Whenever I meet with a prospective client, I always ask them what their goals are for their new marketing activities.
99% of the time I get the answer I’m expecting: I want a stack of new leads.
Next, they usually talk about all the channels they think they should be using to get the leads (or, the ones they have been using that aren’t working).
But really, we’re putting the final coat of paint on the house before the foundation’s even set. There’s one huge step that needs to be completed first.
I call it a brand story, and it’s made up of five key components – business values, USP, value proposition, brand voice and key marketing messages.
(Side note: we also talk a lot about brand purpose – these are two different things. We’ll go into further detail on purpose in another article.)
What is a brand story?
It’s basically a five-point ‘self-discovery’ plan for businesses who haven’t looked in the mirror for a while. It tells anyone reading it who you are, what you stand for, what’s different about you, how you should sound in communication and what your key marketing messages are.
Pretty important, right?
The content we develop in partnership with our clients can’t exist without a solid brand story to inform it.
And you can’t pick a channel or assign a budget before going through this process – even if you think you know what your goals are.
At The Marketing Project, we stick by the research – planning – implementation mantra for developing the perfect marketing plan. The brand story is a huge part of the research and strategy phase. We take all new clients through this process step-by-step. It’s amazing what comes out – our clients always discover new things about their own businesses.
Let me take you through it.
Your brand story, step-by-step
1. Brand values
Any business leader should watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’. It’s a bit of a sacred text in the business world.
Simon’s idea is simple: people don’t buy what you do, they buy into why you do it.
Great leaders aren’t afraid to say what they think. To give a crap about changing the world (or at least their industry) for the better. Great brands are no different.
People buy from you because they like the journey you’re on and they want to ride shotgun. That’s why it’s so important to have your brand values nailed down.
2. Your USP
Finding your unique selling proposition can be a tricky one for some brands to identify. Not because they aren’t doing great, unique stuff, but because sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective.
Clients we work with are quick to cite aspects of the business that they think are unique, but often we find that it’s an aspect of the business that they hadn’t even given a second thought.
There are a million guides on Google to finding and articulating your USP. Some of them are good, and a lot of them aren’t (just like USPs). Or, you know, you could just talk to us.
3. Value proposition
So you’ve found your ‘why’ and your uniqueness – it’s all smooth sailing from here!
It’s time to do a value prop.
These can have a bad rap – often they’re the product of boardroom compromise, and say way too much without actually saying anything. Actually, this should be one of the most exciting parts.
Basically, this is ‘what’s in it for me?’ time for your audience.
Your value proposition should answer a few key things:
- What you offer;
- Who it’s for;
- How you solve your customers’ problems;
- What benefits you bring;
- And why you’re different (which you should already know from #2).
The good news is that once you come up with this, it’s going to get plenty of airtime. Your value prop, perhaps with a little editing, should be the first thing that people see on your website. It should be on the business cards. Hey, it should even be on the wall of your office.
Try creating your own – let me know how you go!
4. Brand voice
Think of your brand voice as a character that does all your talking for you. If you were going to have a mascot – your own Michelin Man – how would they talk? What would they say?
As you start to answer these questions you can put together your own brand voice.
This can be as simple as three words, e.g. ‘creative, mature and charming’ – a couple of guidelines – e.g. ‘we talk straightforwardly and don’t use technical jargon’ – or a 20-page document, depending on what kind of business you are and how much content you think you’ll be creating.
From our point of view, the more you can flesh this out, the better (our copywriters love detail). Don’t worry, it’ll get used – this will be the voice you speak in on your website, on social media, in your advertising and in your content marketing.
5. Key marketing messages
It’s time to mix these all together, blend them up and create some beautiful marketing message soup.
Your key marketing messages are the statements that you take to the market, stand up proud and say ‘buy my stuff!’.
You should have several (we go for 3-5) per audience segment.
Here’s what makes for a good one:
- Explain to people who you are, and why they should care;
- Show how your product/service solves their problems;
- Separate you from your competitors;
- Demonstrate the value you bring;
- And speak in your very own well-defined tone of voice.
These messages can form the basis for content you create, or work on their own in your marketing and advertising.
Now go and tell your story!
Yes, the point of marketing is to bring in the leads. But to get there, we need to introduce some process. Working through these steps is the best way to get started.
A cohesive foundation like this is the jumping-off point for your content strategy.
Just remember these steps:
- Define your values (why you exist)
- Find your uniqueness (why you and not someone else)
- Communicate your value (why now?)
- Establish a tone of voice (how you speak)
- And determine those super-important key marketing messages.
Want some help? Get in touch. We’ve taken lots of clients through this process and we’d love to help you too.