Getting Started With Your Brand Story

Who are you?

If I were to come up to you on the street and ask you that, what would you say? Well, you'd probably be taken aback at first. Maybe even offended.

Who am I? Who are you?

Establishing your brand story can sometimes feel a little bit like an awkward conversation with a stranger. As you sit down to think about who you are and what you'd like to accomplish as a business, it's easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the abstract question that is, "who the hell am I?"

All this is to say that coming up with your brand story is not easy. You have to dig deep into who you are, what you want to become, and how you want people to portray you the next time you walk down the street.

The next time someone in the street asks you who you are, you better damn well have a good story to tell. But how do you know where to get started as you figure out your answer?

Start With You

Whether you own a small business or you're simply freelancing under your own name, your brand story starts with you. This comes down to figuring out your goals, your dreams, your passions, and your vision for how you intend to make the world a better place.

I know, it all sounds a little sparkly and abstract. I get it. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Identify Your Passion

You're here for a reason, right? Ask yourself: What got you here? What brings you the most excitement and passion for your industry and your job? For example, are you passionate about providing businesses with brand identities that allow them to grow to the next level? Or do you just love providing couples with photographs of their special day?

Identify what it is that brought you here in the first place and find ways to incorporate that in your daily routine. This way, you remind yourself that you're here for a reason. The icing on the cake will be that your business will thrive under the passion you give it under your inspiration.

Define Your Values

Okay, this part is going to take a little bit of work and a whole lot of self-reflecting. Are you ready?

Your values make up the true core of who you are and how you act both as a person and as a business. They should guide every decision you make and act as a road map that keeps you on course.

Figuring out your values takes some time and is one of those things that should not be rushed. Set aside an hour, maybe even two, to sit down and reflect. If it helps, download a list of values off the Internet and set them in front of you as inspiration.

I personally used the list included in the new Being Boss book by Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon.

With the book open wide, I sat and read through the list of values. Each one I read that sounded like me, I wrote down on a piece of paper. No second thoughts. No "I should be this." If it didn't resonate with me as soon as I read it - if I had to second-guess myself, I didn't write it down.

Once I was finished, I ended up with a list of about 20 different values. It was way too much - my goal was to narrow them down to about six. I went through and crossed out anything that was similar (think "creativity" and "inspiration") to me.

After I crossed some out, I had about 15 left. I closed by eyes and meditated for a couple of minutes on the others. I thought about what was important to me, what I considered to be a measurement of success, and what I wanted to incorporate in my life every single day.

I finished my meditation and opened my eyes, studying my list again. Suddenly, it all became clear. I circled six values that I knew were the core of who I am and what I want to provide women-owned businesses.

My final list includes:

  • Independence – The only sure thing you can count on is yourself. Self-reliance gives you the control to make your own life and tell your own story; no one else’s.

  • Creativity – Without creativity, there would be nothing in this world. Everything has been created by someone, and everyone is inherently creative. Those who have made creativity their business must nurture and protect it.

  • Ambition – Leaders, by nature, are ambitious. Ambition is the root of all actions and is the primary source of energy that will get us from where we are to where we want to be in life.

  • Integrity – Businesses and brands who act without integrity will not last much longer throughout upcoming generations. Honest business practices and authentic interactions are key to building lasting relationships and a thriving community.

  • Meaning – This is our reason for getting up every morning, putting on our big girl pants, and doing what we do. Finding meaningful work will not only leave you feeling satisfied but will also leave a lasting impression on those affected by it.

  • Community – It’s the people around you who will provide the opportunities, connections, and collaboration to be successful. A thriving community will not only build you up, but also support you when you fall.

Now it's your turn. Buy the Being Boss book, download a list off the Internet, or simply meditate on your own values. Write them down and explain what they mean to you.

Once you've defined your values, keep them close by and refer to them before you make any decision. This will ensure you live your life as true to these as possible.

Determine Your Goals

Once you've identified five or six of your values, it's time to dive deep into your goals. What do you want people to take away from interacting with you? When clients look back three months from now, what sort of feeling do you want them to have?

Take a moment with me and reflect on the first memory that comes to mind. What do you feel? Nostalgia? A desire to go back and re-animate the feeling of that moment? Or do you feel dread or embarrassment?

A well-established story will leave your clients with a feeling that will let it grow wings of its own. Determine what you want those wings to look like - how you want people to feel about your brand and the story you told them.

By now, you should have a basic understanding of what you want your customers to feel. But what about you? What does success look like to you?

Get real specific about exactly what it looks like - no "I want a big house and even bigger heels." I heard an interview on a podcast where a woman described her idea of success as being interviewed by Oprah.

Guess what? She succeeded.

Keep your idea of success close to where you display your core values. These should always be within easy reach so that they're top of mind as you work towards your goals.

Think About Your Audience

You've done all the research, figured out your goals, determined your core values, and have a basic understanding of what you want customers to take away from working with you. Now it's time to understand who your audience is.

Who's Your Customer?

Depending on how long you've been in business, you may already have this mapped out. In that case, feel free to keep scrolling. If not, you've got a little more work to do before you can tell your story.

When you're mapping out your target market, you need to consider:

  • Demographics such as age, gender, ethnicity, education, household income, employment status
  • Psychographics such as lifestyle, personality, beliefs, interests

If you're a business-to-consumer (B2C) company, you can stop there. If you're a business-to-business (B2B) company, you may want to consider other things such as industry, market size, and demand.

Got all that down? Great! The next step is to put together a sample target customer profile for each ideal customer. This is a fictitious person, based on your research and answers from the target market, who would resemble your daily and/or ideal customer.

For example, a very basic target customer profile would sound like:

“Betty is a 37 year-old single mother of an 11 year-old child living in Portland, Oregon. She is very active in her community and owns a small fashion boutique that she’s had for six years. She works six days a week, but on Sundays, when her store is closed, she likes to go on day trips with her son. Her household income is around $60K and because she doesn’t have much disposable income, she’s always on the look out for a good deal.”

To help you visualize your target persona, it helps to have an image and a catchy name. For example, you could call this persona "Boutique Betty" and have an image of a woman behind a retail counter.

I personally like to illustrate my target personas with a little custom avatar. Here's an example of a couple I put together for a client:

target-personas-brand-story.png

If any of this seems overwhelming or you'd like someone to brainstorm with, let's talk! We can schedule a free one-hour consultation/brainstorming session where we can hash out your ideas, talk about your marketing strategy, and find ways for you to better connect with your audience.