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14 Purpose as Brand

There was a time when I mentioned the word brand to small business and they would shrug their shoulders at the idea. We don’t have a brand, that’s big company we stuff. We have a business and we busy ourselves trying to build some name recognition, sure, but we don’t really worry much about branding.

small business culture

Image Infusionsoft via flickr

I suppose with the advent of social media small businesses have come to realize they do indeed have a brand – it’s not that anything has really changed – it’s that it has become much easier to hear it. The days when the collective perception around a brand was kept to the neighborly chat across the fence have given way to mentions that can be tracked, filtered, scored and aggregated to create a very vivid picture of the existence of a brand. Even the smallest of companies can now turn to Twitter, for instance, and turn up mentions and conversations about their brand from prospects, customers, competitors and journalists alike, all in real time.

This fact, combined with our market’s ability to freely publish and distribute content, comments, ratings and reviews, both good and bad, about any product or service they like, has given new life, meaning and importance to this word brand for businesses both large and small.

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14 Accentuate the Negative

Glass half full

Image andrew_j_w via flickr

I’m one of those folks that is squarely in the camp of the glass is not just half full, it’s mostly full, so this post may seem a tad uncharacteristically, well, negative.

But here’s the deal, I’ve worked with thousands of business owners over the years and I’ve learned that the rosy point of view isn’t always the first place that people go when they think about their world.

But that’s OK, because, despite what Harold Alden and Johnny Mercer wrote and Bing crooned, you can learn a lot when you accentuate the negative. People can often tell you what they don’t want more vividly than what they do want and that can be a great place to start to get real.

I was reminded of this by a post that came across my RSS reader this week from Business Week called The Stop-Doing List.

I think it can be very useful to get the negative, what you don’t want, out so you can finally see more clearly what you obviously do want.

If this idea resonates at all, and maybe even if it doesn’t quite yet, I would like to suggest you plow through the following list and throw open the window to the negative so that you can shine a light on what’s left. Get a pad and paper and get to work on this today.

  • What don’t you want in your life?
  • Who don’t you want as a customer?
  • What don’t you want as elements of your brand?
  • What don’t you want as a part of you daily routine?
  • Who or what don’t you want as a member of your staff
  • What don’t you want to let go of in your business?
  • What don’t you to have to do to grow your business?
  • What aren’t you willing to give up in order to have what you want?
  • What aren’t you willing to compromise for your vision?
  • What aren’t you prepared to sacrifice to get a sale?
  • What aren’t you sure of when it comes to your business?
  • What aren’t you doing that your customers need you to do?
  • What aren’t you making a priority?

Um, that should keep you busy – clear the decks by getting this stuff down. Take an afternoon and hole up in the back corner of a public library and make these lists. The very fact that you give what you don’t want, what you aren’t willing to do, some undivided attention will free you to actually see what must be, what you must keep and hold in order to have what you do indeed want more than anything else in the world.

53 5 Questions That Will Change How You View Your Business

thinkingAs we go through the days, weeks and months running a business it’s pretty easy to lose sight of the underlying reasons that make owning a business such a fulfilling experience.

Between the phone ringing, the network going down, and the shipment arriving late there’s the tiniest gap that we must stay connected to in order to build a business that serves our lives while providing a place for customers and staff to experience something remarkable.

I find that the following questions help me reconnect with that gap when it gets a little hard to see, feel, and hear.

1) Why are we doing this?

I wrote about doing work that serves a higher purpose last week and I think this is the question that helps stay connected to the greater reason for doing what you do. This can have a very practical branding application as well because if your business is driven by something very authentic – the manifestation of that can produce some very real branding elements. A business driven to serve, rather than simply sell a service, can wrap many messages and flourishes in that reason to serve.

2) What are we here to give?

I think this is the greatest question anyone who sells a product, service or idea can adopt. By placing your point of view on giving rather than getting, you will be more prepared to produce value for the customer and spot opportunities to produce innovations that could allow you to create even greater value. This ability to adapt to create value is one of the greatest natural advantages small businesses possess.

3) What do we want people to experience?

The rush to social media is really about the evolving trend towards greater customer engagement. Prospects and customers are growing to expect much more in terms of engagement. Organizations that spend as much time on creating a better, more engaging, customer experience as they do on generating new leads will soon find that all of their best leads are coming from existing customers. The key is to look at every aspect of your business from the eyes of a customer and intentionally design the exact experience, perception, or brand you plan for them to encounter.

4) What are we supposed to learn from this?

This one comes courtesy of the parent in me. When we meet challenges, some might call them failures, in business it’s quite natural for some to get caught up in what went wrong. The much more positive approach is to look at every turn in the road as a lesson. If you can start to wonder what you are to learn or determine how to make meaning from set backs you can drop the stress over things going bad and you just might get a glimpse of what you were really put here to do.

5) Who could do this better?

This last question always vexes me. I think I do a lot of things well. In fact, one the greatest skills and consequently weaknesses of many small business owners is the ability to adapt, figure things out on their own, and charge ahead. While we have many skills and talents there are usually only a handful of those skills and talents that can be leveraged to move the organization ahead and produce the greatest profit.

When you come to understand the work you should be focused on and start looking for partners, employees and collaborators who can do the other important, but not in your zone, work your business will change dramatically. Once again, from a practical standpoint you can often buy services far greater than you can actually do them half-baked yourself.

What questions drive you deeper into understanding how to build your business?

Image credit: wadem