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The answers fall into place when you ask the right questions


©Somewhere Else
What’s the difference between a brand and a business? One of these enjoys more longevity scalability, and loyalty than the other.

A business is a transactional: Customers pay you, and in return, you provide them goods and services. A brand is an emotional relationship with your audience. If you have a brand, people choose you over your competitors for reasons other than price, convenience, quality. Maybe you share the same philosophies, belong to the same communities, or you just constantly delight them with thoughtful actions. A business exists only within the transaction, while a brand can have an effect on lifestyle, beliefs, and choices.

Successful brands are built the same way as healthy relationships, through understanding and communication. A business can become a brand with the help of some empathy, clarity, and deliberate action. To reframe your business as a brand, try reimagining what you do in the following terms!

(This exercise can be done alone, but it’s helpful to have someone you trust read you the
prompts and encourage your thought process. For partnerships and teams, we recommend
answering the questions individually, and sharing answers afterwards. This will help you identify where you might not be on the same page, or opportunities where a team member has seen something you’ve missed.)

1) Understanding Yourself (Past, Present, and Future)

1-1)  Past: Why did I start this particular business?
(Answers that are NOT ALLOWED: I want to make money, provide for my family

Most likely, you saw a problem that people were having, or identified a gap in
services, and stepped in to solve that problem. Maybe you had a product you
were genuinely excited about, and wanted to share it. Perhaps it evolved from a
hobby that you enjoy, or a skill that you’ve mastered?

1-2)  Present: What do I like and dislike about my business’s current situation?
First, think about the wider social, economic, political context in which your
business operates. Try to notice trends that are currently impacting you, or could
impact you in the future. Note which trends are hopeful and which could be

Next, think about the internal dynamics of your business. Are there certain
aspects of operations or personnel that obviously help or harm the business?

1-3)  Future: Where do I see myself and my brand in an ideal world?Describe what your ideal situation looks like, and be specific! If there’s an
accolade you want to earn, name it. If there’s an achievement that’ll let you know
you’ve arrived, note it down!

2)Understanding Your Audience
Who is on the other side of this relationship?
Okay, you’ve answered some tough questions and gained some clarity about what kind
of journey you’re on. The next step involves asking good questions and listening well to

In our article WTF IS A PERSONA, we explained how
customer personas are made of Demographic, Psychographic, and Behavioral data.
Talking to your customers is the best way to get this information. It sounds scientific, but
customer research doesn’t always have to look like surveys and spreadsheets! It can be
as simple as having a chat with five of your regulars. Is there a specific segment you’d
like to break into? Reach out to some people who fit that description and get to know
them! Understanding what actual customers feel, think, and do in their daily lives can
make a huge difference!

When asking questions, keep it open-ended. Avoid yes/no questions, and definitely
avoid leading questions. If it helps, treat it like a first date! Good questions to ask may

2-1)  What do you think of the choices available to you in this area (insert your
product/service category)?

2-2)  Describe a time when you bought something without shopping around first

2-3)  Tell me about a brand, store, product, or service that you always recommend to

For more ideas on what kinds of questions you should be asking, check out WTF IS A

3)Understanding Your Promise
Now that you’ve got a clearer picture of the parties involved in this relationship, let’s talk
about the relationship itself. Your brand is the relationship between your business and
your audience.

People enter into relationships with certain expectations. Where your expectations and
your audience’s expectations overlap-- that’s where you can build a successful brand!

Ask yourself:

3-1)  How are my customers changed by my business?
We’re not saying every business needs to be out there saving lives (although that
would be nice). The smallest brush with your business is an opportunity to make
an impact. Maybe you provided a customer service experience that made their
day just a little better. Maybe you showed them something new and exciting.
Maybe you introduced them to an active community of like-minded people.
Describe the change in your customers’ lives before and after they encounter
your brand--did you meet, surpass, or fail their expectations?

Every brand will have a different answer to this question. That’s the point! The
uniqueness of what you offer is the reason people will choose you over your
competitors, even if they’re cheaper or more convenient. It’s also the answer to
that elusive question: What am I really selling?

3-2)  What do I offer outside the sales transaction?
In WHY BOTHER WITH BRANDING, we talked about how
customer expectations have changed, and why branding must change with them.
These days, it takes a lot more than pretty designs and a good discount to keep
people around.

Going back to our brand-as-relationship metaphor, the healthiest relationships
are those in which both parties grow together. If you’re not constantly finding new
and positive ways to relate to each other, the relationship gets stale pretty quick.

For brands, this means identifying and expanding on areas of shared interest
between your business and your customers. For example, R&D of your
product/service, environmental/social impact initiatives, enjoyable educational
events, or surprising and delightful collaborations. What non-transactional
activities are you sincerely excited about sharing with your customers?

4)Communicating It ClearlyCongratulations, the hard part’s over! If you’ve managed to tackle Steps 1-3 honestly
and earnestly, you’re probably exhausted, but more purposeful than before. Most
businesses skip straight to communications without a clear idea of WHAT they’re trying
to say, resulting in an insincere, ineffective brand.

Brand communication includes marketing, content, service, and even design. Every time
a person encounters your brand, whether in-person, online or through word-of-mouth, is
a chance for you to leave an impression.

Effective communication is a big topic--too big for one article! For now, let’s identify the

4-1)  Audience
Who are you speaking to?
This is where your customer interviews and customer personas come in handy.
Use what you’ve learned to build a well-rounded image of who you’re trying to
reach! What do they care about, and how do they like to be spoken to? If
necessary, do another round of interviews.

4-2)   Message
What are you trying to say?
If people only remember one thing from this interaction, what should it be? What
kind of feeling do you want them to leave with?

4-3)  Channel/Format
Where and how should this interaction take place?

Start thinking outside of your usual marketplaces (both online and offline).
Opportunities to make an impact are everywhere! Any time someone encounters
your brand, you have a chance to strengthen the relationship. Placing an ad on
Instagram is a basic move and you shouldn’t ignore it, but where else can you
design a targeted and genuine interaction that’s surprising, memorable, and free
from a thousand other competitors?

When you start thinking of your business as a relationship with individuals, you’re
brand-building. In rocky times, while purely transactional businesses may flounder and fail, a
brand built on emotional connection survives and even grows.

This kit contains DIY branding solutions, customisable to your pace and budget. Alternatively, request backup.
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