You’re on a date. A first date.
So far you’ve done everything right. You showed up on time, you remembered to smile, you acted the gentleman. Things are going good and you even allow yourself a small pat on the back.
Then she looks at you and says those four words, “Tell me about yourself.”
Suddenly, your heart drops to the pit of your stomach. You fumble for words as you wonder where to begin. What exactly does she want to know? Where do you begin? What do you leave out? Who, goodness gracious, are you?
You’re in an office.
You’re ready. You know you’re ready. You’ve gone over your resume to make sure there are no typos. You spent hours crafting the perfect cover letter. You researched the company and industry and are ready to spell out the value you’ll bring.
And then someone on the other side of the table leans forward and says, “So, tell us about yourself.”
Suddenly, all your preparation goes out the window. Where to begin? Your educational background? Your interests? Your planned career path? Why your past relationships have failed? What!?
You’re in front of potential clients. Maybe one. Maybe ten. Maybe thousands.
All their lives are remarkably different. Each one of them comes with a unique perspective, a different story, a distinct personality.
And they’re all looking at you and saying, “Tell us about yourself.”
Very few freelancers, solo entrepreneurs and businesses are able to easily articulate who they are and what they do. The rest slip out of the consciousness of their market and fail.
Creating brands is tough. It’s difficult explaining who you are in a sentence or two. And like people, brands are complicated. It’s hard to articulate the thing about your business that makes it your business. But the penalty for not having a clear and concise answer to this question is the loss of your target’s attention and the work you may have gained. The penalty is death.
To help you understand and communicate your brand regardless of what you do: Here are four difficult, but rewarding things you’ll need to do.
1. Ask The Hard Questions.
A brand is not one thing. It’s everything. It’s not just your value proposition or your company culture or the awesome logo you’re designed. It’s everything from creating the product to marketing it, selling it and creating client loyalty.
And to understand your brand, you need to ask yourself the hard questions. Questions like: “What is the purpose of my business in today’s culture and society?” “Do I have a clear offer?” “What makes me different?” “How do I measure success?”
Thinking long and hard about these questions, especially before diving head-first into a public launch, is the first step in defining your brand.
2. Think Like The Consumer
You’ve created a thing of beauty. You’ve spent time asking hard questions and getting honest, relatable answers. You’ve hired professionals to create the perfect brand visuals or campaign. And you’re, understandably, proud of all these things you’ve achieved. You can’t wait to put all this out there and watch the numbers go up.
The worst thing you can do at this point is to ignore feedback you get from your early clients. For whatever reason, they may not connect with your brand as you imagined.
In 2016, Uber decided to rebrand and modernized their logo. Undoubtedly, a lot of time and money went into this decision but the feedback was negative and overwhelming — the change had interfered with the ease with which users accessed the app.
Even more recently, Tropicana attempted a rebrand, introducing a clean, modern look to its packaging. The move was heralded by a charming campaign. But consumers were not impressed. The emotional connection they felt with the old look did not cross over to the new.
Your consumer decides what your brand is. If you forget this, you will spend time, money and resources, shouting into a void.
3. Create A Strategy Specific To Your Brand
By its very definition, your brand is the only one of its kind that exists. No other product has the same name, look, appearance as it does, or means the same thing to consumers.
There are no generic solutions. You are going to have to craft unique answers to the questions you face along your journey.
A lot of businesses fall for the mistake that the thing to do is to “modernize” their look. While this may work for others, there is no guarantee it will work for you. For example, Abercrombie and Fitch recently embarked on a campaign to rebrand and appeal to a wider audience. By doing so, however, they’ve turned themselves into a generic brand with no clear target audience. The right thing to do would have been to look at their culture, history and use these as a foundation to create a strategy that focused on a specific audience.
4. Tell A Story.
It’s become something of a cliche in branding circles to talk about telling the story. But this is only because it is true and effective.
Stories have a way of bypassing the logic and reason centers of our minds and causing us to feel and act in certain ways. Companies like Apple, Space X, and Facebook have garnered loyalty by telling the stories of their founders.
Maybe there’s nothing dramatic about the way you started, but you can still tell stories that make your audience feel something. Done well, clients will come to associate these feelings with you.
Defining who you are is hard. Business, like people, are complex entities who do not fit into tidy boxes. But understanding and communicating who you are and what you do well is the only way to survive and thrive, especially today, where attention is divided and there are a thousand voices clamoring for attention. You, as a person and business, must have your answers ready when the question comes up:
“Tell me about yourself.”