We talk a lot in marketing about the importance of understanding your customer’s needs. There’s a lot of truth in the old saying “know your customer”, but today I want to talk about the importance of understanding ourselves. In this post, we will explore why it is so important to have a deep and profound understanding of ourselves. I will also talk about why this has to be one of the first things you when putting together a marketing strategy. Finally, I am going to go back to basics and touch three key areas that will help us understand ourselves as a business.
Not having a clear understanding of ourselves is not something that is exclusive to new businesses or people putting together a marketing strategy either. Experience has shown me, that all too often companies can lose touch with who they are and what they stand for. Sometimes they even forget their ‘why’ – If you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s, Start with Why, it’s a great read.
Why the self-obsession?
As a brand, it is so important to create your own identity, something that makes you stand out from the crowd. Regardless of what you do the rules are the same. Be yourself, shout about what you believe in, and your tribe will follow.
If we lose our identity, we run the risk of trying to be something we’re not, and for businesses, this can have many adverse effects. Customers can become confused with conflicting brand messages. Staff can also become confused, with the net result ending in the company veering way off course and moving away from, rather than towards their goals.
Why us first and not our customers? Surely they’re more important?
In my framework for developing a marketing strategy, this is one of the very first things I look at, and the reason is simple, If we start by looking at our customers, we end up crafting our brand identity around what we think our customers want us to look like. We then try to be something we are not, and we all know how that ends. It’s false, and people can see right through it.
By taking a look at ourselves first, we can be ourselves, advocate the things that are true to ourselves and be genuine. Also, it put’s us in a place where we know where are starting from; something that is integral to all aspects of marketing.
OK, that’s probably enough of the ‘why’, let’s find out what you’re about!
Before we go on, I want to clarify, this is not a soul is not a ‘soul searching’ exercise, we’re just trying to get some clear definition. For me, there are two fundamental areas that we need to explore, our core values and our identity. Let’s take a look at these individually.
We all have values, and we try to live our lives by those values. Our business should be no different.
We all have our favourite brands. If we take a moment to think about those brands and what they stand for, we will start to see the reasons why we are attracted to those brands. At this point, we really need to drill down and identify the things that are true to your business.
If we are clear about our values and relay those values through our identity, we will naturally attract customers whose values are in line with ours. Moreover, these customers will be so in tune with your values; they will become your brand champions. How many Apple brand advocates do you know? Telling you how great their new iPhone is – You may be one yourself. Yes, the technology is great, but the key driver behind this is because Apple have nailed their values and this shines through with their brand identity. Start with why, the book I mentioned above, goes into this in much more depth and uses Apple as an example. There’s a reason why they are the richest company in the world.
Try just sitting down and for a few minutes and listing the things that are important to you as an organisation. They may include things like integrity, sustainability or a fair deal for suppliers! Whatever comes to mind is probably something that is true to you, so jot it down and see how many you can come up with.
Right, let’s try and narrow that list down a bit and pick out the ones that stick out and resonate with you. Although there is no right or wrong number, I’d aim for around 3-5; otherwise, your values will turn into a mission statement!
Once we have our brand values, we need to take a hard look in the proverbial mirror and ask ourselves “Does my branding and brand messages truly represent my values?”. It may be good to ask a colleague, friend, family member, or best of all, a customer, for some feedback here. Ask them to look at your website and marketing material objectively and ask does your company voice hold true to your values? It is sometimes hard to get messages across in branding, so your ‘about us’ page is the place to talk about what is important to you.
If you have a brand guideline document, then now is a great time take a look at this. Your values should shine through here as this is your bible for anyone representing your brand. Your brand guidelines ‘are’ your identity!
Now you’ve identified your values and know exactly what you stand for as a brand; you can now start to take a look at your customers. You can enter this next phase safe in the knowledge that regardless of what you learn about your customers, your business is based around solid fundamentals that are important to you. You may even discover that your current customer base is not actually in line with your values or your identity, in which case you then have a whole host of questions to be asking yourself, but don’t worry we will come to that.
The one big take away from this post always remembers the importance of being yourself and not somebody else. Only then can you create your identity and live your [business] life by your values.