In these extraordinary times, businesses across the globe are struggling to keep afloat. In the best case scenario, they have to learn how to operate with the vast majority of their employees working remotely, and in the worst case scenario they are forced to close operations all together.
While the future can look grim and frightening, there are steps that companies can take today to improve their chances of success tomorrow. Investing in developing and reinforcing their brand and positioning is one of them.
I have recently been asked what entrepreneurs could do to bootstrap their brand, and my response is two-fold:
A) Put your skills to use for good causes. If you can’t, or are limited in using your skills to make a profit, is there anything that you could do to use them to help your community?
These are tough times for everyone, and brands can make a real difference.
Famous brands have converted their production to make facial masks, hand sanitisers, and ventilators, and while small brands might not have the resources for such an investment, there are still things that smaller businesses can do.
For instance, if you are a restaurant and are still delivering, could you deliver free meals for the healthcare people who are working so hard to save lives? If you are a vet, could you devise a way to keep pets healthy when they are not allowed out? And, if you are an architect firm, could you devise a way for households with healthcare members to go back home after their shift safely without the risk of infecting their relatives?
None of the above ideas will generate large amounts of money (if any at all), but remember, people do take notice of how brands behave in these difficult times and will remember who took advantage and who instead lent a hand.
B) Take this time as an opportunity to work on your positioning.
In these extraordinary times, it would be normal to think that businesses should stop investing in growth and focus on limiting damage; however that might not be the most effective solution.
As previous financial crisis have shown, companies that keep investing in their business are not only more likely to get a head start once the situation improves, but they can actually beat recession.
The key element for any business success is the right positioning, but too often companies focus on features and assets and forget that their real differentiator relies on their brand. Why? Because branding gives your audience a clear sense of purpose and direction– a credible voice that people want to listen to.
Ultimately, it’s the brand that inspires trust and, especially in these uncertain times, businesses need to make sure that they build trust with their target audience.
Think of it this way: your brand is a superpower.
How to build it can be tricky and it does require time. However, as we are in a period of ‘slow work’ this is also the perfect opportunity to invest time in some strategic thinking about your brand.
These are a few key steps that you can undertake in this time of ‘slow work’:
1. Understand your audience, for real -> create a compelling brand that connects with your audience on an emotional level (emotions are stronger than logic) and remember that your audience is not just your ideal customer, but also your own employees, your suppliers, etc.
Key tactics: Online focus groups, surveys, interviews, feedback.
While you can’t organise face-to-face meetings at this stage, it will actually give people things to do if they need to take part in an online meeting, a survey or similar. Be smart about what rewards you offer, something that can make this time less stressful could be really appreciated.
2. Market analysis -> Deep dive into primary and secondary market research. Study what your competitors do, analyse gaps in the market, look for new and uncovered opportunities. Do some soul searching, too. What are your weaknesses? What are your unique strengths? Also consider the threat of substitution and power of influence that your target audience have.
Key Tactics: SWOT analysis, PESTEL analysis, PORTER 5 FORCES
3. Define your Brand Positioning -> create a clear roadmap. It needs to include:
Value proposition (WHO you are – as a company)
Purpose (WHY your company exists – think of the difference with your competitors, you probably offer a similar product/service, but your purpose can be vastly different.)
Vision (WHAT you want to achieve – should be inspirational and aspirational)
Mission (HOW you get there)
Values (that influence every action, they must be lived and breathed through every part of the business, from you, your employees and any other key stakeholders.)
Essence (what makes you unique)
Personality (to influence your visual identity and tone of voice)
-> At the end of this exercise, your staff as well as customers should be able to clearly summarise what your company stands for <- Key tactics: brand mood boards, interactive live surveys, world cloud creations etc. 4. Embedding -> Ensuring that your brand lives in every aspects of your business
Take an honest and deep look at how your brand is brought to life through:
Look and feel -> visual identity
Tone of voice -> any aspects of your communication strategy
Employer brand -> hiring, managing, rewarding staff based on what your brand stands for
Customer experience -> Delivering your brand promise, at every touch point
Technology -> User experience first
Key tactics -> engage all levels of your organisation. Ask them to invest their newfound time to share their ideas, suggestions and criticism too. Consider creating an anonymous suggestion box.
5. Leverage your brand -> A strong brand creates focus. It’s like a North Star that helps leaders cajole their teams towards a common and shared goal. Particularly in these times, focusing your people around a common purpose can be extremely effective to ensure that they stay positive and continue to work at the best of their abilities despite the challenges imposed by the Coronavirus. The benefit won’t only be for your brand but for your people too.
Key tactics: organise online townhalls, ask your people to create and share videos and posts of what your brand means to them (they can be fun!), and reach out to them in a personal and genuine way (digitally though).
Ultimately, these are challenging times. Yet, businesses can come out of this stronger and better than before by taking positive advantage of ‘slow work’ and investing in creative thinking.
KnowThyBrand has always believed in the importance of giving back to the community, from offering free services to young entrepreneurs to signing up for good causes. Today, more than ever, we want to make our expertise available for use by other businesses. This is why, from next week onwards, we are going to share free masterclasses on all the five points above.
You can sign up for our newsletter to receive them in your inbox, but you don’t have to. The purpose of these classes is truly to help you, which is why they will be posted on social media for everybody to see.
Keep well and don’t lose hope, if you stay focused this period might turn up to only be a speed bump on your journey to entrepreneurial success.