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.

Does your space match your brand?

We’ve all experienced that horrible disconnect that happens when a shop or restaurant looks completely different on the inside than the image we got from their ads or messaging. Or what about when a business that you’ve built up in your mind as “sophisticated, classy and cutting-edge” is actually in a sad office park with what looks like Goodwill furniture and bad paneling on the walls?

Your office, store or place of business should reflect your brand promise and the traits you “sell” in your marketing. If you portray your business as playful, innovative and bold, then your offices where you greet clients better portray that. Whether it be through the furniture style, paint colors, artwork or even location, you need to map your brand to the experience customers will have interacting with your space. Many good ad and branding agencies actually have architectural and space planning services to carry the brand through to your location.

This is where folks that think brand is just a logo fall down. If brand is the entire package of reputation, experience and imagery I have in my head, then my experience and perception of the physical space matters. The devil is in the details, as they say.

Bare Escentuals, the mineral makeup company based in San Francisco, was just purchased by Japan’s Shiseido, a high-end makeup line sold in department stores. The brands actually have common core values focused on natural beauty – but with slight variations. I read that if you visit Shiseido’s offices in Japan, you are “greeted by  3 receptionists in matching pink suits who stand up and bow ceremoniously whenever a guest appears. A small Zen garden with spherical plants sits on the executive floor.” They have a very strong image they want to convey that is consistent with the natural beauty and polished sophistication of their brand. Bare Escentuals’ offices in San Franc are more or an organic “mess” according the founder, in line with their natural, carefree beauty brand – people running around in jeans, that sort of thing.

Botom line, if your space welcomes the public (I”m not talking about home offices here, although you can make an argument that you might want to inject some brand elements into that if you can) is should remain consistent with your brand promise and image. Every customer touchpoint matters, especially interacting with your physical surroundings.