Each week as Smallbizlady, I conduct interviews with small business experts on my weekly Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. This is excerpted from my #SmallBizChat interview with Annemarie Cross @annemariecoach is a Brand Strategist & Business Coach supporting entrepreneurs define and build an authentic signature brand so they can create a buzz, gain expert status, and attract a constant stream of ideal, high paying clients to their business. www.annemariecross.com
Small Biz Lady: What are the elements of a brand?
AnneMarie Cross: Many people think that their ‘brand’ is their business logo, business card, letterhead, envelopes, with compliments slips, marketing material, brochures, website etc.
While these things are all very important they are really more about the ‘branding’ elements that will help you to communicate your brand message to your prospects and clients.
Your ‘brand’ goes much deeper than these ‘branding’ elements.
Small Biz Lady: So how do you define ‘brand’?
AnneMarie Cross: I like to think of your ‘brand’ as the perception others have of you and your business. It’s your promise of value. Your reputation.
For service-based businesses there may be hundreds of other coaches and consultants working in your field offering similar systems and processes as you do. However, what will truly set you apart — is you.
Small Biz Lady: So for service-based businesses their ‘brand’ in effect is themselves?
AnneMarie Cross:Yes, absolutely. Their unique qualities, their mission and purpose, their core values and what they stand for are all very important elements that should be considered when defining their brand. [In fact there are four steps that I recommend people consider when defining their brand, which I’ll share in a moment.]
Even though you may be speaking about a similar topic or sharing similar tips and advice as your competitors, what WILL be different is ‘how’ you deliver the information and ‘HOW’ you show up in all of your interactions with your prospects and clients.
Small Biz Lady: Why is identifying and defining a unique ‘brand’ really important?
AnneMarie Cross: Unfortunately, yes, this is something I see time and again. What can often happen is that people starting up their business can look to see what their competitors are doing or even what other businesses are doing. When they see something that seems to be working for these others business so they copy elements of these brands.
This is probably one of the worst things people can do. It’s not authentic to them. They will stand out — but not for the right reasons but because of this false persona.
Small Biz Lady: What benefits can businesses expect to see if they take the time to define their unique brand?
AnneMarie Cross: Defining and building a unique brand can certainly distinguish you from your competitors. And for businesses that are in a competitive marketplace I’m sure they’d agree that it can often be difficult to stand out from the crowd.
Building a strong brand can also help you build your credibility and reputation as a specialist — an expert in your field. This is because once you have a clear idea on your brand, the core elements that make you special and unique, you can be on-brand in everything you do and start to build credibility in that specific area/field.
Small Biz Lady: What are the four steps to consider when people were going through the process of defining a business brand? What’s the first step?
AnneMarie Cross: The first step is for people to define their brand attributes. When talking about brand attributes these are your characteristics; your unique qualities; your quirkiness.
- What do people often admire about you?
- Do you have a quirkiness about you that is often mentioned as being something unique and essentially ‘you’?
What’s the second step in defining your brand?
The second step in about getting clear on your brand strengths. Your brand strengths are your gifts and talents — things that you are naturally good at. This can often be a difficult process because so many of us take our strengths forgranted.
- What do people most admire about you?
- Think about some of your achievements. What strengths and talents did you use to secure these successes?
Small Biz Lady: What’s the third step in the branding process?
AnneMarie Cross: The third step is all about your Brand Promise. Your brand promise is what you guarantee people will receive when working with you. While this may be something we do already think about, people don’t give it the attention it deserves. This is where we start taping into the emotions — the experience that other people have when they think about you and your business.
- What are you committed to delivering time and time again to each and every client you work with?
- If you were to ask several of your clients about their experience working with you — what would they say?
Small Biz Lady: So what is the final step we need to do to define our brand?
AnneMarie Cross: The last step is really where I believe you breathe life into brand. It’s defining the heart and soul of your brand – your Brand Essence, your brand story.
I use the Branding with ArchetypesTM system to uncover a person’s brand essence. This system has 12 different archetypes — each with their own set of gifts, purpose, characteristics and qualities.
- List 3-6 brand values?
- How does your brand make people feel?
- If your brand were a character, describe what that would look, sound and be like?
Small Biz Lady: Once people have identified these things, how can they start to put it all together?
AnneMarie Cross:After you have defined each of the above elements, you have your Brand Story; you now understand your core Brand Message; etc and all of these things should be incorporated into your branding elements.
Those were the things we spoke about earlier — your website, business cards, the fonts you use, the colors you choice, your equipment, your office, your clothing. In fact, everything!
Everything that you create continues to exude and portray your core brand elements.
Small Biz Lady: Once we have defined our brands, what else can we do to continue building our brands?
AnneMarie Cross: It’s important to on-brand in everything that you do. When I talk about being on-brand, I’m talking about being consistent in the information you are sharing to ensure it continues to build your profile in the industry/field you want to become known as an expert in. It’s also important to remain on-brand in how you deliver your message as well.
Some people weaken their brands and never reach expert status because they are involved in too many areas in their business and prospects become confused as to how they can help them. Remember the old saying “a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none’? You don’t want to become known as a master of none, especially if you want to have a thriving business with prospects coming to you for your support because they know the value you offer.
Small Biz Lady: How long does it take to build a brand?
AnneMarie Cross: It can takes months — years even to build a strong brand, to become known as an expert in your field. However, this can all be tarnished (or weakened) by one inappropriate comment or action.
As I mentioned earlier, everything you do and say, the people you associate with, the pictures you upload and share, the groups you join — everything, can impact your brand. So, be mindful of everything you do and say — especially online.
Be on-brand in everything you do!
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s a link for how to participate in #Smallbizchat http://bit.ly/S797e
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine recently named her one of the Top 20 women for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)