DIY Brand Clarity Exercise
(Time: 15-30 Minutes)
Two steps to a new brand perspective
When I was a young girl, I had a wonderful art teacher who taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten. We were learning to paint, and were using photographs as models. I chose to paint a photo of a tropical island sunset, but soon became discouraged—the shapes were much harder to recreate with paint than I’d thought they would be. My teacher, Mrs. Bryant, noticed my frustration and gave me some unexpected advice:
“Turn the photo upside down,” she said.
I was skeptical, but I flipped the photo—and instantly understood. Once the photo was upside down, my brain didn’t recognize the leaves as leaves. Instead, I simply saw them as triangles—and I could easily paint a triangle. Oddly enough, when I detached the photo from its subject matter and broke it down to its most basic elements (shapes, colors, and light), the task of recreating it became much more manageable.
I don’t find myself painting tropical sunsets very often nowadays, but Mrs. Bryant’s ingenious advice has formed a pillar of my entrepreneurial journey. I’ve learned that when things start to feel overly difficult or complicated, sometimes all it takes to jumpstart my brain is a new perspective.
This principle applies beautifully to one of the most challenging steps of entrepreneurship: defining your niche. Just like using paint to recreate a photo of a sunset, clearly articulating what your business does and what sets you apart from your competitors is a task that’s far more complex than it initially appears.
That’s why I want to share a simple, two-step exercise to help businesses think about their positioning from a new angle—the branding equivalent of flipping the photo upside down. So grab a pen and paper, and let’s dive in.
Step 1: What You’re Not
It may seem counterintuitive, but defining what your brand doesn’t do can be easier than defining what it does do.
Start by thinking about all the services that would typically be nested under the umbrella of your industry. Then list all of those services that your business doesn’t offer. Note that although this sounds straightforward, you might find it gets a little complex.
For example, my business, Miss Details, is in the marketing industry. If I were completing this exercise, I’d say that the marketing services Miss Details doesn’t provide would include PR, PPC, video, ongoing SEO, and lead generation.
But, wait a minute—we do offer lead generation. However, we really only offer it for small businesses, as opposed to the large lead generation and marketing campaigns used by enterprise level clients. So now, I can say that Miss Details doesn’t serve enterprise level businesses.
Except, we have worked with enterprise level businesses—quite a few of them, actually, who contacted us because they heard about our outstanding work in strategic brand design.
Aha! At this point, we know Miss Details is known for strategic brand design. We’re getting closer to defining our niche, but we’re not quite there yet. Let’s keep going.
One of the most commonly requested design services is website design. While Miss Details does design websites, we don’t really work on large web development or ecommerce sites. Rather, our core competency is in creating custom designs within WordPress sites, which allow small businesses to get that custom look without the hefty price tag of a custom developed site.
So, here’s what we’re left with: Miss Details specializes in strategic brand design, and while many of our clients are small businesses, we’re so good at what we do that enterprise level businesses seek us out as well. We do offer website design, but rather than the custom developed websites that enterprise clients may be accustomed to, our main focus is in WordPress web design for service businesses.
Now, think about how useful the above statement would be for a service business with a WordPress website looking for a fresh design and stellar branding. It would also be hugely helpful to enterprise clients, who would now have a sense of what Miss Details could or could not provide for them.
Starting with what your business doesn’t do can help you clearly articulate what your business does do, giving you confidence in your positioning and making your potential clients’ path much clearer.
Step 2: Who You Don’t Serve
There are two main components to any business: the product or service you provide, and the people you serve. So, after thinking about what your business doesn’t provide, take a moment and think about who you don’t serve.
When listing the groups of people who aren’t in your target audience, it’s important to provide an explanation for why you don’t serve them. Normally, hidden within this explanation is the main driving force for why you do what you do, and why you serve who you serve.
I’ll use myself as an example again. Miss Details does not serve businesses that are looking for a full-service marketing agency. This is because of two reasons: first, we’re a small boutique firm and don’t have the resources or overhead to bring together all the varied services (PR, PPC, SEO, video, and more) that a one-stop agency would provide; second, our specialty and zone of genius is in strategic branding.
Now, to flip the photo right side up again, as it were: Miss Details works with businesses that are looking for a firm with branding and design expertise—that has proven systems and processes to develop a memorable brand, without all the overhead and middlemen of a large agency.
It’s your turn now—go through these steps and write down as many answers, with as many explanations, as you can. Or, if it’s easier, use these questions as a jumping off point for a conversation that you record and can revisit later on.
I hope this exercise in new perspectives helps you to gain a fuller understanding of your business.
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