We are well into Autumn. Glorious bright mornings with a nip in the air and ice on the car. We remember what a blessing central heating is and snuggle into cosy sofas when we have drawn the curtains. Physical days are shorter, and activities are curtailed accordingly. And of course the shops are full of Christmas cheer. A friend told me she has had her first Christmas card – on 3 November!
Most of us are wondering what needs to be achieved before Christmas and To Do lists are being prepared accordingly.
I am in the midst of rebranding my business. I have had the pale blue colour and safe pair of hands strapline for six years and it is tired. This is not the great reveal – that will come in the next few months I hope – this is all about the process.
I am sure you have been through this. I think it is my seventh time either in my own business or other people’s. I was fortunate the first couple of times; in corporate life there was enough budget to employ a brand specialist. On the other hand when one works alone there are not too many people with whom to argue! Even so there is a good deal of thinking to do.
My branding came into being when I first started this business and I wanted to be very clear that I am a business mentor and not a business coach. These are not semantics. A coach often has a process for reviewing all parts of a business and will teach as they work the person through this. A mentor starts with the issue that is on the person’s mind and works from there helping the person develop business, management and personal skills as appropriate to the situation. Coaches tend to be younger and this role is part of their career plan. A mentor is usually older, has done lots of business stuff and wants to help those who follow, succeed first time rather than make the same mistakes. This was why I came up with the term critical friend. Whilst descriptive I have spent lots of time explaining it means high challenge and high support within a safe environment. The time has come to acknowledge this and find a business persona that is immediately recognisable as what I am.
I am traditional, so it starts with my looking again at my core business. What am I doing that I enjoy and am good at? Which of the services I offer are most popular? Am I doing anything I should not be?
What are my values? And have they changed? It was a great time for my friend Jules White to publish her book Live it, Love it, Sell it. She asks great questions about values and made me dig deep. If you are looking for a sales coach in a book then read it; it is a fantastic way to look at sales and beat your fears.
Once I had my core business and my values straight I had to think about my ideal customer. Yes, I know it is flavour of the moment, but it is very important. Who are our clients? When I started this business I was branding to attract the clients I expected to have. This time I have real data to work with. My clients are female, between 35 and 45 in the main, in long term relationships, with children and their income is important to the household. They run their own businesses which started on the kitchen table and are often undercapitalised. I could go on but am sure that you get the gist.
So to the brand.
- What are the words to describe it? What is it not?
- How is it positioned in the market? What are its characteristics?
- Where does it hang out and with whom and what?
- What colour is it?
- How old?
- What is its style?
- When I first did this back in the 1980s, I remember being shocked when asked to think about which animal our brand was. Now this is common place. So I know which animal my brand is, which car, which actor, which song and where and with whom it hangs out.
I have done my thinking and briefed all the relevant people. Now I am in the business of reviewing other people’s ideas about what I have said. It is a great process refining and refining.
Now I tell you all this not because I am a brand expert, I am most certainly not. However, I am now an expert on my own brand and everything it stands for. The clarity has helped me define my marketing strategy, put myself in the right rooms with the right people (avoiding the rooms that might be nice but not useful) and honed my antennae to detect the right customers for me. I knew most of this stuff but had not revisited it for a while and the world changes all the time. It has been great to re-connect with the work I love and remember why I do it.
None of this is original and we know most of it, but I am saying it is a good process and I should not have left it six years. Stepping back from the day to day and considering how to get my message across; going back to fundamentals has been great. I have had time to think about what I am and what I stand for. I recommend it to everyone.
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Working with a mentor is one of the major ways of improving your business, management and personal skills. It is a great way to work through any business issue that is preventing you achieving what you want to. Why not chat to me about how it might work for you.
Life is good; let’s live it to the full, enjoy it and be the best we can be.
Elizabeth Toogood – Your Critical Friend – www.toogoodcriticalfriend.co.uk – [email protected]