Human beings are pattern seekers. We conserve our mental energy by creating little files in our minds about people, places, and businesses. In a sense, everything is branded. It is both about marketing content to others, and about making a sale. It's the sum of the experiences someone has packed in a box. Once that box is formed, it's very hard to change what your branding is to the public.
Alice owned a trendy pop-up storefront and e-commerce business that sold unique, hand-crafted jewelry, clothing, and accessories. She worked with an artist collective, so she had access to a trove of unique and original designs, which she sold on consignment. She grew so quickly that she was finding it difficult to vet the artists and curate the collection as much as she had in the past.
What made her unique was the carefully curated assortment of one-of-kind designs. She did realize that by being so busy growing that she was at risk of damaging her brand.
The fact is that most small businesses have a brand by default rather than by design. It's human nature to create brands: no matter what. We do it all the time. It's sometimes hard to recognize that fact. If you do nothing, people will create a story about you. It's better to direct the narrative than to have the narrative directed for you.
Having a brand by default isn't always a bad thing. As in Alice's case, it was good thing. She lucked out. However, not understanding that you have a brand is terrible thing. Why? Because if you don't know what it is, how can you stay true to what it is that makes you unique and special. Alice fell in the latter case. She didn't realize what her brand was when she started to grow beyond it. If she did, she may have been a bit more careful.
Alice had a strong and loyal Instagram following. She started notice more negative and less positive postings about her latest collections. Alice was smart and she started asking why. She had responses like: “…becoming more generic…”, “it's just not you anymore”, “…been there, seen that…”. In effect, she was drifting from her brand, but she didn't really know it. There were expectation that she didn't even know about.
Alice reached out because she wasn't sure what to do. She wasn't sure why her fans weren't happy. She didn't realize it at the time, but her Instagram was her early warning system, and it worked beautifully. This is something Alice didn't even think about at first, but it eventually became important for a young business
When developing a brand, you need to start with the target. The target is the ideal customer. This is person you most want to reach. Alice had a strong base, but she didn't have a clear understanding of what made them tick.
Our first task was to talk to these customers and understand why the loved Alice's products so much. In Alice's case, it was so they could feel unique and distinctive. Wearing Alice's line made them feel trendy. No one else had something quite like what they bought from Alice. Alice's point of difference was the uniqueness and her eye for creative, functional items. People weren't buying Alice's artists, but they were buying Alice's sense of style and curation. That was her value. That was her brand. And that helped her grow.
This is where Alice made her mistake. She got so busy running the day-to-day operations that time she used to dedicate in researching and curating her collections suffered. As that suffered, the brand suffered. To get her back on track, we needed to figure out how to free her up. For the brand to keep growing, she needed to curate more, not less.
It was clear Alice needed help. We took her through our delegation exercise to identify the tasks she needed to do, and those she didn't need to do. We were able to create job descriptions based on this work, and she was able to hire the right people to free up her time.
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Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkenIn profile
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