Updated: Aug 12, 2019
We love agencies and marketing departments; they have been great to us and we typically have a great relationship. But what if you are a soloprenuer or a small enterprise without a marketing department? Do you know how to express your brand to the world? Do you know what you really want to pursue and how to best present that to your client?
Many small businesses aren’t ready for the medium or large scale agency. In fact, they are barely treading their head above water. We often get calls from potential clients that ask us for a headshot or a product photo for their website or print medium and when we try to narrow down their audience to produce better content, we often get met with blank stares.
So this article is for the soloprenuer or small business owner that can really use a helping hand.
Let’s start first with what gives me some credibility to be able to speak to you about this topic. I’m a hard working entrepreneur that has started a few different small businesses. Many failures and a couple of successes. Part of that journey has shown me that my love and passion is not the category of business (photography, arts and crafts, rehabilitation, product sales or studio owner) but more so the journey of marketing and operating a business. I learned to hustle fairly early in life and didn’t know it at the time, but the hustle and the addiction of sales and marketing was really what fueled my passion for business.
Now, not to go off on a tangent too much –I’ll save the story of my successes and failures for another entry; or you’ll hear more of it as I embark on a deeper journey through social media and trying to help the little guys make their dreams come true. For now, let’s focus on the topic at hand which is finding your direction.
As a business owner, you probably been through the school of hard knocks; there can be a lot of obstacles in your way to finding your brand compass. Ego and the need to look good for others is probably the largest hurdle. Often, we start our businesses out of passion or out of necessity to fill a void in something we need but can’t find in the marketplace. So our initial desire is to just fill that void. As with all businesses, there will be cycles of busy and not so busy. Cycles of amazing customers and not so amazing customers.
The goal of marketing is to help the consumer understand in a very short amount of time, how you can help them. The thing I have learned over these past 2 decades of business and has been reinforced by many of our larger scale thought leaders is that people are narcissistic and are wired to survive. So the most important thing to your consumer is do you fill a void they have. After that, marketing takes over.
So let’s take for instance, that all products in a category being equal in quality and fills a void, how does a consumer choose one? This is where brand and marketing comes into play. Everyday we make decisions and a large majority of those decisions are influenced by a brand. The coffee, the toothpaste you use and the car you buy are all influenced by brand. So as a business when you are competing for shelf space and mental space in a consumer’s head you need to have a strong message that speaks to your ideal customer. It is this one point that gets most entrepreneurs stuck in the marketing rut.
The hard part for a business person is how to separate and comprehend your brand and message so it appeals to a specific audience. We try to appeal to the masses with our marketing campaigns because we feel the bigger the net, the better. But what we don’t realize is that it not only takes a lot of money and time to cast that net, but that there are hundreds of other nets there fighting for attention. So rather than waste so much time and energy fighting with everyone else, spend your time somewhere where the return on investment is higher. Refine your target audience, one that will be your advocate and love your product and service so much that they sing your praises to everyone.
One of the key components of having the right small net is to have your brand compass. What is that you ask? It’s the message and voice of your company and product that should help you guide every decision. When you get lost in the marketing world or just feel overwhelmed, you can turn to this brand compass and find your way again. A strong compass and brand identity will help your consumers understand your why and if you’re the one they want to know, like and trust to do business with.
So where do you start? This can be easy or hard depending on how well you can call out your own bullshit. I’ll tell you that when I first started this process for my 3rd business which is now a thriving enterprise, it was a nightmare. I had put so many emotional blocks and cliché things that I thought would resonate with people. I enlisted the help of a larger agency to help me with it and even then we struggled to really get it out of me. In the end, the agency and I decided I wasn’t ready yet and I went back to the drawing board. I spent the better half a year thinking about it, writing things down, walking away, coming back writing some more only to throw so much of it away again.
In the end I discovered it. I was on a flight to Hong Kong when I had some time to myself -- 14 hours to be exact. After shooting a long wedding the day before, and on my way to meet up with my wonderful wife and daughter, I suddenly reached clarity. I realized at that moment that all my endeavours prior to Three Sixty all shared the same passion and drive and that it had been guiding my decisions like clock work for many years. I just never realized it. It was so strong that I was naturally compelled to act according to the compass, yet for over a decade, I never took the time to put it down on paper.
I discovered that I have always lived by the principle of being fair and after the adolescent rebellious stage of life, I also realized that being accountable and owning up to my choices would be a very treasured trait. But the principle of my life of being fair wasn’t my brand compass. It was my moral compass. It was then that I realized that I had always spent my life, and the better part of my first career choice as a rehab therapist, wanting to help people achieve their dream. When I was a Kinesiologist, it was a fulfilling feeling to watch the happiness of others as they achieved milestones in their rehabilitation; it was the happiness of seeing a person who was passionate about a sport being able to continue to play while undergoing treatment.
It later became the passion of seeing the people I hired, who had dreams of something beyond my company, reach them and spread their wings to do something they always wanted to do. Today, that passion translates to creating content for people who have a dream and helping them create great content to attract more people that they can help and be successful however they choose to measure it.
In our own business, it is hiring passionate people with dreams and teaching them skills to get there. When they graduate from our humble little family at Three Sixty, I honestly couldn’t be more proud. I wear it like a badge of honour, that I had some small part in whatever great things lie ahead for them. We celebrate the wins and learn with humility the failures.
My true belief for you is this: I want you to be successful, to impact the world and community around you in a positive way. Your product or service should fill a void for someone and I hope that you understand that the beginning of a successful long-term journey in your business lies in the brand compass you have. Be relentless in driving deep, deep down into what guides you and makes you make the decisions you do. The answer may not be exactly what that principle is, but you can be damn sure that it’ll get you real close and from there it’s just a little more digging. One thing to note is that you will find that if your brand compass or direction changes frequently, it will be an indicator that you didn’t quite get it right. Keep digging. Business is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. As Gary Vaynerchuck says, don’t be that impatient 29 year old that thinks they should be super far ahead. Be patient, learn, be humble and continue to dig deep to find the brand compass for your company. Then, work your ass off and keep reading the blog here for more information on how to improve your business and impact others.