Tag Archive for: business

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. 

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.