How much of yourself do you put into your brand? – Birds on the Blog

How much of yourself do you put into your brand?

As someone who’s been trained on brand development, has sat through Edward de Bono workshops and has helped other companies develop their brands, it’s taken me a long time to work out where I end and my company Wordville begins.

A brand represents what your company stands for, how you stand apart and the recognisable character that draws in customers and clients. I was trained that brand development always starts with the audience in mind. Who are we appealing to? What matters to them? And who is the competition for that much desired income? I’ve always said, ‘it doesn’t matter if I like the colour, the client has to like the colour’—but fifteen years into running my own business and I’m realising that you’ll probably find that the brand identity you like will appeal to your customers because, with all the best market research in the world, ‘people buy from people’.

When I first started Wordville I met one of my mentors for lunch. Armed with research, a mood board and enough marketing speak to have a ‘normal’ person reaching for a dictionary app, I sat down prepared to share the specifics of the brand I wanted to build.

My patient mentor listened to my speech about quality control, customer care, market insightfulness and then said his piece. ‘No, that’s not why people buy your services,’ he said. ‘People chose you because you are one of the most enthusiastic people they’ve ever met.’ I was horrified.  Enthusiasm is easy, anyone can knock out a little enthusiasm. What about all my cleverness that I was hoping to turn into a profitable consultancy business?

With a huff, I paid for lunch and sulked all the way home. But his words did sink in, and I thought that maybe he had a point. I couldn’t hide my high-energy, couldn’t pretend that the work I did didn’t matter. I came up with a new subliminal message that I drew upon for all business meetings going forward—‘no one, not even your mother, will care as much about your business as I do.’

I didn’t win every piece of business with this approach. Of course, not. Many found my drive off putting, even a little alarming, some found it annoyingly exhausting.  But I won the clients I deserved, the ones who wanted someone with my ‘bee in a bottle’ energy to work on their behalf. And I gathered up a group of people to work with me who wanted to come along for the ride. We aren’t all the same. I work with introverts and extroverts, talkers, writers, noisy performers and quiet thinkers. But what we all have in common is enthusiasm.

Is your brand you?  With the best will in the world, as a small business, it’s impossible to divide your own character from the character of the company, it’s even inauthentic.

You want to win clients that ‘get you’.  If you have to change your product or service too much to win new business, it’s highly likely that you’ll lose it before too long.  The process of working for someone who you have had to bend over backwards to get to sign a contract is demoralising. I’ve taken on a few clients that I shouldn’t have, trying to play the game when the revenue was too tempting. But it’s never worked that well.  They didn’t appreciate what we really had to offer, and we struggled to conform to what they expected of us.

I’m now in the book publishing business and the same holds true. I’m going to need to love a book to spend the huge amount of time it takes to get it ready for market. I’m going to need to take a financial risk too. And, as an author, you’re going to need to trust that I know what I’m doing and that I care as much as you do about your work. As Wordville grows, the books are more varied but there’s a clear pattern than runs through them all. Whether it’s a book about the theatre, rock ‘n’ roll, opera or a collection of love poetry, anyone picking up one of our publications should recognise it as part of a family. And this is underpinned by the enthusiasm Wordville has for the books we publish.

So if, like me, you’re reading through business strategy books and sitting on branding workshops and wondering how to make your own business unique let me give you a clue.  You are unique already.  Try that.

About the Author Lucy George

Lucy Tertia George is an entrepreneur, novelist and publisher based in central London. Lucy manages a team of highly experienced PR consultants, communications specialists and event strategists. Lucy has 20+ years’ experience in PR and marketing communications and five years’ experience in the media. Lucy has managed communication projects for global brands and worked in the UK and the US for BBC Television, Paramount Communications and MTV Networks.

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