Posted on: September 17, 2021
So, your branding needs work. Perhaps you’re updating your mission statement. Perhaps you’re trying to appeal to younger generations on Snapchat and Instagram.
Whatever the case may be, individuals, companies and products need to be branded correctly, with the target audience in mind. Put thought into the who, what, where, when and why. After all, branding is how you make people feel. It is the essence of what makes an individual, company or product unique in the broader marketplace. But too many people forget the steps in the branding process or take shortcuts, which can undermine their appeal to the target audience they have in mind. If you rush the branding process, it probably won’t be effective.
As the first step in the process, I recommend coming up with an XYZ statement. Here’s what that means:
• I do X (what you do).
• For Y (who you do it for).
• So they can Z (the benefits of working with you).
For example, if you’re an accountant, here’s a sample XYZ statement:
• I do financial accounting.
• For clients in the marketing industry.
• So they can achieve long-term financial stability.
Once you’ve figured out an XYZ statement, the next step is to put together your personal brand manifesto. Generally speaking, your brand manifesto is a document that spans one to two pages and goes into detail about what makes you you. It is like your resume, but laid out in biographical format and with supporting details to make the words pop off the page.
Let’s say that you run a mid-sized accounting firm. In your brand manifesto, you would go into detail about your company’s history (i.e., when it was founded and under what circumstances), how your company grew over time, what challenges you faced and how you overcame them, and what your future prospects may be. The brand manifesto encapsulates your firm’s past, present and future, but with a personal touch. It helps to figure out the problems of the past (i.e., high turnover or client instability), how you solve them in the present and how you may approach them in the future.
As with branding in general, the goal is to evoke feeling so that people who come across the brand manifesto can see the entire picture of your accounting firm and what it means to those it serves — from employees to clients. The “feeling” of the company may be accuracy or efficiency or loyalty. Perhaps it’s a family-owned business and the feelings are camaraderie and togetherness. Or maybe the accounting firm comes across as cutthroat and competitive to the general public. The feeling just needs to be set in stone.
Once you finish the brand manifesto, you will likely have a much better understanding of your overall branding. It’s not just about determining your target audience and reaching the proverbial “them.” In many cases, my clients learn exponentially more about themselves through the branding process. From the XYZ statement to the brand manifesto, you can uncover details about your story that you never even considered at first or forgot over time.
It’s common for people who are new to the branding game to think that they know everything about themselves, but the branding process can get you from the point of thinking to knowing. Only then can you get to the final goal of feeling — that is, making people feel the right way about you, your company or your product.
It’s really quite simple: You can’t brand yourself in the broader marketplace if you don’t know exactly what you’re branding. Too many people make assumptions without doing the dirty work of exploring themselves. I’ve found that most people — even those in business — have never even heard about XYZ statements or brand manifestos. But as the Greek philosopher Aristotle is often quoted as saying, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Once you know yourself, you can understand your target avatar (i.e., your target audience). If you can solve your target avatar’s greatest problem — what keeps them up at night — then your brand may forever be valued and valuable. The key is for your value proposition to be laser-targeted at the target avatar, so they read your XYZ statement and say, “Wow, that’s just what I need!” You want to help your target audience sleep through the night.
What I recommend to my clients is to figure out the XYZ statement, then the target audience and then the best way to communicate that message to the audience — whether it’s through PR, advertising, social media, special events, direct mail or some combination of all methods of communication.
It’s never too late to beef up your branding, as long as you don’t skip steps. Start with your X, Y and Z, and go from there. You may even surprise yourself in the end.
This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in June 2021.