ABC, which stands for Actions, Beliefs and Clothing are the basic building blocks of business branding. You have an authentic and strong brand when these three aspects work together harmoniously.
Business branding is really about drawing out your personal brand. A business after all engages with customers as a “person” – with his or her own actions, beliefs and clothing style. This is even more so in the case of solopreneurs. Like it or not, you are your business. And this actually makes branding easier.
Authenticity demands that businesses speak to customers in their own unique and real voice, free from pompous, self-important language. Put simply, your brand is about being the real you. It is not about creating and maintaining a false façade.
Let’s look at Actions, Beliefs and Clothing in more detail.
Your Actions will always reveal who you truly are
Your actions will always belie your true self. No amount of professional PR, copywriting or marketing can hide who you truly are underneath. So be yourself. Speak with your true voice. Don’t do things in your business you won’t do as an individual. This is the most important part of branding.
Listen to yourself when you are next speaking to a friend – do you sound completely different from when you are speaking to a client? If so, you are not speaking with your true voice at work. It is time to change your tune, to throw away the pretension of “corporate professionalism”. Corporate speech comes from fear – the fear of sounding too simplistic, of others thinking we may not know everything, and of accidentally committing to something or God forbid voicing a heartfelt opinion.
Remember – it is your realness, your opinions, that sets you apart from everyone else, and especially the risk-managed corporations. But don’t take yourself too seriously either. You will make mistakes. Learn to laugh at yourself. It is what makes you and your business human and good to work with.
Your Beliefs define who you are
Your beliefs are at the foundation of your actions. They guide how you and your business act towards others. They affect your choice of associates, and the activities you will or won’t participate in.
No matter how good you are at pretending to be someone else, your beliefs will come through eventually. So get to know and embrace your beliefs. Note I am rolling the following concepts into “belief”: your values, moral stance and ethics. Consider also your beliefs about yourself, your contributions, your assumptions about your clients.
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Getting to know yourself at this level is a lifelong and rewarding pursuit in its own right. Only by knowing yourself can your truly be yourself. After all, who says business is only about financial growth? By knowing your beliefs, you can also start to challenge the negative ones that could be holding you back.
An authentic business brand can only come from being authentic. Being authentic means knowing ad sticking by your beliefs. People with malleable morals that can be bent to exploit every advantage lack integrity.
Your Clothes ice your brand cake
In branding terms, your clothes is the visual representation of who you are. It is your logo and the colours and typeface you use.
Most people make the mistake of focusing only on this aspect of their brand. I believe that this is the least important aspect of branding. Clothes simply don’t make the person and anyone can buy the latest fashionable clothes.
This is not to dismiss the Clothing aspect of business branding. After all, people do make first-impression judgements based on what they see, and often before they have the opportunity to meet you.
Don’t fret if you are not a designer or can’t afford one just yet. When in doubt, keep things simple. A black and white letterhead or business card with just one conservative and legible typeface, in no more than two different sizes, is a classy DIY start.
Get started with these actions:
1. Dig your Beliefs. Sit down by yourself or with a trusted friend, and work out what you are about as a person. Describe your beliefs. What are your ideals? Your values?
2. Align your Actions. Now work out what you would, and would not do, in the course of your business. Ensure your business actions reflect your beliefs.
3. Design appropriate branding material to Clothe your business. It is well worth your while speaking to a designer. Present her or him with a written statement of your beliefs and actions as a guide.
Remember: If you get the A and B of business branding right, C is actually not as critical as many people will have you believe. The great thing is, you have complete influence over A and B.