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Ask the Expert: How to find your brand in eight questions


If you’ve ever done any online dating, you’ve probably been asked to think about “your personal brand.” This is really just a clever way of asking, “What makes you ‘you’ and different from your competition?”

As in dating, the best brands in business are distinct, consistent and memorable. Because let’s face it, there are a lot of fish in the sea — or, to bring it back to business, a lot of technology solution providers out there.

This means if you’re a startup in the early stages of grappling for attention, understanding your brand is a critical first step in getting the attention (and funding) you want.

As a professional copywriter, I’ve found the following eight questions are not too painful to answer and really help companies — in any stage — find their unique voice.

1. How would you describe your company in three to five words?

Try to do this without using the words “innovative,” “solution” or “provider.” Come on — you can do it!

2. Now, how would you explain that to your mother? (You can use more than five words.)

And for the sake of this questionnaire, let’s assume your mother doesn’t work for an innovative technology solution provider.

3. Why should anyone care?

In other words, what problem are you solving? It doesn’t have to be “world hunger,” but it does have to be something that matters to your prospects.

4. Speaking of which, describe a typical customer.

For B2C, consider education/income level, urban vs. suburban, age, etc. For B2B, consider industry, role, pain points, etc.

5. Who are your closest competitors, and why are you better?

You do think you’re better, don’t you? And if the honest answer is “No,” maybe there’s a niche within the market where you can stand out.

6. If your brand were a person, how would you describe him or her?

These choices will help you out. Choose as many as apply.

Progressive or traditional?

City or country?

Casual or professional?

Younger or older?

Playful or serious?

Big or small?

Leader or underdog?

Stylish or plain?

Whimsical or practical?

Thrifty or affluent?

Outspoken or reserved?

Dynamic or stable?

Predictable or surprising?

7. What other brand voices do you admire? Describe what you like about them.

It’s fine if you choose Apple; everyone likes Apple’s brand. But who else? And it’s just as helpful to think about the kind of brand voice you don’t like (e.g. too cute, overly verbose, too corporate).

8. Who would be your ideal spokesperson if money were no object?

Yes, you can have Don Draper if you want, but is he really the best choice? Who really reflects the values and personality of your business? It might not even be someone famous.

Got your answers? Great! Now, get as many people from your company as possible to answer these questions, too. Don’t stop at “key stakeholders.” See what the receptionist and others have to say. Then get everyone together and compare notes. How were your answers similar? Different?

Once you get everyone on the same page, look at how you’re communicating with your customers and prospects today — from the emails you send to how your website looks.

Successful branding won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if you’re deliberate in your efforts.

Every single interaction you have with your customers is an opportunity to be distinct, consistent and memorable.

So, you know, no pressure.

Anna Goldsmith is a partner at The Hired Pens, a copywriting agency with offices in Boston and Portsmouth. Learn more at www.thehiredpens.com or email anna@thehiredpens.com.


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