As a new business owner you have hundreds of competing priorities and you’re trying to juggle them all to the best of your ability. So when someone tells you that you need to develop a brand strategy it can start to get a bit frustrating, especially when branding can seem like time wasted on an activity that doesn’t offer any direct return on investment.
Well from a recruitment point of view it is definitely not time wasted!
From our point of view as talent partners, for a start-up this is one of the most important aspects of your business as so many other elements rely on this part of your marketing plan. According to Jim Joseph, Marketing Contributor in Entrepreneur it is the “critical first step“.
As entrepreneurs you will go through various iterations on your journey from scrappy start-up to world dominating unicorn. Along that journey you will need to attract the very best talent for that stage of the business to help you achieve that success. However attracting that talent is not easy, especially when it’s a very competitive marketing place and cash flow is tight.
So, as part of our marketing series we wanted to talk about the importance of brand strategy for your business and how it impacts on your recruitment.
What is a Brand Strategy?
There are different approaches to the same conclusion here. Hubspot define it with “7 essential elements”. However we believe your brand strategy is essentially the blue print that dictates how your business operates with a view to finding a unique position for your company in the minds of your various stakeholders.
That is a long winded way of saying that a brand strategy is definitely not your logo!
Too often people think a branding review is redesigning a logo and changing the headed paper that is stuffed away in the stationary cupboard. While the logo or brand identity you employ is what people associate with your company it is the perception that accompanies that logo that you should be most interested in.
So the next time a marketing or branding company comes in to tell you they can give your brand a redesign and present you with logos without assessing your internal and external stakeholders then tell them, as politely as you feel fit, to vacate the premises.
Why Do We Need a Brand Strategy?
At the outset the implementation of your strategy is how you differentiate your brand from others in the market. When you’re selling your product or service you need to compete with others in your market, your direct competitors. However, in terms of recruitment you are not just competing with companies in your market but with a host of other businesses that require the specific skills you need across a range of industries.
Therefore your company has to present an attractive proposition to potential employees, somewhere they can see themselves working and having an impact. Obviously money has an impact on peoples employment decisions but the old adage that “you are interviewing the company and much as they are interviewing you”, has never been more appropriate than it is today.
However, none of this means you need to be something you’re not. Start-ups, particularly in the digital and tech world, can get caught up in a world of table tennis tables and beer fridges. If that’s not your brand and you try to be it won’t be long before your brand falls apart and people leave you organisation.
Use your brand as an opportunity to tell the world, both your customer base and those you mean to employ, who you are as an organisation and why they should engage with you.
Building Your Brand
So you need a brand strategy but you don’t have the money to engage an expensive branding company. While it’s by no means easy it is something your internal marketing resource could manage.
At the outset it is a very personal process for the organisation. While someone will be making the ultimate decision it is vital it is a collaboration of the thoughts of everyone in your organisation. Everyone should have the chance to input on your values. The more collaboration you have the more people will buy into the values.
Consulting your organisation however you see fit is the best place to start. You will have a chosen method of acquiring information from your staff but you are looking for some statistical analysis of your current brand and where they want to see the company develop.
You should also get to understand the motivations of the leadership team. They will have a vision for the company and a belief of how they can achieve this. It is vital to ask the tough questions. Getting standard answers will provide a nice layout for your brand but it won’t provide you with the real building blocks to establish a meaningful attractive proposition.
Customer research is also vital. Understanding the current perception of your brand will allow you to get an objective view of your company. You can take an insular view of your company but a brand is all in the eyes of your stakeholders.
There are a range of options out there in terms of your brand strategy. However the core of a good brand strategy is your brand story.
Every company has a story. More often than not there is a compelling reason a company was formed whether through necessity, desire to make a difference or passion for a sector. Whatever it is, it is important you tell your story. It is your story after all and is unlikely to be copied by anyone else.
Innocent Smoothies are a great example of this. They attended a music festival to sell their smoothies. They asked people whether they should quit their jobs and sell smoothies and to vote by putting their empties in either the yes or no bin.
The yes bin was full, they resigned the next day and the rest is history.
Every interaction a customer or potential employee has with your brand builds up a picture of your company and creates your brand personality. This is how customers would describe their dealings with your company as if it were a person.
The brand personality of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are very different. While they essentially provide a very similar service they use their brand to attract a different target market. Their brand also attracts a certain type of employee who will ensure the interaction with their brand is consistent.
To ensure the consistency of the brand personality it is vital that the organisation and those within it operate to a set of brand values. These are the basic principles that guide every aspect of the business whether it is customer engagement, product development, policies and procedures.
There are generally 4 or 5 values that establish exactly who you are as an organisation and where you want to be. It will help you to decide whether your organisation has a table tennis table or a boardroom table. Whether you have a fridge full of BrewDog or a water cooler for the energy shakes. Some of the best examples of values to live by including Google and Apple.
It is these value that will attract the right kind of team and the right skills to help your business grow. They will allow you to differentiate from your competition and provide and an engaging and inspiring proposition for potential employees.
Finally, you can’t inspire anyone if they don’t have a vision to aspire too. As a brand you need to ensure your team have something to aim for, to work towards and something they can buy into. Without this they are performing day to day tasks without any real purpose. Certainly not something that will engender loyalty or dedication.
Recruiting the best talent is no easy task, especially for small businesses. Your brand strategy can be used to differentiate you from your competition and provide potential employees with something more meaningful that they can buy into.
If you can sell them on a meaningful vision the right people will join you to help you achieve it.
If you’d like more information on your employer brand or would like to speak to the team about how we can help just fill in the form below or call one of the team.