It’s not enough to just sell a product or service these days; you need to have more. You need to have an identity. Studies have shown that customers are frequently less interested in giving their cash to companies that only have the bottom line in mind; they need to know that the company has something grander in mind, such as a social mission or the promotion of a certain lifestyle. If you take a look at all the huge companies, you’ll see that many of them, while they do “sell” things, in many cases their appeal is more to do with something more abstract (Nike don’t sell shoes, they sell a healthy lifestyle).
But how do you go about giving your company a solid identity? We take a look at a few tried and tested methods below. While it is easier to do all of these things in the early days of your venture, you can also do some of them retrospectively.
What’s the Mission?
First thing’s first: you’ll need to figure out what exactly your mission as a company is. Every business should have a broader goal in mind, one that extends making money. A good place to start is to figure out the values that are close to your heart, and see if there’s a way you can use whatever it is that your company does to alleviate problems relating to that issue. For example, a company that sells home products might ensure that all of their goods have a minimal environmental impact. In that case, their mission would be to transition the world to more sustainable practices. This is a philosophy that can touch many aspects of their identity.
What are you Trying to Convey?
When it comes to developing an identity for your business, you’ll need to figure out what it is you’re trying to convey. There are a million and one ways to say the exact same thing, and it’ll be your overall message that influences how people see your business. Your business could be whimsical, or traditional, or anything else — but it’s important that you think about whatever is, so you can ensure that everything related to your company is filtered through that lens.
Who are you Targeting?
Your company’s identity should come from within, but you’ll want to at least be aware of what your prospective customers think and expect, too. You’ll find it much easier to have your message heard if it’s broadly in line with the thoughts and ideas of your target customers — your message and their ideals should be somewhat in sync. You can figure out who your target demographic is during the market research stage of your business development.
How Are You Different?
There are many companies out there who believe they have an identity, but in reality, they don’t. It’s like people: they may, at first glance, look like they’re doing things differently from others, but they’re not. They’re just a variation of what every other similar company is doing. When it comes to your business, it’s worthwhile thinking about how you stand out from the crowd — what makes you different? Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll want to see how you can emphasis that difference so that it’s given a more prominent role in your advertising and message. If competition in your industry is fierce, then it’ll be this that can help to set you apart from the crowd.
Here’s the thing about branding: if you’re going to do it, and that is what we recommend, then you need to be “all in.” You can’t just do a little bit of branding, it doesn’t work like that — for it to have the desired effect, it needs to touch everything that you do. That is where the power of branding lies. So take a look at your materials and voice, and make sure that everything is in sync. It all begins with your name and design; if you don’t yet have one, make a logo that reflects your company. Elsewhere, you’ll want to have uniform colors, and ensure that all aspects of your website are in line with your branding goals.
You might think writing is just writing, but it’s not — writing is personality, or it should be, anyway. The text that you use for your website, social media posts, promotional materials, and everything else related to your company will influence how people perceive your business. As such, you’ll want to spend some time developing your “tone,” which should then be used throughout your communications. There’s a big difference between light-hearted language and serious language, for instance. Of course, writing in a particular tone isn’t a skill that everybody has, so if you find it difficult, look at working with a copywriter.
Where You’re Based
We live in a global age, and you’d think that as a result of this, where a business is located doesn’t really matter. And it’s true that in some ways, it doesn’t — you can start a business from anywhere, for instance. However, when it comes to your company’s personality and perception, it is important. There’s a big difference between a company that’s located in Manhattan and one located in a small town, for instance. The location of your company will feed into your broader message — for instance, a small-town company can use that in their marketing materials: it’ll look a lot different to how a company based in London would use their location.
You can’t just tell the public that you’re one way or another: the message needs to be at the core of your business. Let’s think about your employees and your worksite. You can’t claim that you’re a young and hip company if you’re working in a traditional office, and the working practices are the same as everywhere else. A company like that should be working in a modern office space, with open-minded employees. So take a look at who you’re bringing on board, and make sure that they’re in line with the broader philosophy of your company. If they’re not, then they’ll only erode some of the good work that you’ve been doing.
Play to Your Advantages
There are always hardships in business; there’s just no getting around them. There will always be challenges, and companies which are bigger than you are. It can’t be helped! What you can do, however, is to turn your disadvantages into an advantage, by making them part of your personality. If you’re a small business, then yes, you don’t have as many resources as large corporations, but this can work in your favor — instead of bemoaning your small stature, it can be used to bring people in. There are plenty of people who prefer giving their money to small businesses over large ones.
Whatever message you ultimately decide to convey, it’s important that you’re staying consistent with the message. It’s not much of a personality if it’s forever switching; people need time to get used to what a business is saying, and that’ll only be possible if the company is predictable in its promotion. The only companies who are able to get their personality across straight away are the annoying ones, and they don’t stick around too often.
More than the Product or Service
Ultimately, it’s about showing that you’re more than just the products or services that you sell. There’s more going on underneath, you have a reason for being that extends beyond just the financial aspect.