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Why you're never too small to have a brand

If you have competitors and you take money for your products or services, then you are a brand.

But lots of the pub and food brands that we work with say that they are not a brand. They say "we're not big enough" or "we don't have the money for that" or "we can't afford to act like a brand".

But if a small business is your brand (or at least a brand that you look after), then you have as much right to define and promote it as the next company.

The word brand can have expensive connotations as it is usually closely followed by the word agency, communications or the c-word … consultant.

But with some time and the right structure, you can develop your brand yourself and beat your immediate competitors.

I coach and mentor pub groups on this very subject and I try to get across that the process of defining your brand and acting like one can be extremely simple. And it applies to businesses of all types and sizes. What you are searching for is your brand DNA.

How to find your brand DNA

Start by choosing four people from your team, ideally those from different departments, with different levels of seniority and length of service. Choose a facilitator and set aside time to have some in-depth conversations.

The questions that the group must answer are:

1. What are you?

Describe your business as if you were describing it to your grandmother. No corporate jargon and no waffle. A pub yes, but what kind of pub?

2. Who is your target customer?

If you could only have one type of customer for the rest of your business life, who would that be?

3. Why would this customer use you?

Think of all of the possible reasons why customers would use your product or service. List as many as possible, and have a vote on the main reasons.

4. What are your competitors' advantages?

Take three competitors that are keeping you awake at night. Ask members of your team to pretend that they are in charge of those companies and list all the reasons why they are better than your company – be honest, brutal and factual. You then have the chance at the end of each presentation to say why you are better than the competitor. Four or five unique selling points or competitive advantages should be clear after this exercise.

5. What's your brand personality?

Take a range of recent magazines (travel, music, gossip, home, food, photography, sport). Pass these out to the group and ask them to find one picture each that encapsulates the personality of your company. Ask people to present their pictures, and words that describe them, to the group. Write up the main personality words and then narrow all the collated words down to four that describe your brand.

6. What's your tone of voice?

Once you have agreed on your brand personality keywords, select supporting words for the main brand personality words. For example, if brave is one of your main brand personality words, it could mean that pioneering, confident and spirited are good supporting words for your tone of voice. This is then how you sound on all communications, from your website to social media posts.

Create your brand DNA statement

Now pull all of the answers together. Start with a positioning statement such as: "Our role in the life of our customer is …". A generic example could be: "Our role in the life of our customers is to serve a curated range of craft beers and ales, fine wines and high end seasonal dishes using fresh, local ingredients in a warm and friendly environment."

Then weave in what you do, who the customer is, their motivation and how you do it. This should be a tight paragraph that has no waffle in it. It will be packed full of everything that you have discovered over the session.

Finally, take your brand DNA statement and sum it up in two words. Think of this as a shorthand version of your longer brand DNA statement, for everyone in your business to keep in mind at all times.

I would thoroughly recommend spending £14.99 on your brand by buying Winning in Your Own Way by Robert Bean - this will talk you through the importance of brand and how to go about acting like one.

Copyright © 2016 Mark McCulloch, founder and ceo of WE ARE Spectacular.

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