To build a successful brand, you need more than a great business idea. You need a strong foundation that will guide your most crucial business decisions while allowing you to attract your ideal audience. The best way to achieve this is understanding and embodying your core values.
Core values is a buzzword in the entrepreneurial arena, but what does it really mean? This blog post will explore what core values are in the context of branding, as well as why they’re important. Then we’ll dig deeper into how to define your business’s core values.
What are core values?
Usually when we talk about values, we talk about them in relation to individual human beings. Each of us has certain principles that guide our actions and decisions, from the big things, like what career path you take, to the small, like what you eat for breakfast. And, since even the largest businesses are run by human beings, it makes sense that they inherently have values as well.
Your business’s core values are the things you, as a business owner, won’t compromise on. If you think of your business as a building, your core values are its cornerstone—you may not be able to see it, but without it, the building would collapse.
Every business’s core values will be, and should be, unique, but a few common examples include integrity, quality, resilience, and passion. (For more inspiration, this list of common core values is a great place to start.)
Why are core values important?
As far as business strategies go, core values can seem pretty superfluous. Defining brand values sounds great in theory, but can it really affect your bottom line?
The answer is a clear and resounding yes. Articulating your business’s core values have a major positive impact on:
- Your brand. Core values go a long way in making your brand both memorable and valuable, because they help you stand out from your competitors. Your brand’s core values can also be used as a guide when it’s time to make tough decisions, increasing your business’s efficiency and authenticity.
- Your clients. Implementing your business’s core values into every aspect of your brand will educate your clients on what sets you apart in your industry. It will also help to attract your target audience, since people are much more likely to engage with—and purchase from—a brand that shares their own personal values. For instance, if one of your core values is sustainability, you can tap into that value in your marketing to attract clients who are likewise concerned with the environment. Your core values can also guide you in defining and communicating the experience your clients can expect throughout their journey with your brand—from the moment they sign up for your email list to the day they decide to become a paying client.
- Your employees. If you’re looking to expand your team, your core values can be a powerful hiring tool. Just as they can help attract the client base you want to serve, they can help attract candidates whose values align with your own, making it more likely they will be a good fit for your business. Prioritizing your brand’s core values within your business’s internal workings also gives your employees a sense of satisfaction in their work—a recent study reported that 75% of respondents said it’s very important to them to work for a company with core values. Core values can give your team members a larger purpose behind their work.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what core values are and why they’re essential to creating a strong brand, it’s time to figure out what your own business’s values are. If that sounds difficult, don’t worry—it’s easier than you might think!
How to determine your brand’s core values
If you’re a practical-minded entrepreneur, the idea of sitting down and thinking about something as qualitative and ephemeral as core values might scare you. But the process of defining your brand’s core values is much more akin to an archaeological dig than a purely creative exercise. That’s because your brand already has core values, whether you know it or not! Your job is simply to uncover them, polish them up, and incorporate them into your overall brand strategy.
What does this excavation process look like? It will vary based on the size of your company and how many team members you have. If you’re a solopreneur, uncovering your core values will be an intimate process, and you may find that many of your own personal values are reflected in the values of your business. But if your brand has more than just one person behind it, it’s worth getting input and opinions from your team members. Doing so will not only make your employees feel valued and respected, but will also give you the most accurate and insightful results possible.
So, if you’re a solopreneur, grab a pen and paper, and if you’ve got a team, clear off a conference table and whiteboard. It’s time for a brainstorming session. Here are a few ideas to kick things off:
- Think about brands or entrepreneurs you admire. What qualities do they share that speak to you? Maybe you appreciate a particular brand’s attention to detail, or a business owner’s commitment to giving back to their community. Consider how you utilize those same qualities in your own brand.
- We’ve already talked about how your brand’s core values can help attract your ideal client base, but that connection goes both ways. Take some time and research your target audience. What do the people you’re trying to serve value over everything else? How can your brand demonstrate those values to them through your service or product?
- Core values are a terrific tool for positioning your brand and standing out from your competitors. To ensure your brand’s values are as unique as you are, don’t be afraid to research the competition to see what core values they implement. A certain amount of crossover is inevitable in most industries, but if you notice similarities, challenge yourself to further differentiate your core values by making them more specific.
- When in doubt, go back to the beginning—your beginning, that is. Revisiting your business’s overall mission, or the story of how and why you started your business in the first place, can be extremely helpful in uncovering your core values. What was your main motivation in launching your brand? What were the emotions, passions, and beliefs associated with that motivation? The answers you come up with might just make their way into your brand’s core values.
Keep in mind that your finalized core values should be short, specific, and unique—you want them to be easy for both your clients and your employees to remember. Lastly, be careful not to confuse your core values with your business goals. Rather than being aspirational, your core values should be timeless reflections of where your business stands today—and will continue to stand going forward. (Harvard Business Review does a great job of further explaining the distinction between core values and aspirational values.)
Miss Details’ core values
At Miss Details, we love to lead by example, so we wanted to share our own core values with you as a demonstration of what your end result might look like.
- Elevate Others: Miss Details always wants the best for our clients and audience. If we can teach or help, we will! Every step forward, no matter how small, can make a major difference.
- Make a Memory: Miss Details’ knowledge of the science of design drives us to create strong memories through branding and marketing. We believe in combining empathy, creativity, and reasoning to make thoughtful design decisions that strategically connect with consumers on an emotional level.
- Details Matter: We’re called “Miss Details” for a reason. Even the smallest details make all the difference when it comes to brand-driven marketing. Details add depth to both our designs and to the meaning of everything we do.
- Follow the Science: Miss Details’ guidance and experience is always backed by science and research. We want to understand why audiences react to specific marketing and branding messages and strategies in different ways.
- Find a Balance: Miss Details strikes a balance between business and creativity, intuition and intellect, and emotion and logic. We have the ability to simultaneously think big and see an overall vision for the future, while staying grounded in present realities.
- Give Back: Miss Details donates 10% of its profits to animal charities, and offers pro bono marketing services to Greyhound nonprofits in the Southwest. We also support other worthy causes and are firm believers in respect for all.
Next up: Transforming values into branding tools
Now that you’ve determined your brand’s core values, you might be ready to proudly list them on your company’s website. And although that’s a great starting point, your core values are much more than pretty artwork to hang on your office wall—they’re practical and powerful tools for you to implement into every aspect of your brand. There’s a wide array of strategies for doing just that, which we explore in our next blog post, read more about implementing your core values here.
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