If you’ve been in business for even just a month or two, you have probably run across marketing workshops or articles that talk about building your brand. And if you rolled your eyes at any of this, I get it. It sounds superficial, doesn’t it? Or for folks like me, it feels like a box you put yourself into that restricts who you are as a person or what you offer as a business.

In reality, it doesn’t have to be fake or limiting, especially if you go about creating it in a thoughtful way. After attending a workshop by DC-based leadership coach and speaker Christa Davis (hosted by 40Plus of Greater Washington), my perception began to shift.

One way to think of a brand is as a dish made off three ingredients: who, what and how. The Who, Davis explained, is comprised of your:

• values,
• passions, and
• strengths

While you want to project a positive brand, consider your weaknesses as well as your strengths to keep it real. After we made a list of each of the three Who items, Davis asked us to choose one word that reflected who we were. Not an easy exercise but not painful either. It definitely made me think and I liked the words I came up with (such as connector, as in connecting with audiences and connecting data points to see trends). I don’t consider any runner-up words to be lost or wasted as I will incorporate some of them into website copy and other marketing materials.

What’s next? The What, of course. What are you doing to develop your brand? For example, if integrity is what you want to be known for, is it clearly reflected in the experience and accomplishments you mention in your marketing? Are you volunteering or engaging in other daily activities that allow you to showcase your integrity? When was the last time you wrote a blog or social media post on the subject?

Moving on to How, as in how are you delivering your brand, Christa challenged us with these questions: (1) What impact does your presence make before you say a word? and (2) How are you presenting your value?
Again, not easy.

Personally, I find it hard to gauge what impact my presence makes but I’m willing to start asking people I trust to tell me truthfully: Does my energy, confidence, or communication style reflect [fill in the brand]? If the answer is sort of or not quite, then I have some work ahead of me but I will be grateful for the knowledge.

Why it Matters

Put simply, a brand tells prospective customers what makes you different from your competitors and why they should buy from you instead. “Our Who affects how we are showing up,” Davis remarked.

How we show up, whether it’s at a business meeting or a kid’s soccer game, matters; after all, those other parents may be potential customers or connections to customers you are seeking. For example, what makes you the right accountant for a family? They have dozens to choose from. You came across as friendly, low-key and understanding of people making mistakes and that’s what they were looking for. None of us will be a fit for everyone and that’s okay. After all, wouldn’t you prefer a client who likes you for who you are and how you do your work?

For more info on how to build your brand, check out these 10 tips from Duct Tape Marketing.

Originally posted with the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

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