How to spring clean your brand, business (& life)

It’s that time of year again, when the trees bud, the air warms (at least if you’re not in Seattle) and we start to shed our winter cloaks in lieu of open-toed shoes and lighter fabrics. Freeing ourselves from the unwanted weight of heavy parkas and wool mittens feels pretty darn good.
And with that, we also crave shedding some of the crap in our lives with a healthy dose of spring cleaning.

Removing the clutter and streamlining our lives applies equally to our businesses and brands. When we’re lighter and unencumbered, we can better focus and stop clogging our time, brains and business with the things that don’t matter. So here’s a handy guide to how to perform such much needed spring cleaning on your business – but these can equally apply to your life:

Conduct an Audit
What really needs to stay or go? Has your menu of offerings turned into an endless buffet that only serves to confuse customers and distract your focus? Review your current business offerings and keep the ones making you money, while removing the deadwood of those that don’t. Why waste your time and your prospects’ attention on products or offerings that just take up space?

This audit can also apply to your brand. Which messages no longer serve your or your customer’s purpose? Does your website look stale and dated? Has your brand evolved beyond what your materials are currently saying about it? Set aside time and review everything your customers see with a keen eye, and get objective advice on how to clarify, update or tighten up your brand look, feel, message and differentiation.

Review your Partnerships
Sometimes we form business partnerships when it makes perfect sense but things change. Review your best referral sources, from where website traffic comes and perhaps even your affiliate partners. Run the numbers and the time spent and see if you’re getting the most out of these relationships. If there are relationships worth keeping, spend more attention making them really work for you. If they are not fruitful, release the deadwood and clear your mind, budget and schedule. You want to focus on fewer, more meaningful and higher quality partnerships that build you up, instead of sap your strength. PS: This exercise applies to networking groups and social media networks as well.

Clear the Clutter
Is your file system a disaster? Does your inbox overflow? Do you still have digital files from years ago that serve no purpose but to eat up storage space? Take a day to streamline and organize your systems to help make you more efficient in running your business. Consult with a personal organizer if you have trouble letting go. And speaking of systems, take a look at your business procedures and see where you can increase efficiency. Does billing clients take way too long? Do you spend too much time creating that monthly newsletter or managing your calendar? Document the tasks that are not a good use of your time and hire a virtual assistant or consult with an operations expert on how to manage your business better so you can spend more time being brilliant.

What “deadwood” is your business carrying around? What one thing will you do this spring to make your brand clearer, your load lighter and your business more efficient? Please share in the Comments.

View your brand from the outside in

How does this DaVinci quote relate to your brand?

“Every now and then go away and have a little relaxation. To remain constantly at work will diminish your judgment.Go some distance away because work will be in perspective and a lack of harmony is more readily seen.” (Leonardo DaVinci)

While I love this quote for its important lesson about balancing work and play (yes, talking to you, Mr. “Look how dedicated and important I am that I have not taken a vacation in 6 years” guy, which also translates to “I’m going to have a heart attack before I’m 50”), it’s directly related to your business and brand as well.

We are all so into our businesses. We know every little nook and cranny inside and out, and more importantly know our own intent and motivation within our own heads.  We often forget that customers or prospects interacting with us for the first time (or 2nd or 3rd…) don’t have all that “background reference.” We confuse them with meaningless acronyms and jargon that only we understand because we see it every day. We think we are explaining things well because WE know what we mean, but we’re not. Or we forget to communicate the basics because we take for granted that, “Everyone knows that.” Um, no, they don’t.

The Heath brothers, who wrote one of my fave books, Made to Stick, call this the “Curse of Knowledge.” This applies to brand because we forget to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and view ourselves from the outside in. We have too much info about our own brand and business and it blinds us. Do my visual elements – logo, color, website design – communicate what I really want to be saying, or have we fiddled with it so much over the years that it is now meaningless and generic?  Does my description of what I do make sense to someone who has no inkling about this industry?

Sometimes, the best gift I can give clients is one of objectivity. The less I know about them when we work together initially, the better. Within those first few days, I can give an honest assessment of what it’s like to read their messaging and see their brand with fresh eyes. And I can point out what their brand is actually communicating, despite their best intentions.

I urge you to find objective eyes to audit your brand and messaging every once in awhile and make sure you are on track.  Only when you have some time away from something or distance from the source can you see the forest for the trees and find the holes in the story.