5 steps to building a brand people want

"In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action." Michael Angelo

Michael Angelo’s “David” – photo by D H Wright

Michael Angelo once said: “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.

Many entrepreneurs have a similar vision. They see the opportunity where others don’t. Like a sculptor, they are willing to chip away obstacles to bring their idea to life.

Here are 5 steps to turning that brand vision into a brand that people want:

  • Know what you are making – Just like Michael Angelo knew what to chip away at in order to reveal the sculpture, you need to know what you are building and why. Go beyond features and benefits and get to the heart of what your brand stands for. Simon Sinek’s TED presentation does an excellent job of explaining why you’ll want to start with answering the question “why.”
  • Know who you’re making it for – Sculptures aren’t for everyone. And that’s okay. Just like an artist recognizes that s/he doesnt have to be all things to all people, so should you. Once you’ve decided why your brand exists, identify the people you want your brand to connect with. Look at their demographics, psychographics and culturegraphics. Identify the size of your potential market and uncover actionable insights about what makes them tick. Doing so will help you craft the messages you need to deliver to cut through the clutter.
  • Use the right tools – Be it sculpting, woodworking, branding or marketing, there are always more tools and communications channels than you likely need to get the job done. Figure out what channels make the most sense to reach your audience. Then coordinate the use of those channels – email, social media networking sites, direct mail, etc.  Like the authors of “Marketing in the Round” explain, sync all messaging, strategies, and tactics and optimize every medium and platform to deliver the right targeted messages in an integrated manner.
  • Converse – Like great art, building a brand is about creating a conversation between the brand and a community. Using media channels to simply disseminate information is only one-way. Use your brand to elicit discussion about what matters to your audience. Create shareable content, respond to questions, provoke discussion, and listen.
  • Find out if they like it and what they like about it – The only way we’ll know if we’re delivering something that the people we care about actually want is if we observe and ask. Identify your key performance indicators for your business and for your communications efforts. Set benchmarks and then actively engage in the analytics. Google evangelist Avinash Kaushik suggests 4 social media metrics that will get you thinking about what you need to measure, and why.

There’s only one Michael Angelo. But then again, there’s also only one you. Use these steps to bring your vision to life and build a brand that people want.

If you have any other suggestions, please chime in!

3 things cities can teach businesses

By 2030, an unprecedented 60 percent of the world’s population, or 5 billion people, will be living in cities.

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McKinsey & Company’s new report, “How to make a great city,” notes that urban areas around the world are at a crossroads, with their leaders needing to make strategic decisions that will impact their city’s and people’s long-term well being.

City leaders who 1) achieve smart growth, 2) do more with less and 3) win support for change put their cities in a position to improve and become great. So what can the heads of the more than 27.9 million small businesses in the US learn from city leaders in order to build great businesses?

Achieve smart growth: Smart growth identifies and nurtures the very best opportunities for growth.”

Part of a business’ SWOT analysis looks at opportunities that a firm can capitalize on. While the opportunities include variables beyond a firm’s control, creating the right environment within an organization to take advantage of a break when it’s at hand can be the difference between jumping ahead of the game (even creating the game), or playing catch up. Google’s 20% time encourages staff to follow up on ideas that don’t fall under a person’s typical scope of work. Leaders that create an environment that values people looking into maverick ideas as part of their day-to-day workload, position the company to better see new chances for growth and adding value to customers.

Several years ago Roni and Ken Di Lullo noticed their dog squint during a visit to a park which led them to wonder whether they could do something about it. The result: “Doggles” – the first of its kind company that makes goggles for dogs. From starting out by modifying sports goggles for her dog, to reaching out to eyeware manufactures to build prototypes for dogs, to quitting her job to focus 100% on the business, the Di Lullo’s have made the most out of their idea. By creating and delivering a product that pet-owners appreciate, they’ve carved out a niche for themselves, reaching $3 million in revenue in 2012.

Do more with less: “Great cities secure all revenues due.”

Cities that don’t effective collect taxes leave revenue on the table and run the risk of not being able to meet the needs of their citizens. Similarly, businesses that don’t manage customer/client relationships effectively run the risk of over-delivering and not getting paid for it.

Since all clients have limited resources, they want to make their dollars stretch and that often means that they will ask their service providers (advertising agencies, PR firms, consultants, etc.) to go above and beyond the original scope of the agreed upon plan. In many cases, this is fine if both parties are on the same page. However, business leaders must identify projects and customers that will be a good fit for the company, ensuring on the B2B side that there’s limited project scope creep with clients. Otherwise, the service provider can suffer from people being stretched to thin, other clients feeling neglected and team morale sinking.

Win support for change: Successful city leaders build a high-performing team of civil servants, create a working environment where all employees are accountable for their actions.”

Like all great cities, a company’s strength stems from its people. Business leaders need to identify and put the right people in the right places so that they can thrive, and in turn, build and sustain a healthy company.

Start with culture. Shawn Parr, the Guvner & CEO of innovation and design consultancy Bulldog Drummond, explains in the Fast Company article Culture eats strategy for lunch, that culture is the “balanced blend of human psychology, attitudes, actions, and beliefs that combined create either pleasure or pain, serious momentum or miserable stagnation.” Look first for the people who will fit the culture of the organization and avoiding the “expert” just because s/he is the expert. By finding people who fit the culture of the company, there’s likely a better chance to build a high performing collaborative team focused on the same objectives.

Businesses that can learn from great cities will be on their way to smart and sustainable growth, and potentially, greatness too.