There are many definitions of a brand. To be honest, “brand” is such a simple word, but defining it can sometimes be challenging. There is a simple approach to branding by defining it as what people say, think or feel about you and your business. In other words, think of your brand as the space you hold in someone’s mind.

The thing about branding that people get confused about is that the process of branding starts on the inside and only then can it truly manifest in external ways – logo, business card, colors, textures, business name, tag line, speaking topics, client experience and so forth.

Your job in leading your brand is to ensure your marketing, the client experience and all other touch points people have with your company are “on-brand.” In other words, everything looks, feels and behaves in a way that is aligned with how you want to be perceived. And by “everything” I mean everything from your web site, the topics you speak and write about, how you greet clients or customers, your voice mail, your products and services, the words and phrases you use, the quality of paper that your business cards are printed on and all other touch points.

It’s a big job, isn’t it? And you may be wondering how to even get started. Here are a few steps you can take to discover your brand.

Brand Mission

What’s your mission? How do you want to change the world? What is the purpose of your business? These questions can sometimes seem overwhelming, but most of the time, the answer is right there just waiting for you to give it a voice. The more simplistic you can state it, the better. Write yours out in a way that a 3rd grader can read and understand it. Think of your mission statement as your be-all-end all goal. It may sound a bit grand. And that’s good because mission statements pull you forward toward dreams and possibilities.

Heart and Soul of Your Brand

Your brand has a heart and soul. There are things that you offer and ways that you offer them that are unique to you. Find what lies within. What features and benefits do you offer? What adjectives do you want people to think of when they think of you? What stories can you tell that are unique to you? What emotion to you want to convey? Based on these things, what key messages do you want your brand to convey?

Points of Difference

Remember those teenage days when being seen as different was terrible? Guess what? Those days are over! (Thank goodness.) In business, it’s essential to be seen as different. It helps you stand out as the obvious, if not the only choice, when a potential client needs your services. You stop being seen as a commodity that can be “shopped” for the lowest price. Find a value proposition that positions you as the obvious and only choice for your ideal clients.

Ideal Clients

Speaking of your ideal clients, it is important to know who they are, where they are and what specific things they want in their lives so you can earn their attention and eventually their business and referrals. A very simple market analysis asks these core questions: Who are they and where do they gather online or offline? What do they already think of your brand? What do you want them to think of your brand? How can you attract them to you? Who else markets to this group of people? In addition, what results do you help them achieve? Knowing your ideal clients’ current perceptions, goals and who else is competing for their loyalty will help you to position yourself in your branding.

Barriers to Success

Barriers come in the forms of market conditions and personal barriers that can keep your product or service from achieving success. Market condition barriers may include timing, financing, location, pricing, lack of demand or compliance issues. Personal barriers may include stress, low energy, family responsibilities or even a poor outlook. Other barriers may include staffing needs, uninspired marketing or a lack of good customer service. Knowing your barriers is the first step in continuing to grow and expand your brand in a positive way.

Brand Personality

Every brand has a personality. The purpose of consciously establishing a strong, direct and identifiable personality is that I will advance your brand’s values and positioning. It helps to tighten the bond between you and your ideal clients. You create the personality when you decide how to use words, tone and visuals like fonts, images, colors and textures to express your message. When a company uses phrases like “in which” and “therefore,” they sound formal, like a traditional bank. Another business may decide to be more causal using phrases like “Hi everyone” or using an ampersand instead of the word “and” neither approach is wrong. Just make sure the way you’re speaking to your clients reflects your brand personality.

Once you fully identify these key elements of your brand, only then can you really assess your current branding efforts to see what you need to tweak or completely change. If you need to change a lot, you’re in good company. And it’s probably a sign that you are growing and expanding. If you find yourself in this boat, it is time to take a deep dive into your business so your brand can emerge in a bigger, bolder way and become a brand that truly stands out instead of just another business in a sea of sameness.