Independent from the question if you want to become an entrepreneur or if you already started your business, I bet you agree with me that ultimately both the goal itself and the process of getting there should be characterized by a maximum degree of fulfillment and happiness for you. Also, you want to be successful with it, right? (At least all the entrepreneurs I got to know started their business not in order to fail ).
Now the evident question is – how do you increase the probability that your journey of building a business becomes something fulfilling, happiness-bringing and successful (while delivering value to others) instead of an energy draining, permanent activity that you feel like you “have to do” every day?
The answer: Build a company brand with the “Identity Based Branding” approach.
As the name indicates, the Identity Based Branding approach builds your company on your identity. It encourages you to bring as much of your individual personality (ideally 100%) into the company. Then transforms your company into a magnet-like brand to make it known to the people you want to reach, build respect- and trustful relationships and make a true difference in your customer’s lives.
It might be obvious that especially those businesses that are in sole proprietorship form (like Coaches, Trainers, Consultants and other service-focused businesses), can benefit most from the IBB approach, as the company is built on a single person. But it is not restricted to that. With slight adaptations the approach can work beautifully also for mid-size and bigger companies and ‘even’ salaried employees. Ready for the steps of the IBB? Here is an overview (kept it short and crisp to get your thinking flowing. We’ll go into depth of each step with separate content pieces)
1. Define your WHY
This is the heart of the whole process. Here, your drive, motivation, bigger vision, your purpose is defined. This is the reason why you get up every day, strategize and operate your business. The reason why you do every single step for your business. Everything pays into your WHY. Every person and therefore every company has a WHY (as we are not living in 2333 yet and companies today are still constituted by human beings). The question might be if they are aware of it and have it consciously expressed or not but there is no question it is existent. Your WHY makes all the difference to every step that follows. It is your Northern Star to orientate after as well as the core aspect of your business that potential customers emotionally connect to (and potentially make a purchasing decision). This is why you should spend an extraordinarily high amount of time to define your why. I have written a separate piece on the topic of purpose and definitely will create more content pieces surrounding this first, essential step in more detail.
2. Define your goals and success
Going into or operating your business without goals is like shooting arrows into the blue sky with a bow, hoping that the arrows hit something somewhere (well, somewhen is guaranteed). Goals give direction and guidance. They are also closely linked to your WHY as they are partly derived from it. But I am not only talking about the kind of business goals you might be used to, like sales, profit, costs etc.. I am also talking about the qualitative goals like which end-result and effect you want your service to have for people? What should they feel, think, see after they became your customer?
Another very important point is that you have to define what success means to you. Define it early in the process. The earlier, the better so you are not lead astray from your set path (there will be many shiny objects on your entrepreneurial path, believe me ). Some people are driven my monetary and materialistic aspects of the game. Other people are driven by freedom, recognition, security or other values (even for those who think they are in it for the money, at some point the realization sets in that they are also in to pursue freedom or other ‘soft goals’). Ultimate failure is to achieve what you thought is success for you only to realize you don’t feel happy and successful once you are there. You can’t get back the months and years you put into getting to your end goal. Guess this emphasizes the utmost importance of defining what you feel is “success” for you.
I am a firm believer into the strength based self leadership approach. This means that you lead yourself based on your strengths. You put all your energy into what you know you can do well, where you have experience, what you built for months, years, decades. Everyone has unique experiences, skills, abilities. You need to cultivate them and grow them. An make them the core of your (business) activities. This is your basis to stand out from the crowd. Don’t make the mistake to invest your precious energy into growing skills that you know are not your heart-felt strong points. If you set out to become better in your ‘weak’ areas you are wasting time to come to a level where other people are already. The only thing you gained after that is being equally noticeable like others. Instead of using the time to make your strengths so powerful that they help you and your business to truly stand out.
And don’t get me wrong: being an introvert myself, I am not talking about standing out at all costs and being as extroverted, loud and outgoing as possible just so people notice you. I am talking about standing out because you are true to your strengths and self (introversion being a strength). Being yourself will always naturally stand out.
4. Communication style
Every human being has a preferred way of communicating. Some prefer written words, some love speaking & auditive communication, some people cherish visually moving pictures (aka video). Your communication style is the amplifier of your strengths. When you know your powers, you need the fitting channel to communicate them to the people that might benefit from them via your service offering. There is no need, in fact it is even counterproductive, to pressure yourself to do video content and marketing on Linkedin or facebook for example if you don’t feel comfortable in front of a camera. And by the way: your audience will notice if you are communicating via your preferred style or not .
5. Target Group
I already created some content pieces on LinkedIn and the blog around this topic, but I am happy to repeat it every day: your time is much better invested playing roulette to make money in a casino than starting and operating a business without knowing exactly who you want to target with your service.
You need to create a “persona” (like a customer avatar) of the person you want to reach with your service. You need to know, or at least make the best guess you can make, what their day looks like, what they desire, why, what keeps them awake at night and so on. This is absolutely crucial. Knowing exactly who you are addressing with your service at the same time means you know exactly who you are NOT addressing. A “No, my service is not fitting you as it doesn’t provide you value” is as minimum equally important as a “Yes, this is for you”.
6. Storytelling & Positioning
What is your company’s story? Have you carefully crafted and curated a scientifically proven approach to make others cope with stress? Have you gathered 31 years of specialized experience in lean / agile leadership and managed so many intercultural teams you almost forgot what your mother language is? EVERYONE – repeat, everyone – has a story to tell and a unique positioning to take.
This is not about carefully selecting only few pieces of your (hi)story that fit a desired image of yourself to be popular for as many people as possible. This is about you being you and bringing your story into the company brand. No “let’s take this emotionally heavy experience and put it to the front so people are touched”. Let us leave this to the advocats, consultants and unicorns of classic “Personal Branding”. Once you tell your company’s story in a genuine way, people notice and are drawn to it because it feels real. If we want to admit it or not – we have a natural sensor to differentiate people who are authentic from people who are not. To reveal if someone actually wants to help us or if he / she just wants to take advantage of us lies in our DNA (the “7 steps to financial freedom without having to know anything or do anything” as well as the “6 ½ steps to generate a hundred million leads per day” approaches are schemes that fall into the latter category). There are many frameworks of developing a strong company story. No matter which framework you take (we have a favorite) – most important thing is that it needs to be true to you.
7. Service Portfolio (Offering)
What’s the one service for you and your company where your strengths meet the demand (and therefore sales volume) of your target audience? THAT is the essential service you should double down on. Not the other four services that you have in your portfolio “because that is what the competition does”. Which service brings most value to your target group? Do that. You can always add later. Your core service is the essential bridge between where your customer is right now and the place she/he wants to reach.
8. Individual, digital marketing strategies and tactics
OK, this point is heavy and worthy of many different blogs. Just overall: when you got points 1 – 7 straight, number 8 is where the magic happens. This is when you take everything you offer and start communicating it to the people you want to reach. Here, your goal is to transform strangers into fans for your company. You make your company known to your desired audience. Getting attention via clear and distinct branding of your company plays a key role. You generate traffic and visitors via social media and online channels that suit you and your company (despite what some Marketing ‘Gurus’ say, what works and doesn’t work is super individual to your company. There is no “one size fits all” approach that makes you successful), you provide value for free while they are on their journey of becoming a customer (the old “help the audience by actually helping them” – trick), you enthuse people with a mind blowing content strategy and much more.
As said in the beginning, I wrote this article to help you start reflecting on where your company stands in regards to mission, goals, story, offering, marketing efforts etc.. This article obviously doesn’t claim to be a detailed instruction manual on how to execute the different steps. But it is the blueprint structure to start building a magnetic company brand that makes a true difference for your customers. And your entrepreneurial happiness.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Would you give the Identity Based Branding approach a shot? What are your experiences? Maybe you have a completely different perspective? Connect with me via Email to firstname.lastname@example.org – happy to hear from you soon:).