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There are lots of different reasons cited for going into business.
More time. More money. More autonomy. More control. The opportunity to be more authentic. And whilst those that run established businesses right now may smile wryly if any of these things are cited by prestart or very early start businesswomen and men (one rarely gets any and rarer still – all – of these things), it is a fact that some may actually achieve them.
But there are other things that business founders and business leaders can achieve, over and above a potential increase in time, money, autonomy, control and authenticity.
There is the opportunity for them to actually say something.
Let’s pause to ponder this for a moment. Because we need to define exactly what this ‘say something’ suggestion means. But before we do, if you are a business owner or an aspiring business owner, grab a pen, grab a piece of paper, and ask yourself this question. Ask yourself, what do you want your business to actually say? Scribble that down now if you can. Before you read on.
OK, now that you have the thing you want your business to say written down, here are four rules to help to check whether what you want your business to say is any good.
First, is what you want your business to say simple? The simpler it is, the more easily it is to remember. And the more easily it is to remember, the more it will be passed on virally – for free.
Second, who does what you are saying matter to? Why does it matter to them? Or in other words, what problem are you solving? And how do you know that this problem exists? Then, of course, you need to ask whether you are sure you are targeting and speaking directly to these people, storytelling how you enhance their lives in the way that your research has identified that they want it enhancing.
Third, can (and does) your business say this one precise thing over and over and over again – consistently and interestingly? So that your target experiences your obsessiveness towards the change you want to make, but in such a way that holds their attention.
Fourth, finally and most importantly, this thing you say that is simple, targeted and consistent – if someone heard it in isolation from seeing your logo and knowing who you are, would they still know it was you? Or would this thing you say just sound like people like you? What is really being asked here is, do you own what you are saying?
And that’s that. It is better if you can make whatever your business has to say simple, targeted, consistent and owned. You can now nip back to what you wrote a moment ago to check. But why is all this important?
Brands Versus Businesses
Considering these things and honing these things is not essential to having a business or to even having a successful business. But they are important if you want an optimised business. A business that has the best chance of approaching and maybe even achieving its true potential.
If what your business has to say is not simple, clear, memorable, and really easy to recommunicate then you are sub-optimal. If what your business has to say is not written in the best way for, and communicated using the most appropriate channels for, your targeted audiences, then you are sub-optimal. If you forget or get bored with what your own business has to say, so you keep shifting the core message, as opposed to how you actually say it, then you are sub-optimal. And if what you say is not immediately recognisable as being uniquely you, without your business name or logo being revealed, then you are sub-optimal.
Most of what you read on this subject will, either overtly or in a round-about way, will be exploring the difference between businesses and brands. Both businesses and brands are driven to make profit of course. But whereas all brands are businesses, not all businesses are brands.
Some businesses are driven almost exclusively by sales. They focus largely on the short term; they don’t say anything particularly compelling or memorable and they don’t stand for anything distinct. This is fine of course, but because they are not saying this thing that is simple, relevant, consistently communicated and owned, they can’t become a brand. Brands are famous for what they and only they do. Non-brands are generally also-rans in their category, doing what others do and competing on, say, price. They can all have their time in the sun, but brands are stronger.
But what does stronger mean? Why is it better to choose to say something as opposed to simply chasing sales? Why is it better to be a brand than just a business?
Well, one of the ways that brands generally beat businesses is that they spend far less time and money explaining why they are different and better. Because they decide such things at day one then keep repeating the claim or the promise again and again. This means that more of the right people hear it and remember it (assuming they target properly and achieve the necessary reach to grow), so marketing spend is lower overall, and the brand makes more profit. A business’s messaging (as opposed to a brands messaging) is always different. It keeps changing. So nothing snowballs. So marketing spend for businesses almost always has to be higher as a proportion of turnover because every campaign feels like starting again.
And there are side issues that make brands stronger than businesses too. All leading from these principles. One example is that the more consistently you communicate, the more trustworthy your messaging is perceived to be. And that makes your brand appear more trustworthy too. Because beliefs don’t change. Beliefs make us what we are. If your core messaging keeps changing, who knows what you really believe?
This all might sound complex. But it isn’t. Saying something genuinely unique, simple, targeted for and to your audience, consistently is not complex at all. Finding exactly what to say then staying on point – that’s the tricky part.
And the last thing to say on this subject, something that might just help you with the tricky part, is to remember authenticity. If you really do want to be a brand as we’ve defined here, make sure that the ideas you explore feel right – for you. Make sure they match your values. Make sure that you will enjoy being this brand and bringing this brand to life. And make sure that you can tell the brand story so convincingly that people will want to join you as you grow.
You will almost certainly need people in order to grow. And one of the best ways to attract them is to say something that future team members can relate to. Get them to understand the simple, targeted, consistent and unique thing you have to say, help them to work out if they believe what you believe – and away you go.