Passion plus purpose equals profits

A fundamental advantage that small business owners have when it comes to brand is that they are so close to their customers. Usually, they started the business because of a personal passion or because they themselves felt a need and strived to fulfill it in the market. DRY Soda, a natural soda company, started out when the founder tried to find healthy, natural yet sophisticated beverages to have at a nice restaurant or a cocktail party.  Baby Legs, which provides signature stylish leg warmers for babies and toddlers, was founded by a young mom who needed to expose her baby’s diaper rash to fresh air while still keeping her daughter warm. These leg warmers protected her from the elements, made diaper changing and potty training easier, and protected her soft knees while crawling.

I had the amazing opportunity to facilitate a brand workshop for a tech company who is trying to clarify their messaging, build brand recognition and generally change the game in their industry. Exciting stuff. We clarified and gained consensus on what business they are truly in, who their ideal customers are, and what persona the company can authentically present to the world.  But all of this was just ‘business speak’.

Finally, in the early afternoon, I tossed my papers aside and challenged the CEO and others, “Let’s back up a second: What is the mission of this company? What greater impact do you hope your software and solutions have on the world?” The CEO didn’t even need a moment to think before articulating his passion about helping match candidates to employers, which leads to more jobs and thriving businesses, which leads to healthy economies – but on a personal level, finding the right job enables people to “send their kids to college” and make their lives’ dream come true.

The room came alive. Everyone from the CFO to the HR Director to the sales directors gave their own spin on this mission and what gets them out of bed in the morning. I pointed out, “See how the energy in this room just changed? This is the spark that will separate you from the pack, inspire businesses to partner with you, inspire talented employees to work for you, attract customers to do business with you. This is the essence of what you guys are all about.”

If you create an authentic brand in pursuit of a higher purpose, you can connect to people as ‘people’ – not just employees, customers or partners. And this will gain you loyalty, attraction and revenue beyond your wildest dreams. It doesn’t matter if you are a ‘solopreneur’ or a 10,000 person company. And only if this mission is authentically lived out through everything your company says and does will it be embraced and believed – you cannot simply ‘slap a coat of brand paint’ on your business with the transparent singular goal of more profits.  If you start with the right intentions and a true passion that is executed clearly and consistently, trust me: the money will follow.

Does anyone really care about “brand?”

No matter how many heads I get nodding about the importance of brand or how many people “get it,” I still feel like brand strategy is the “nice-to-have” while people get on with the business of selling products and services. And really, how can I fault a company that is successful in spite of itself? Many companies know they need to sit down and map out their brand strategy, but few make it a priority. Donald Trump knows he has a bad haircut but he could care less – he’s still a bazillionaire.

When I wrote Branding Basics for Small Business, I tried to put in all my stories and experiences over the years of many of those battles and successes.  But at the end of the day, if a company blows out it’s sales number each and every quarter, does anyone really care if the company stands for something, has a clear message or a differentiated personality? Do the shareholders really mind that one person thinks the company does this, but another person thinks the company does something completely different? Do they care that the firm is touting one message, look and feel on their website but look like a completely different company when you see their ads? Do they mind that the firm touts customer service above all else, but the infrastructure and processes are not set up to deliver?

Do they care as long as the company keeps making money?

The analytical part of me says, “You can’t argue with success, so they must be doing something right. Their customers obviously want the product.” The brand strategist in me, though, says, “That has to be short-lived. Something outside of their control is causing the success and whenever it stops, they will not know what to do as they will not have a strong brand to fall back on.” I also think to myself that this is the reason there is such commercial clutter out there in the marketplace: companies that don’t care enough about their brand or messages are just throwing things out into the world to see what sticks. They figure, “As long as we hit the mark 10 times out of 100, that is okay with us because those 10 times will make our numbers for the year.”

That is the difference between quantity and quality. And I for one would rather live in a world full of quality. One where 2 messages are enough to get a target customer to act versus 5-7.  Think about that. If every company knew their brand and their target audience so well and could laser-focus their marketing efforts, what a more streamlined, quieter world this would be. How much more relevant to their particular target audience would they be? And how much less noise would the rest of us have to hear?

Enjoy the silence for a moment. At least in your own imagination.

Seth Godin wrote a post today about structuring your day around 5 hours of work instead of 8 or 10 and seeing how much more effective you could be. I love that idea. Sometimes more is just…well, more. Not better, not more relevant, not more productive. Just more.