The most common branding mistake that we see over and over, is a lack of direction and definition. Not only is this the most common branding mistake, it’s one of the most damaging. Your brand is the link tying you to your customer. It is the soul of your business and how you will reach, connect, and convert your target audience. So why do so many businesses fail to nail down their brand? It is tough to drill down to the core of your business and say definitively “this is who we are, what we do, and why we are here.” But leaving this open-ended is causing way more damage than you may think. If you have an undefined brand, take an hour to thoughtfully answer these 6 questions. These questions will also help you lay the foundation for your sales goals, company culture, and internal policies.

Why am I in business?
Why did you create your product(s) and/or service(s)? If you strip everything away, what is your big picture goal? Are you hoping to change the world? Save the whales? Redefine sustainable business? Reshape the way we shop online? Spend some time to drill down to the number one reason why you started your company and why you decided to create your brand.

What are our core values?
Choose 3-5 values that are the most important to you, your product/service, and your company. These can range from transparency and sustainability to innovation and calculated risk-taking. Do you pride yourself on being friendly and relatable? Ruthless and limit-pushing? There is no right answer here. These first two questions will form your brand mission statement.

Where do we want to be in 5, 10, 20 years?
This will essentially be your company vision. It can include specific company-centric objectives, long-term growth goals, and even the way you want to change your industry for the better. You don’t need to answer for each specific time frame (5, 10, 20 years), that is just a gentle guide for the practice. What is your goal for long term positive impact and progress?

What is our USP?
What are you offering that your target audience cannot get anywhere else? How are you making the lives of your customers easier, better, more fulfilling? What piece of proprietary technology are you using that is not available in the larger market? Your USP, or unique selling proposition, defines the thing that sets you apart from your competition and brings value to your consumer. It is your angle and the value that you bring to the table. Defining this and marketing it will be the factor that converts your audience into consumers and brand loyalists.

Who is my ideal client?
If any one person could “walk through your door” and buy your product, who would it be? You want to take the time to really flesh this out- both as a target audience and as individual buying personas. For the target audience, answer the broad questions: Is this an individual or a company, what size company, what industry, etc. For the buyer personas, create profiles for real types of people like “Sally the Spender” or “Eddie the Entrepreneur” and make notes on key characteristics for each. What type of education do they have, their current job, single or married, family life, hobbies, spending habits, pain points? These will guide your content- everything you do should speak to your audience and your buyer personas.

Where is my competition?
A branding breakdown is not complete without an analysis of your top 3 competitors. In addition to looking at their profiles, services, and values, spend the time to figure out where they are online. You can use their digital presence audits to pinpoint opportunities for yourself. This will also help identify which social and digital platforms your company should utilize for themselves. If your competition has strong Instagram presence, and your target audience is engaging with them there, then you need to put energy into crafting an equally engaging Instagram profile.

Of course, there are many more questions to be answered and brand language documents to be completed, but this is an excellent start. Don’t let your brand fizzle due to lack of direction. Take the reins and define your purpose!