You’d think that two people could get on the same page pretty easily. I think, however, that it’s not getting on the same page (in the moment), but staying on the same page that has been difficult. How do we continue to meet with people, evolve ourselves and our business, while staying cohesive and true to our company?
Colin and I, at times, have felt lost in how we communicate with our referral partners and clients about what we do. Or lost in how we make certain decisions about our business – do we keep this office space? are we focusing on the right market? How does this new package of services fit?
I thought that it would be helpful to have a set of guidelines and/or principles that we can refer to while making decisions (big and small) about the business. The buzzword version of this, I believe, is “internal branding.”
As a small business owner, I don’t have the money or resources to pay a high dollar consultant to come in and run some proprietary exercise for my company of two. It would be ridiculous.
Enter Stage Left: The Google Search. I could not find ANYTHING about how I, a small business, could run an audit and branding exercise for myself. Just a bunch of clickbait marketing materials that were mostly fluff.
So, here is the exercise that I came up with. It took us about half a day to go through everything in detail. We got tired, so I recommend coffee, snacks, and breaks. I believe that this will work for a team of up to 10 people, but no more than that.
I think it can create buy in to your vision with staff but also help business partners get on the same page.
Mission, Vision, and Values
I don’t know if these are traditional definitions of Vision, Mission, and Values, but it’s what we used. I’m not an MBA. Just a business owner. For us, it was the questions and answers that were important, not the names of the items.
Vision – Where do you want to be?
Colin and I wrote down 3-5 key words and/or phrases independently that we felt answered this question. Then we wrote all of them down with no judgment on the whiteboard UNLESS what we wrote overlapped. Then I just wrote down one. From there, we crafted 1-2 sentences to bring all of those key words and phrases together while leaving the key words and phrases up.
If you are working with a larger group, then you might want to pass out stickies and cluster the similar ones together.
Furthermore, we clarified the above question with the following: Where would we like the company to be in 3-5 years? In our ideal world, what sorts of work would we like the company to be doing? What sorts of customers would we ideally like to serve?
We recorded our results, erased everything and moved on to Mission.
Mission – Why do you exist?
Although this seems like an existential dilemma, we limited the eye rolling and gave it a go. Again, Colin and I wrote down 3-5 key words and/or phrases individually that we felt answered this question. We wrote them all down on the white board, except where they overlapped – then we just wrote down one. Then we crafted, from those key words, 1-2 sentences that brought all those ideas together.
This was tougher for us, and we went through several iterations of sentences. We kept resorting to cliches or famous quotes like “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Steve Martin is great, but we needed something specifically relevant to our business.
Further clarification questions that we pondered: Why does your company exist in the marketplace? What purpose does it serve for customers? For internal exercises, what purpose does it serve for you as well?
Values – How do you live your Vision and achieve your Mission?
This one was tough for us to understand. We did not do an individual exercise for this one. We just went to town on the whiteboard and started brainstorming. We came up with 6-7 overarching statements or phrases that we believe differentiate us from other law firms and capture “who we are.”
Then, we came up with examples of practices that we have adopted in our firm that exemplify those values.
One of Our Values:
We value efficiency over the billable hour.
It’s just a coincidence that our value uses the word “value.” No others used “value.”
Okay, so now that we have that, we went through our internal and external audiences.
If you have multiple departments, then legal talking to accounting would be internal audiences. For us, this was family and friends, referral partners, clients, potential clients, each other, contractors, vendors, etc.
For each of these audiences, we thought about the types of people within those groups that we are using or speaking to and then, tried to decide whether or not those people are in line with Vision, Mission, and Values. Are they helping us to achieve that Vision?
2. What are your communication goals for each audience?
Is it keeping people informed? Is it to convert? Is it to encourage people to refer? Is it to be clear and valuable?
What about the actual metrics – how often and how many times do you want to or need to get in front of your audience(s)?
Have you heard any feedback about things that you are doing?
3. What are your avenues for communicating with your audiences?
This, we changed up a bit and merged into its own exercise:
What are the ways in which people are interacting with you and your brand?
Some examples: social media, business cards, office space, newsletters, website, business name, blog, face-to-face, through referral partners
Then…we evaluated each and every touch point.
For us, we decided our paper newsletter was not in line with our Vision, Mission, and Values – it wasn’t communicating the right message. It wasn’t conveying the information we wanted it to convey.
Also, we had to decide what creates a positive work environment internally. Does the office space situation foster happiness and communication within our little community?
And…that was all we could bring ourselves to do. We have also committed to revisiting this every quarter to make sure that we are on track and that nothing has shifted significantly.
By the way, I am on so many damn marketing lists now…they better not sell my email address before I can unsubscribe from everything.
Some future extensions:
Market Analysis – Who are your competitors? What market share do you have? What market share do they have? What market share would you like to have?
How are you going to modify your communication goals, your touchpoints, and your audiences to reach that market share goal?
Do these proposed modifications align with the Mission, Values, and Vision?
I think it has been really helpful for us and I hope that it helps you too. Any ideas on other things I can add to my brand audit thingy? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to hear it!