa Furze's brand values. Magnetic Brand Strategy, Northern Virginia

Magnetic Brand Strategy, located in Northern Virginia, serves a global market seeking a methodical approach to branding

Magnetic Brand Strategy, located in Northern Virginia, serves a global market seeking a methodical approach to branding. Learn more about us.

Your business is dynamic, constantly evolving and growing. Every year presents new challenges, new clients, new growth opportunities and a constant evolution of your business. But how about your brand? Has it kept pace? 

It’s easy to dismiss brand as a logo design or a cosmetic refresh. But if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that brand goes far beyond visual identity. Brand is about articulating your business strategy to your customer base. It’s about sharply conveying the value you bring and why you are the obvious, better choice. 

More pointedly, your brand is a revenue driver for your business. Your brand should have a powerful message that resonates so strongly with your ideal customer that they’re compelled to take action and engage with you. If this isn’t the case, and if you’ve been in business for a while, perhaps it’s time to evaluate how well your brand is working for you.  

Criteria for evaluating your brand

First, it’s helpful to get honest about your current brand and how it conveys what your business is all about. For this, you need to step out of your leader role and look at your brand objectively, as a stranger would. It’s pretty difficult to get rid of implicit bias, so it might be helpful to ask a new employee or a trusted industry colleague (better yet: a few of these) for their thoughts on your brand. Overall, you want to assess:

  • Does your brand have a big brand message, an idea that sums up what your brand is all about?
  • Do your communications materials convey your brand message effectively? 
  • Is your message differentiating from your competitors? 
  • Are you targeting a particular customer segment?
  • Do you define a specific problem and explain how you address that problem? 
  • Do your communications materials take your customer on a “journey,” moving them from “awareness to consideration to purchase?” (read more about the customer journey

Answering these questions can help assess if your business needs a rebrand. 

When Should You Rebrand?

A rebrand can expand your brand in so many ways. It can reposition your business for growth, differentiation and clear focus. Here’s when you should consider a rebrand: 

  • You want to change how your business is perceived. For years, Walmart conveyed they stood for “Always Low Prices,” leading customers to believe they were cheap but… not much else. In 2007 they pivoted to “Save Money, Live Better” to focus on how they improve customers’ lives.
  • You’re expanding to reach a new market segment while holding onto your existing one. This can be tricky, and a rebrand is in order. We recently helped a client expand their offering to include a greater market segment, while still appealing to their existing audience.
  • Outdated image. Your brand look and feel just feels flat. Your website is outdated. The way you communicate about your brand doesn’t reflect all your offerings and services, and there is no cohesive brand “story” where everything comes together and makes sense.
  • Your business isn’t differentiated clearly. The rebrand exercise looks at how you convey your offering and what makes you stand out from the competition. Then we sharpen that message so it’s more acute and your brand clarifies your competitive advantage. 
  • You want to align your employees. As companies expand, sometimes employees discover their own way of selling your value proposition. That can lead to fragmented messaging. A rebrand helps to align your messaging around a core brand truth so it’s instantly ownable and your team is unified around one compelling message.
  • You want to increase pricing. A rebrand can focus your messaging on the value you provide and target the segment that disproportionately values that offering, allowing you to extract a higher price for services because that segment deeply values your offering.

Benefits of a Rebrand

A rebrand brings amazing clarity to your business. A rebrand:

  • Sharply differentiates you from the competition;
  • Makes you the obvious and right choice for customers;
  • Enables new segments to view you as relevant and compelling for their needs;
  • Attracts the kind of customers who deeply value your offering and are willing to pay more for it;
  • Allows you to drive up pricing;
  • Accurately reflects your mission and your vision for your business, conveying where you aim to go.

Is it time for your business to undergo a rebrand? Let’s get clarity for you. Reach out to us and / or  schedule a complimentary consultation and let’s make your brand magnetic to success. 

Although we’re known for brand strategy, when working with clients, we often begin by asking to review and (if necessary) update their business plan. Why? Because a sound business strategy is vital to creating a viable, thriving business. Your business strategy is the plan for how your company will make money, and brand strategy is your business strategy from your customer’s perspective. So you want to have a solid foundation in place to make sure your business is primed for growth. 

The case For A Sound Business Plan

A solid business strategy – or plan, or model; the terms are pretty interchangeable – helps avoid misuse of resources. It helps you focus on accomplishing core deliverables and objectives. Having a plan in place can help you right-price your offerings, and can help you avoid getting blindsided by your competition. It can help you prioritize so you don’t get sidetracked with distraction projects and fall victim to over-promising and overhype. The landscape has many examples of failed businesses that didn’t have a solid business strategy in place and relied on brand and marketing to do the heavy lifting. See: Pets.com, webvan.com, and the like. Please avoid this fate. 

We work with our clients to first update their business plan, so they have the best chances for success. Once this is in place, we turn our efforts to branding. It’s simple: we don’t want to spend our time and our clients’ money building a brand that will never reach profitability because of an unrealistic business model. 

How to Evaluate Your Business

We begin by taking our clients through our business strategy framework, which ensures a solid foundation. For smaller companies looking to DIY strategy, you can do this exercise yourself: 

  1. Begin with a solid SWOT analysis for your business: objectively assess your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. 
  2. Zero in on your business competencies and clarify the problems you solve. Focus on the core problem your business addresses.
  3. Highlight your target market, their needs, and how your business fulfills these needs. Draw the direct connection between customer needs and your solution.
  4. Decide on the resources you need to deliver customer solutions. 
  5. Determine pricing for your services. Make sure your fixed and variable costs are covered, as well as your overhead and that you still make a profit.
  6. Single out the best partners and suppliers for supply chain optimization.
  7. Know your competitors and what they are delivering (and importantly: what they are not); zero in on the opportunities for differentiation.
  8. Explore external factors that can impact your business, e.g.,  political / economical / socio-cultural / technological / legal / environmental. 

Analyzing these areas will help you build a solid business strategy, which will point out potential pitfalls to address, and help position your company for growth. This is a key step before turning to brand strategy. Importantly, this work can also highlight opportunities for differentiation and new revenue streams.

For more guidance on how to structure your business strategy, we recommend The Business Model by Alexander Chernev, a short but dense read on business strategy. If you’d like to reach out to us directly, we’re also available for business strategy consultations. 

How well is your business positioned for resiliency and growth? The silver lining is that one day (soon, hopefully) this all will pass, and we will make it through. When we emerge, there will be companies standing strong and ready for growth. How can you ensure your business is one of those?

Earlier this month I was a guest lecturer for Washington Building Congress and gave a lecture on how brand can drive resiliency and growth in these times. Here are my notes.

Reality, Today

With unemployment skyrocketing and a record number of businesses and schools shuttered, our economy is awash in great uncertainty, stress and anxiety. People are switching from proactive to reactive mode, and progress and momentum is stalled.

This uncertainty is causing many of us to retreat and avoid customer relations. Maybe we don’t have a clear message to convey, or we feel like we don’t have anything optimistic to say, so we don’t communicate. 

But this causes important relationships – like the ones with our best customers – to become distanced, when what we need is actually to come together. Our collective power can help us more quickly achieve a common goal, insulate our business from future crises, and position our brand for resiliency & growth.

You can build for resiliency & growth in your business by doing three things:
1. Go within and align on your brand;
2. Engage your best customers; and
3. Innovate to fix your business’ and your customers’ new pain points. 


Go Within

Brand strategy is your business strategy seen through the lens of your customers. It is not how you look; it’s how you act. So you’ll want to plan for resiliency and growth by first underscoring what you unwaveringly stand for, to your customers. Ask:

  • What is the value you bring them?
  • How do you distinguish your business from other competitors?
  • What do you promise every customer with every interaction?

These question will reorient you on your core offering and values, keeping you aligned while you innovate.

You will also want to study what your customers deeply value that you offer that no one else can deliver. This is your unique differentiator and the backbone of your brand (for more on how to craft your unique differentiator, see this post). Articulate this clearly in order to build on it. We’ll get to innovating in a bit, and you’ll want to innovate with new business ideas that enhance and deepen the value you already bring your best customers, instead of offering them something that’s shiny and new, but irrelevant to their needs. 


Engage Your Best Customers 

Next, you’ll want to reach out to discover how your customers are coping and how their needs have shifted. Most likely their problems have changed, so you’ll seek to understand what matters to them today in this changed landscape.   

Begin by connecting with empathy. Truly connect for the sake of connecting; this is not the time for a sale. This is the time to be honest. It’s a scary time for all, and none of us know how or when this will end. So be genuine in your concern for them, their welfare and wellbeing.

Listen and resist the urge to solve their problem right away. Often, in our haste to provide value, we jump right to problem solving. But if we don’t have the right problem, we’re retrofitting an existing solution instead of listening for a new potential opportunity. So listen to find the problem first; listen to hear their pain points. Approach this exercise with humility and openness and seek to understand instead of being understood.  


Innovate & Pressure-Test

Channel these learnings into innovation sessions. From your brand vantage point, begin by interrogating your reality and discussing the new challenges facing you and your customers today. Be honest. Global supply chains are broken. Many of your customers may be shut down; millions of consumers are out of work. Some core aspects of your current business model may be upended. Discuss what you’re struggling with, and discuss what your customers are struggling with. What needs to change within your model for you to succeed? What needs to change in order to address your customer’s new problems?

Then start exploring new ideas for innovation. Challenge orthodoxies like “we’ve always done it this way.” Consider wild constraints like ‘how could we operate with only half our staff?” Today, more than ever, people are open to new approaches and new ways of doing things. 

As you and your team come up with ideas, begin to pressure-test them. Evaluate how these ideas solve customer pain points and shape the value equation for your customers. Run ideas by a core close group of partners and trusted customers for feedback and refinement. Give yourself the freedom to fine-tune your ideas as you go.


Outcome

This strategy exercise is time-consuming and demanding, but the outcome is that your brand is resilient and poised for growth. Your relationships with your best customers are strengthened, and they see you as an empathetic partner in a difficult time. You’ve identified opportunities for innovation that will add to the value you already bring, positioning you and your business for resiliency and growth, even in the face of a crisis.

If this all sound helpful but also daunting… we can help. We guide brand positioning and innovation sessions as part of our brand building efforts with clients. Please connect with us; we’d love to help make your business magnetic to success.

Your company’s small and resources are tight. Should you try DIY branding?

In talking with a prospect the other day, she brought up the topic of DIY branding. “You know, I’ve downloaded one of those DIY brand kits off the internet. What do you think about those? Can’t I just save a lot of money and do my brand that way?”

Great question. 

I regularly encourage my clients to do their own branding and marketing (what do you think this blog is all about?!). There are many good DIY branding guides online and if you have the time, aptitude and desire to do it, doing it yourself will make you a better marketer and steward of your brand AND you’ll grow an appreciation for great branding. 

To reinforce this point, I offer a few DIY toolkits and workbooks that inform parts of your brand (this one is great: “How to Craft Your Own Unique Value Differentiator” and so is this one: “How to Create A Customer Profile.” Check my blog for the accompanying articles). But these are just a few of the many aspects that go into building a brand (competitive research, customer insights, target profiling, brand DNA & benefit statements, archetypal analysis… to name a few). Most guides on the Internet cover just a few of these areas. Until I write my own book, I can recommend Forging an Ironclad Brand by Lindsay Pedersen, a how-to-brand guide that’s very comprehensive and multi-dimensional.

In short: I am ALL for empowering you to craft your own branding communications and marketing. This said, having done branding for over 2 decades, I’m also realistic. It comes down to your time & aptitude, being able to get out of your own way, and seeing behind your blind spots.

DIY Branding Requires Patience.

Brand building is the painstaking exercise of crafting the right message for your business and then ensuring everything you put out is “on brand.” There’s a process to it, and from my experience, it’s not something that’s inherent in most business leaders. If it was, it’d likely be your “zone of genius” and you’d likely be running a branding and marketing business instead of the business you’re in.

But if you still want to DIY, my recommendation is to budget time and patience. It’s a challenging exercise to come up with something catchy and compelling (but also creative) that encompasses customer needs, your competitive white space, your intention, heritage and vision, your brand promise, beliefs and the value you bring. I recommend doing the analysis and writing it all down, and then editing and synthesizing your message down to its essentials.

It Also Requires Objectivity.

Building a brand also requires objectivity. A lot of brand work is inward looking, which means it triggers all those fun psychological reactions to feedback and criticism. And we all come to the table with deep bias around:

  • customers and their attitudes around the category / service / price;
  • the category and the key players that we compete against;
  • patterns and trends that can influence customer behavior;
  • perhaps most importantly: our capabilities and the value we bring our customers.  

Sometimes we’re aware of our bias but more often we’re not. I’ll work with clients who insist their business runs a certain way or that their customers have a particular fixed mindset. Only when I present them with research findings do they digest how much bias has shaped their interactions with partners, stakeholders and customers.

In order to build a great brand that defines the value you bring and what’s important to your customers, you need to get out of your own way, and that can be hard when you’re doing the branding yourself. My recommendation: find an external partner to point out category and behavioral assumptions that you take for granted. Look for someone who is industry-adjacent but not in your space; use them as an editor to weed out your biases.

And Check for Blind Spots.

Like bias, but different: we all have blind spots about our business, industry and customers, and sometimes we can’t see a brand play at all. I once had a client who discounted her expertise as part of her offering. She insisted that her competitors brought the same level of industry knowledge and refused to charge more for her vast subject-matter expertise. Finally – after pestering her for more than a year – I got her to experiment with communicating about her expertise. She was flabbergasted when she was able to TRIPLE her rates. 

Yeah. 

Blind spots work like bias to skew our perception of our brand value, but they’re more insidious because they’re usually our strengths that we discount (“Oh, my put-you-at-ease bedside manner? But that’s a given,” or “My ability to neutralize workplace conflict? But everybody does that,”) and we discard what could be an astonishing point of differentiation. 

If you’re intent on DIY branding, I recommend doing some research to discover why your best customers return, and also partner research to discover why partners choose you over other options. You must throw out easy answers like “convenience,” “great work at a good cost,” and “because I’ve always used them.” The good stuff lies beneath. 

I also recommend running your DIY work by someone who knows you and your business. Not an employee, former customer or partner (too involved), but again: an industry-adjacent peer, or a listener with good intentions at heart who can absorb your point of view and point out potential strengths you’re keen to overlook. 

I’m Innit to DYI-it!

“Juliana, I still want to do it.”

All right then! Forging an Ironclad Brand by Lindsay Pedersen is a great brand building guide to use. Here are the areas you’ll want to analyze to get at your brand and what you stand for, what your customers value, and what makes you unique:

  • Market research. What’s going on in your industry? Where is the market headed, and where are the opportunities?
  • Competitive analysis. Who is your competition? What do they offer? How do they communicate their offering?
  • White space. Where’s the opportunity for you to zig where your competition zags?
  • Cultural trends. What trends are culturally happening that relate to your work?
  • Stakeholder feedback. Why do your customers & partners come – and return – to you? What (pain) brings them to you? What do they deeply value about how you solve that pain?
  • Target market. Who is the customer that deeply values all that you offer? Use this guide to build out their personas.
  • Mindset & behaviors. How do your customers approach your category? What’s their mindset & behavior?
  • Brand DNA. What do you do and why? Think through your offerings, what pain or problem do you solve for your customers? Consider the benefits you bring your customers – both emotional and functional.
  • Unique Value Proposition. What do you do that your customers deeply value that few others can do? This guide can help you.
  • Brand Promise & Values. Think about the promise you make to your customers, at every interaction. What values do you insist on, so you / your team can make this promise true?
  • Brand Archetype. If your brand were a person, what would be its personality and image? Is your brand the sage or the creator? Maverick or jester? And how does this show up in your brand communications?! Strategist Kaye Putnam has an archetype quiz to uncover your brand archetype & good examples of how brands use their archetype to create differentiation.
  • Logo, font, colors. Work with a graphic designer to bring all these insights into your brand’s look and feel.
  • Storytelling. What’s the story you can tell about your impact on your customers? How do you help them? How do you transform their woes into successes?

These areas will inform and form your brand identity and positioning. Don’t be daunted if that seems lengthy! Especially if you’re just starting out, there’s plenty of online guidance to tap into, and to be honest, most startups do the branding themselves until they’re big enough to outsource it to a professional.

And the work is absolutely worth it.

When you’ve landed on it, brand amplifies your marketing efforts. It brings results you couldn’t imagine. It makes everything so clear and easy to digest. You’re so much more confident about your business and what you stand for and what sets you apart.

So do the hard work. 
Build your brand. 
But if you want all this, but are reconsidering the DIY part, that’s cool too. Let’s connect and zoom or chat. My team and I are passionate about branding small businesses; we’re here to bring that incredible brand your business already is… to life.


I was speaking to a business leader recently about A/B testing for branding. (A/B testing is the process of coming up with two different communications assets to test with -mostly online – consumers, to see which performs better.)

“It would be so great,” he mused. “We could figure out what elements really resonate with our target audience and then build our brand according to what our customers want. What do you think?”

There’s a lot to love with A/B testing, particularly for marketing. It’s incredibly results-oriented, very accurate, promotes flexibility and rewards performance. In general, I like and advocate strongly for A/B testing when it comes to advertising, marketing content and the like. But.

You can’t A/B test brand. 

Brand is about who your organization is and what you stand for. The exercise of branding addresses fundamental business questions, such as:

What are your values? 
What’s your reason for being?
What do you promise every customer with every interaction?
What do you do extremely well that few can emulate?

Brand comes from within, not from your customer’s opinions.

Brand is your stake in the ground, what you promise your customers day-in and day-out, never vacillating or wavering in belief. It’s your North Star, around which product, development and marketing revolve. Brand is your company’s reputation, and you don’t A/B test your reputation and see what resonates better with your current customers… and then change it up in a few month’s time for someone new.

You don’t waiver on your principles, values, beliefs and business model. 

Your business’ reputation is made up by a series of first impressions, and you only get one shot to make a first impression -> use it wisely.  Develop it thoughtfully and strategically.

Brand is Your North Star

As an example, I was listening to a podcast recently with the CMO of Harley Davidson. Harley has been around for 116 years, and they have never wavered from their true brand purpose: to help people fulfill their dreams of personal freedom. They live into that brand purpose and promise in every brand touchpoint, in every piece of advertising, with every bike that comes off the assembly line. Everything they do goes through that filter: does this help fulfill dreams of personal freedom? And in staying true to that North Star, they have made (and continue to make) Harley into one of the most iconic brands in the world.

So when it comes to branding, it’s very much what your company stands for and what you deliver on. It can expand over time, but at its core it always has the same values and principles. Those can’t be agile; they can’t shift to accommodate certain customers and then shift to accommodate others. If you do this, you run the risk of standing for everything or anything – which means you stand for nothing. 

Now, A/B testing for marketing? Absolutely. A new website, or online ad campaign, content, posts: go, go, go. But something as foundational as your brand should never be in the hands of an external source to determine. If you’ve got questions about this topic or branding in general, let’s connect and set up a time to chat.

A framework for refining your business + brand strategy

The essence of business strategy is choosing what not to do. 
-Michael Porter

Business is never static: the minute you meet a milestone, the bar rises and another challenge looms. So it makes sense to revisit your business + brand strategy as your business grows, to ensure they’re right for your current stage and where you’re headed. Whether you’re a startup or a small thriving business in growth mode, here are several aspects from a business strategy perspective to consider when evaluating your business. While we aren’t expert business strategists, brand + business strategy are highly interdependent and we’ve found these areas important in brand positioning work. They’re part of the framework we use in building magnetic brands for our clients. 

Identify The Problem

Your business is not about you, what you like to do, or what you want from it. It’s about your customer and the problem your business addresses. Now is a great time to underscore the problem you fix. Often businesses might start out solving X but evolve their offering (based on customer feedback and needs) to offer something different. It’s helpful to assess and clarify what problem draws your customers to you and what they feel you solve. 

Clarify Your Solution

It’s simple: if your business doesn’t solve a problem for your customer, you will fail to attract customers. You need to get specific about how your offering is the solution to your customer’s problem. Draw a direct connection between the two. Consider how your solution is different from your competitor’s solutions.

Find Your Target

Understanding your target + their underlying motivations is fundamental to business success. If you do not have a target market that is engaged by your solution, you do not have a business. 

  • Identify your target customer and their pain points. Why do they have this problem in the first place – why haven’t they solved it on their own? What pain points that make them look externally for a solution? What about your solution makes them choose your brand over others? 
  • Pay attention to resistance. Are your customers fickle? Welcome to the human condition. As David Ogilvy famously said: “People don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say.” Your target customer might say one thing and hesitate for an entirely different (and often psychological) reason, so pay attention to actions over intentions.

Know Your Competition

From Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy: the more competitive the market environment, the harder it is to make money. Here are things to keep in mind:

  • Assess the competitive landscape. Evaluate your competition and their offerings. How competitive is the industry you’re in? How are your competitors solving your customer’s pain point in a way that is different from your approach? What value do they bring that’s different from the value you bring, and how can you protect your brand from their threat?
  • Consider new entrants and/or substitutes as part of your competitive landscape. The railroad industry failed because they didn’t consider new entrants / substitutes – aka airlines – as a threat to their offering.  Today, disruption is such a regular occurence, so it’s essential to explore how technology may be creating alternatives that address your customer’s pain points.
  • Consider also barriers to entry for the market you are in.  If the barriers to entry are low, the competition will be high so you’ll need a clear unique value proposition that differentiates you from the rest.

Own Your Unique Value Proposition

A unique value proposition highlights the value you bring your customers and distinguishes you from the competition. Assess your strengths and weaknesses; what is your core competency? What makes you different? What’s your brand personality? These questions are firmly in brand strategy territory but they are also essential in clarifying business strategy.Define your unique value proposition. A helpful reality check: there are over 30 million small businesses in the United States alone, so your business probably isn’t unique… but your unique value proposition can be. How do you approach your customer’s pain points?  How is your solution different from what others provide? This post can help you zero in on your value proposition.

Clarify Revenue Strategies 

The majority of us are in business to make money, so your business needs to have a revenue + growth strategy that supports your business and allows for growth. This includes:

  • Pricing. What is your pricing model and how does that compare to your competition? What does it cost you to produce your product or service against what you are pricing your service at? 
  • Scale. How does your business model allow for scalability? How can you leverage new technologies or approaches to increase opportunities for scale?
  • Revenue goals + expectations. How are these targets set? What is the strategy behind increasing growth?
  • What are your short-term and long-term goals for the company?  Is there an exit strategy – e.g., merger or acquisition? 

Once all of these points have been considered, business strategy is also deciding what not to engage in. Consider your competitive landscape, and consider your brand’s core competency. What are your brand’s strongest opportunities for driving growth? What business should your company turn away from because it detracts from your core strengths or isn’t a good ROI? How can you uniquely address your customer’s pain points in a way that makes your brand the obvious solution?

These are fundamental questions that drive business and brand strategy and help position your business for optimal growth. Connect with us to discuss how we can help make your business magnetic to success.