Every entrepreneur and professional should ask themselves three simple questions:
• What is their company's purpose?
• Why is that purpose valuable?
• How can that purpose make life better?
Under ideal circumstances, the brand's purpose will help solve the most burning issues faced by clients and prospects. But what's the best way to discern the true heart of your purpose? By holding question-and-answer sessions you can uncover the fundamental truth of your brand, its messaging, and how it can help people lead better lives.
The right questions will not only reveal your larger vision, but also show how your messaging is:
Messaging helps define how your clients think and feel about you. It outlines their relationship with your company, and differentiates you from the competition. If you've hit upon the right message, your story is instantly sharable; clients and prospects will have no choice but to listen and respond.
Given how stakeholders have a hard time seeing their work objectively, any discussion about brand and messaging can benefit from the presence of a neutral third party to help propel the conversation in the right direction. This third party can help you take the "long view," and evaluate why your brand is important and unique.
While the third party could include friends, colleagues can offer another great perspective; those who really want to dig into the process might also think about hiring a professional strategist with broader industry experience. From within the company, at least three people should attend with in-depth knowledge of the nuances of the company.
This conversation is known as the Discovery Process. It requires research into your history, competition, industry trends, and your perception of the future. The answers that emerge during the process will allow you to refine:
• Your back-story
• Your point of view
• Your professional philosophy
• Your company's overall tone and voice
• The lasting impression you'd like to make
The conversation must truly be an open dialogue; no one party should dominate. Like tough love, the process can only work if everybody engages in an honest dialogue, shares every idea in a supportive environment, and pledges to treat each idea with respect. You'll know when ideas have potential, because they'll resonate on a deep level; if your gut says you should continue down a particular thought-avenue, your gut is probably right.
These drill downs can also be time-consuming; patience is needed. The payoff, however, will prove worth it when you finally crack the fundamental truth of the brand, in a way that allows you to determine both your competitive differential and your trajectory as a business.
Everybody is looking for the reason behind what they do. That reason should truly resonate in the hearts and minds of their audience. As the industrialist Henry Ford once said, "A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business." Through dialogue, you can build a brand that fully expresses a purpose and message, while allowing you to address the issues that confront today's world.
Janet Odgis is the President and Creative Director of Odgis + Co, an award-winning certified woman-owned design firm based in New York City. Working with some of the world's most prestigious corporations, Odgis + Co. reinvents ways to define and express your brand.