Authenticity is one of those buzzwords that gets used a lot in today’s marketing press, but I actually quite like it. Authenticity is crucial to developing strong brand values.
For small business owners who are attempting to create their own personal brand, being authentic is harder than it first appears. Get this right, however, and the rest of your marketing will come easily.
In my last blog I talked about reasons people finding branding so difficult when they are the brand. But no more excuses, it’s time to get started on your personal branding journey.
Why are brand values so important?
Brand values are the things you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room. And when I say people, I really mean your current and prospective clients.
Nailing your brand values is an über important part of your marketing strategy homework. They will guide how you want to be perceived, how you talk about yourself, what tone of voice you use and what your visual identity will look like.
Yes, you can work with a marketing coach to support you, but only you can develop values that are in line with who you are and your reason for being in business.
Here are the first 4 steps to creating powerful brand values. They are practical and easy and can be started today. Tweet me and tell me how you’re getting on with these.
Work out what makes you tick
Look back at your career highlights so far: how did you achieve what you did? What were your winning strategies? Can you apply the same approach to the project of defining your personal brand values?
Write down everything that comes into your head at this point and use every tool that has worked for you in the past to avoid procrastination.
Brainstorm what you stand for
Take yourself out of your usual setting, maybe go for a walk or just move rooms. I like to have a fresh cup of coffee and some snacks (healthy… and not so healthy!), with an internal agreement with myself that I can only finish it all once I have created a list of brand values.
Asking yourself the following questions:
- What would people say about you when you’re not in the room?
- What is your why?
- What are your strengths?
- What do you enjoy doing
- What makes you different?
- What makes you better?
- Why would someone choose you over the competition?
- In what ways are you different from any stereotype?
- What values do you hold of the utmost importance?
Once you’ve answered these, honestly, complete these two tasks:
- What have current or previous clients said about you? Message them and other business contacts and ask what they consider your strengths to be.
- Read any LinkedIn recommendations that you already have – are there recurring themes in there?
When I went on my own branding journey for Lollipop Social, these are some of the words I originally came up with to describe myself:
And here is what some of my clients and contacts said:
Note: Just like in a normal brainstorming setting, don’t censor your ideas at this stage, write them all up. Store them in a place where you can find them again, we are not done yet.
The good thing about this approach is that not only have you written down what you perceive your brand values to be, but you’ve also received feedback from your clients and your community to validate, or contradict, what you thought.
Reflect on, group and refine your brand values
The good news is, I now recommend you take a break to give yourself some distance. But make sure you schedule time for this next stage later in the week.
Come back to your notes fresh and look for common themes that emerge and group similar words together. I like using circles for this; some people go with Post-it notes – the important thing is to look for common themes to help you come up with a shortlist of favourite words to take to the next step.
This is what I came up with after my initial brainstorming session:
Get rid of any values that are too vanilla
We are so used to operating in our comfort zones – and it’s the same when we talk about our own brand values – we have a tendency to choose ‘safe’ words. But if you want your brand to stand out you have to take control of what it is that makes you different.
Get out the editing pen and delete any values that are too vanilla. Don’t leave any values in that are just like everyone else’s, such as:
These should be a given. Would you work with an architect who wasn’t creative? Would you work with an accountant who wasn’t professional?
Remind yourself that you are creating brand values because you want to define what makes you different, so that you don’t sound, look and talk about the same things all of your competitors do. It’s fine to have some standard values on your final list, but make sure they are boosted with some values that are unique to you.
Why is this important? When you are running a business, people want to get to know you, what you are about, and your why. And you want to ensure you give the right people every reason to start liking you.
Identifying the right values that work for you and your brand will ensure you build a powerful personal brand. I’ve seen an increase of 100 % in my website traffic, and investing time in creating a personal brand has been a key driver of this.
Here is a picture of my original homepage before I embarked on a personal brand development journey. I hope you agree with me that the latest homepage design has more ooomph!
What happens next?
Well done for investing in yourself. Your new brand values will guide what kind of content you produce and how you share it with your audience.
They will also guide your visual approach – all the fun stuff! In my next blog in this branding series I will show you how to link your brand values to your marketing content and also share the resources that inspired my own brand journey. And I’ll reveal why one of my brand values is being a German Marketing Meister.
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Updated May 2019.