Your brand is a representation of everything you do, everything you say, and everywhere you show up. Your brand tells a story. As a business owner, it is up to you to control the story your brand tells.
Over twenty years ago, I was a naive, wet-behind-the-ears, black, teenage mother living in public housing with poor financial habits, bad credit and even worse relationships. Everything about my circumstances screamed statistics. Despite these obstacles, I had the audacity to start a life coaching business. What did a 19-year-old know about life?
I had no clue about business. I had no clue about marketing. And I definitely had no clue about branding.
What I did know was that I was tired of my circumstances. I knew that I wanted to change my life and change my destiny. So I jumped. I started my small, home-based business with no money and no direction — a common story I share with the majority of the small business clients I coach today.
Not long after launching my first website, my phone began to ring. I found myself swarmed by all types of people who were interested in my coaching services. The next thing I knew, I was serving an average of 20 clients each month, most of whom were middle-aged white men who were burnt out from corporate America. How did this happen? One word: branding.
Although I seemingly had almost nothing in common with these corporate men, my story resonated deeply with them. Stories are powerful. They are effective in reaching every type of learner — auditory, visual or kinesthetic. Stories immerse the listener or reader in the events as if they are experiencing those events themselves.
My clients shared the same feelings of despair, hopelessness and desire for change in their lives as I did. My story communicated exactly that, and they heard me. There are four critical things that I did to share my story in those beginning stages of building my business brand. I coach my small business clients through these same profitable methods to build their own brands.
1. Engage a community of like-minded people.
One of the best things I did as a newbie entrepreneur was to learn how to network. I went above and beyond simply shoving business cards in people’s hands at networking events. I followed up. Not only did I follow up, I invited new contacts to join me in groups, message boards and even my own self-hosted events. I sought ways to be of service and made sure that I positioned myself as a valuable resource for my groups. I became a great connector and eventually the go-to gal for whatever my network needed. I built my own captive audience who was willing to buy into membership to stay connected.
2. Write about your experiences and expertise.
I have always been a writer, but I had no idea just how well this skill would pay off as a business owner. Right off the bat, I began writing articles, short think pieces and blogs that shared my perspective on all sorts of topics. I wrote about anything that interested me. I also wrote about common problems my clients shared with me during our sessions. My articles and blogs attracted media attention, which often led to interviews and my expert opinions being featured in popular publications. My brand received an even bigger boost after I published my first book.
3. Speak directly to your target market.
Speaking is a natural progression for most business owners. This is especially true if you have found your footing as a writer. I take advantage of as many opportunities as I can to get in front of my target market. I share relevant stories that demonstrate my expertise and the value I can bring to a business in startup or growth mode. Small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs become inspired by listening to my stories of both triumph and tribulation. Through my storytelling, my audience learns invaluable lessons that help them to reduce the steep learning curve associated with entrepreneurship.
4. Create products that solve specific problems.
No matter how effective I am as a service provider, I can only be in one place at one time. It can be really frustrating to not be able to help as many people as you would like. After over 20 years’ experience partnering with small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, I noticed that there are some common problems that almost every one of my clients has had at one point or another in their businesses. I have created informational products like e-books and online training programs that specifically address each of these issues. Products can be a great way to duplicate your expertise and share your story even in your absence.
Storytelling has by far the best return on investment among all the marketing strategies I have employed over the years. In fact, a brand’s story is ultimately what finalizes my own purchasing decisions.
We buy from those whom we know, like and trust. Through stories, we can build this rapport quickly and efficiently. I urge every business owner and entrepreneur to consider the story you want your brand to tell and then use it to deepen the connection with your target market. Your bottom line will thank me.
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