In introducing our “Power of a Brand” blog series, we underlined the importance of a brand and brand strategy for small b2b businesses and entrepreneurs. The take-home from the introduction is anyone can build a powerful brand, even if you think there is not enough time, or you don’t know how to start.
The first step to creating a powerful brand begins with starting fresh. If you don’t have a solid marketing plan, you’ll burn through cash on marketing and advertising dollars chasing after anything that looks promising. Many companies are fed up with spending hard-earned dollars on marketing and advertising that don’t produce long-term results.
Even if you already have a brand strategy or marketing plan, surely your business has changed since you first created it. So, it is best to take a step back and move forward from where you are today, not when you started the business.
To build a brand strategy, ultimately leading to a powerful brand, you must understand what makes your business tick, your identity, or why your business exists in the first place. You may have heard the words vision, mission or values, which we will certainly cover in this blog. But although those are pieces of a marketing strategy, the final goal to start building your brand strategy is figuring out the ultimate why.
Vision, Mission, Values
Identifying the vision, mission and values is a great place to start figuring out the ultimate why for your business. But first, what do vision, mission and values mean?
What do you think of when you read the word vision? You might think of eyesight, visualization, an idea or an image. The dictionary has two definitions for vision: 1) the act or power of seeing, or 2) something seen in a dream. Both definitions apply to a company’s vision. A business’s vision is looking into the future or playing the long game. What do you see your business doing, or who will the business serve or produce in the future?
The company you have now may not be making the same product or serving the same people in the future. So why are you in business in the first place? What do you hope or wish the company will achieve in the future? This is your vision.
A vision is also often called a vision statement. Some great examples of a company’s vision or vision statements are:
- “To provide access to the world’s information in one click.”—Google
- “We’re committed to a sustainable future for all.” —Salesforce.com
- “Changing the world through digital experiences.” —Adobe
- “We believe that everyone should have the option of quality, affordable insurance from a company they trust.” —Allstate
Outlining a vision is one of the best ways to get employees on board and drive toward the same goal post. Research proves that employees are more engaged, work harder and produce better results if they know and adopt a company’s vision.
A vision is also a great way of explaining to customers what you do. Often, a company will put its vision or vision statement on its website.
Our vision at Uptimize is “To bring high-quality marketing to small business owners and entrepreneurs through done-for-you services, online marketing classes designed to teach small businesses how to develop their own marketing, and through consulting services designed to support clients through the entire process.”
A mission, or mission statement, focuses more on the present day. A mission statement is usually a short (one to three sentences) explanation of what a company does and who they serve.
Writing down a mission statement may seem silly to a busy entrepreneur or small business owner who juggles work commitments every day. Because, after all, shouldn’t an entrepreneur know what the company does since they started it, for Pete’s sake?
Often, one stakeholder will know what the business does, while everyone else seems to be standing on the sidelines wide-eyed, confused or half-crazed. So, think of a mission statement as getting everyone, including customers, clear direction on what the business does, which ties back to the ultimate why you’re in business in the first place.
As the famous statement goes, “If you confuse, you lose.” So, creating and formally writing a mission statement down will get everyone driving down the same road.
Here are some examples of great mission statements:
- “Formlabs is expanding access to digital fabrication, so anyone can make anything.”—Formlabs
- “The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”—The American Red Cross
- “Make work life simpler, more pleasant and more productive.”—Slack
A company may not explicitly state its mission statement on its website or in its advertising, but it plays an important role in building a brand.
It may be hard to visualize something as simple as a few sentences making a huge impact on a business, but it does. A mission statement is an intangible asset, and because it’s so simple, it’s often hard to see the value in making one. But with so many businesses fighting over the same piece of pie, the ones with a clear direction will survive. And because a mission explains a company’s ultimate why or reason for doing business in the first place, they create value for employees and customers and are a great defensive tool for competition.
Values make up an important piece of the brand strategy and a company’s ultimate why. Values are guiding principles rooted in everything a company does and makes up a company’s culture. Values are how a company wants to operate and work behind the scenes to keep your company and employees working consistently toward the same goal.
For example, Uptimize’s values are that we are genuine, helpful, hard-working and growth-minded. We believe we should act with these values every time we work as a team or for a client.
If you ever wonder whether values make a difference, look at the powerful brand Chick-fil-A. If you have ever been to a Chick-fil-A restaurant, you will notice some striking differences between Chick-fil-A employees versus other fast-food restaurant employees. Chick-fil-A employees have a sense of urgency in their step. They are also helpful and courteous. So, it is no surprise that Chick-fil-A’s values are: “We’re here to serve; We’re better together; We are purpose-driven; We pursue what’s next.”
Putting it all together –Value Proposition & Brand Positioning Statement
Once a business establishes its vision, mission and values, it is on the right track for creating the other things people think of when speaking of a powerful brand, such as a logo, taglines, fonts and colors. Again, these all tie back to the company’s ultimate why.
But remember, creating a powerful brand doesn’t happen overnight. A powerful brand starts with a clear path or the brand strategy, which means before you make a catchy slogan, you have to move your vision, mission and values into a value proposition.
A value proposition is one part of a marketing strategy and brings together a company’s vision, mission and values. A value proposition is a statement directed at customers, telling them what the company does and what they promise to experience. The value proposition should clearly and easily communicate to customers what the customer will get and why they are better.
A brand positioning statement, or simply brand position, describes how your brand stands apart from the competition. It explains how your business one-ups the competition. Like the mission statement and value proposition, it should be a clear, concise and easily understood statement. So, while a value proposition is how your customers see your business, a brand position focuses on how competitors perceive you.
Usually, companies won’t overtly share their value proposition and brand position with the outside world. But they do provide a clear guide to the marketing team on what the other pieces of the marketing plan should look like.
Identifying why you are in business in the first place or your ultimate why is an essential step in the brand-building process. The vision, mission, values, value proposition and brand position make up a company’s identity and build a solid marketing strategy, eventually leading to a powerful brand. These are accessible and achievable to anyone, regardless of a company’s size.
Unfortunately, too often, small business owners put marketing strategy on the back burner while juggling the daily pressure of meeting business deadlines and obligations. But if you want to build a powerful brand that grows your business for the long term or upgrade your existing marketing, you must have a clear direction or a map showing you how to get there. That is what marketing strategy is all about.
If you are looking for help building your company’s identity and brand, Uptimize can help. We start by discovering where you are now and what you have already done. Then we decide where you are in the marketing process and how we can help, which often includes starting with building a marketing strategy. So, gear up and reach out to us for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you build a powerful brand.