USE YOUR BRAND STORY TO SURVIVE AND THRIVE

With so much economic uncertainty, it’s easy to bury your head in the day-to-day – but that could dramatically reduce your visibility at a time when it’s never been more important to give new customers a clear reason to choose YOU.

So what should you do? Studies have repeatedly shown that those who invest in their brand during recessions outperform their competitors and recover much faster when things pick up. And those that REALLY win are the ones who support their community during the tough times.

I’m here to tell you how to stand out, create emotional connection and stay visible to create a tribe of superfans who will really stick by you, to tide you through the tough times and revel in the good times.

The Shortcut

  • Clearly communicate your purpose and drive, so your audience knows you care about more than just making money.
  • Know what your customers need by staying on top of how they’re adapting to the changing economic situation, and not the last.
  • Give your customers a very clear reason to choose you over the others.
  • Tell a story that goes beyond your product, to stand out from the rest and create the emotional connections necessary for lifetime loyalty.
  • Be of service to your community, in person and online, to build those strong relationships.

1. Be clear on your purpose

The most loved brands in the world have a clear purpose that goes way beyond making money. You don’t have to give 100% of your profits to charity; by just helping your community (locally or online) in a small way you’ll make a lasting impact. Getting clear on your purpose will give you and your team an amazing sense of motivation. That’s the foundation of your work culture.

Sharing your purpose won’t always get likes and comments but customers need to see these things and remember them.

How to find your purpose:

  • What problem are you solving for your customers?
  • How are you impacting their lives, what positive emotions are you inspiring and what negative emotions are you removing?
  • If you were a non-profit, why would you be doing what you do?

2. Become obsessed with your tribe

The best brands in the world are constantly talking to their customers and adapting to them. Just because you’re in an incredibly time-poor industry it doesn’t mean those practises don’t apply.

Pick 1-2 customers who are the most loyal and excited about you. They’re probably the ones you best relate to as well. If you’re struggling with this look for the common threads:

  • Affluent mums
  • East London early adopters
  • Vegans who care about the planet and what they put into their body

Who are they? Think about their background, their goals, what they’re into and their fears and challenges.

What’s their journey?

Now imagine the journey they’ll take, from not knowing you to eating in your restaurant or buying your goods. What’s in the way of them choosing you?

1) Problem aware – what is the problem they’re coming up against? Eg ‘I can’t get tasty vegan food in my area’, ‘I can’t find healthy food served fast’, ‘There is nowhere by me that does a great hospitality experience’.

2) Option aware – how will they find options, including yours? Influencers, blogs, Google Maps, social media? How clear is the information they’re looking for?

3) Alternatives – what are the main options they would consider against you? What do those options do better than you, and where do you triumph?

4) Objections – what are the common reasons they wouldn’t choose you?

5) Buying decision – what are the key things that will influence their choice?

6) Advocacy – when they visit you, what will turn them into superfans and make them want to share their experience?

Picturing your ideal customer will help you answer these questions, but nothing beats speaking to them directly. You can do an email survey and at the end ask them to do a 1-1:30 minute interview; you can also ask some of your superfans to have a chat in exchange for whatever service you’re offering.

Use these pain points in your communications – “Don’t you hate it when…”, “We know you struggle with x which is why we do y…”

Once you’ve gathered your data, think about how you can make it easier for customers to not just choose you, but also to stick with you.

3. Your clear point of difference

Make it easy for your customers to choose you. You don’t have to have a totally unique menu – sometimes just one thing can make you stand out. Other times, it’s a combination of things which aren’t individually special but become unique when they are brought together. And sometimes, just telling an honest, compelling human story is enough.

Your point of difference sits above everything you do. Everything you say and do should be reinforcing it in both direct and subtle ways.

Try out this exercise to help you work out your point of difference. (Note: the document is view only; please make a copy of it to edit).

4. Your story

Your story is everything you say and do to shape people’s perceptions of you. Rather than rehashing the same story that others are telling, you need to dig deep on why you do what you do, how you do it and where it’s going. You’ll build lifetime trust and loyalty this way.

Here are some ways to tell a more engaging human story that will connect with your audience:

1) Your journey – what are the key moments and influences that have shaped you? What are the principles your business is founded upon and how did your key moments shape them? Where are you going – what’s the future you’re trying to achieve?

2) Be the expert – what’s your process for doing things – is it unique? What are your superpowers? What credibility can you share?

3) Share your beliefs – what do you stand for, what do you stand against? What’s the change you want to see in the world and your industry?

4) Give value – what can you give away for free to make people’s lives better? Go beyond just providing recipes and get creative: food guides to specific areas, your favourite local delis, hacks/time savers people can do in the kitchen.

Don’t forget to add drama to your story.

Most drama involves overcoming a challenge and sharing the lessons you’ve learned. Creating a dish/product can be very dramatic when you chart the honest journey it took to get there – there’s a reason 8 out of 10 people watch food and restaurant programs in the UK! They’re engaging and entertaining.

The more transparent you are about your journey, the more engaging it is.

Share your emotions on how you’ve felt through your journey to allow your audience to connect with you.

5. Don’t just talk, do

The best brands in the world don’t just talk, they also do things for their community. That’s the difference between operating authentically, with a true purpose, and being a fake. A true community is bringing people together over a shared passion and improving their lives through it.

The more you can align these with your purpose and values, the more powerful your brand becomes.

Some ideas:

  • How can you reward your superfans, the bedrock of your business and bring them closer to you? Could you do an event every few months to test out new menu items and get feedback on your biz?
  • Start conversations online and share those opinions for community discussion. Getting feedback on new menu ideas is always a winner. But make sure people feel heard.
  • Is there something you can do for your local community, even if it’s really small and not time intensive?
  • Can you do online or in-person events to help people with their cooking? It could be on any topic from using special kitchen tools, to reducing waste, to saving-time hacks.
  • Can you collaborate with other businesses who have a similar audience to you and share the same values? You could create a menu item or product together, or get a few of you and do something for your community.

AND FINALLY…

Building a brand that stands out and keeps people loyal over the hard times isn’t easy. It’s why most people fail when telling their story. If there’s one thing you can take away, it’s to have the courage to go beyond your product and tell a human story that people can truly connect with. All the brands that grow the fastest do this.

Here’s a simple exercise to get you started. People are so bombarded with information every day, and as soon as you post something they’re likely to forget about it. You need to constantly repeat the few things you want to be known for, above all else.

  • Imagine you’re going to be invited on a podcast.
  • Brain dump all the key stories from your life that shaped you and shaped your business.
  • Brain dump the key messages and beliefs that you want to be known for which are important to you.
  • Cut these down into a list of the 5 key things you want to make sure you talk about on a podcast.

These are the things you’ll need to repeat, above all else, if you want to stand out from the crowd.