Your Brand: Know It Before You Show It

The National Audubon Society launched this really rather effective public awareness video.

It got me thinking about the importance of branding to solopreneurs. Although most of us independent workers don’t endeavor to have the broad name recognition that Audubon Society needs to further its brand, we do need to build some level of public awareness to succeed.

Before I became a SCORE volunteer, I was a SCORE client. One of the first things I learned from my mentors about entrepreneurship is that you’ve got to know who you are before your target market can know you. In short, you need to know your value proposition – and be able to communicate it.

That sounds simple enough, but when you’re an entrepreneur with an un-tethered business idea, you can quite easily become a loose cannon and miss your mark.

Here are a few things to consider to get in touch with your brand:

  1. The features and benefits of your products and servicesFeatures and benefits are two separate things, but they are interrelated.
    1. Features – Physical traits, functional details. As an example – Wine in a box: Features = Lower cost than bottled wine, unbreakable, takes less space during transport than equivalent quantities of bottled wine.
    2. Benefits – How will those features help your customers? Back to our boxed wine example: Benefits = More money to buy other things, easier to transport, better for the environment.
  2. What you do better than your competition – It goes without saying that you need to know who your competition is first (There’s no side-stepping competitive research!). What advantages do you have over your competitors? Price? Hours of operation? Quality? Level of Expertise?
  3. What your competition does better than you – Wider range of services? More experience? Better website? Along with your competitive strengths, you should also be realistic about your weaknesses. From there, you can figure out what tweaks you need to make to your offerings, operations or marketing efforts to put you in a better competitive position.
  4. Your business name – For some solopreneurs, it’s more effective to use your real name; for others, it’s best to create a fictional name that captures the essence of what your business offers. Don’t treat this consideration lightly – and don’t go about making the decision without getting input and feedback from others. Consult members of your target audience, friends, family, respected members of the business community and small business mentors [like those at SCORE or a Small Business Development Center (SBDC)] to test your ideas. And always be forward-thinking when contemplating your business name. Will it continue to reflect who you are and what you do next year, the year after and onward?
  5. Your 30-second Elevator Speech – After considering all of the above, create a short statement that spotlights and summarizes who you are, your business name, what you do and why someone should care about all that. You don’t have to memorize and recite it verbatim at every networking event or social encounter, but the elements of it should be ingrained in your brain so you consistently put your best business foot forward wherever you go.

Having shared all that, I should also tell you that solopreneurship is an evolutionary condition. You’ll likely find that as time goes by, you’ll need to adapt your products, services, operating procedures and marketing approaches to more effectively meet the needs of your market or rise above your competition – which might cause your brand to evolve as well. Challenging? Absolutely. But by incorporating the features of flexibility and open-mindedness into your brand, you’ll reap the benefits of loyal customers and longevity.

Has identifying a solid brand value proposition been difficult (or easy) for you and your business? Please share your own experience by commenting here.

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