Building Your Brand’s Foundation

May 9, 2016

Not everyone goes into business because they love running a business. Entrepreneurs I know have started their own companies because they love cooking, enjoy teaching people about nutrition, like building online communities, or had a life-changing experience. I receive multiple calls every day from people who have a business idea they want to birth from a passion they have. I love to hear their stories of how they arrived at their sketch on the napkin because it’s in the backstory where the business plan begins. Some calls come from people who already have established businesses, but they are in a growth or transition stage and need some guidance to scale. Whatever your stage of business, the foundational process is invaluable.

The “work” is the foundation of every process. Imagine you are building a house. You wouldn’t jump right to putting on a roof if you didn’t have walls to hold it up. You wouldn’t put up those walls without a foundation to hold them in place, since the foundation is the stability of the structure. The foundation also has to support the entire weight of the building and everything that’s inside it. A small building needs a small foundation, but a big building needs a larger foundation. The stronger the foundation, the taller the structure can be. If you have a weak foundation, the structure is vulnerable to instability, which could cause it to fall down or topple onto itself. One of the most famous examples of this metaphor is the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. It was built on a weak foundation (only three meters thick) and, as a result, has been leaning an additional .05 inches per year.(Having spent almost two decades associated with the home building industry, going to Italy to walk through that tower is definitely on my bucket list.) That being said, the tower is unstable and could fall over at any time for a variety of reasons. Only time will tell. As much positive attention as the Leaning Tower of Pisa gets, you don’t want your business to be known for the fact that it could collapse at any moment; you need a strong foundation if you want it to pass the tests of time because, as your business grows and evolves, there will be plenty of metaphorical high winds and unstable ground trying to knock your business over.

Those who avoid the foundational “work” will pay for it as it rears its ugly head down the road in the form of re-work. I know this because I see it happening every day.

It’s helpful to think of the “work” or planning in four stages. First, you’ll define your mission and your brand message. The second step is to assess the industry, your place in it, and who your customers and competitors are. Third, how you are different and why your customer cares is covered in the differentiation stage. And finally, you’ll focus on setting your goals and objectives so all the work you’ve done doesn’t stop cold. With all four, you’ll have a plan to carry your business forward.

Foundation 1Business moves fast; sometimes it moves so quickly there is little time to think, let alone define what and why we do what we do. We simply do. Taking the time to define your business mission and brand has benefits that will compel you to slow down and take the time to define your purpose. The reason this is so important is if you don’t have a clear understanding of what you do, you can’t expect your customer to understand. To begin, let’s take a peek at some of the benefits of a mission statement.

A mission statement:

  • Spells out a company’s “reason for existing” for both internal stakeholders and customers
  • Allows you to thoughtfully articulate the value you provide to a select target market
  • Guides decision-making and strategy so you’re not trying to do everything at once.

I find the best mission statements don’t exceed a few sentences. The goal is to encapsulate what you do, how you do it, who you do it for, and the value you bring—all in one succinct statement.

Foundation 2

Once you’re solid on your mission statement, you need to turn it into a value proposition (or a unique selling proposition) which gets communicated outwardly to your target audience.

The ideal value proposition uses words and phrases that resonate with your customer and answer the question of  “What’s in it for them?” It needs to speak their language, address their pain, and provide a solution.

A value proposition allows you to express three things:

  1. How your business solves your customer’s problems (relevancy)
  2. What your specific benefits (specific values) are
  3. Why your ideal customer should buy from you and not your competitor.

Foundation 3

If you’re thinking you don’t have the time to figure this all out—and again, I’ve been there—I’m telling you there isn’t time not to do it. Don’t be the building ready to topple over at any moment. Don’t be the business owner who says, “I wish I had done it sooner.” Bite the bullet. I promise you it won’t hurt as bad as you think and the results will be well worth it.