How Leaders Can Find Work-Life Balance with a Powerful Brand

It’s an all-too-common problem for many solo entrepreneurs, business owners, and bootstrapped startups. It’s harming families and tearing apart marriages. It’s the cause of many sleepless nights and restless thoughts. People write books to help solve this problem and stores can’t keep them on the shelves. This problem isn’t age-specific, gender-specific, or restricted to a certain location or industry.

The problem? Work–life balance.

Finding a balance between your work and your life seems like chasing a carrot on a stick. It feels like an impossible goal, one that will never be reached. We live in a world where the first thing people ask when they meet is, “what do you do?” Our society has put so much emphasis on how “successful” you are or what your job title is. So, it’s no surprise that entrepreneurs are focusing more and more time on their business and less time being with their loved ones or enjoying other activities.

Sadly, a majority of the American workforce are dissatisfied with their work due to a lack of work-life balance.

What exactly is a Work-Life Balance?

Work-life balance is a concept related to how you allocate your time, energy, and mental focus into various parts of your life: work, family, health, personal growth, friendships, etc. Finding a healthy “balance” of all of these aspects to your life is thought to lead to a wholeness of life – meaning you have a better sense of belonging, purpose, and happiness.

For business owners specifically, this balance is extremely hard to find.

You likely wear many hats. As a business owner, you’re not only working one job, but you’re probably working the equivalent of two, three, or even more jobs. So finding this balance can seem nearly impossible.

Are you out of balance?

As business owners, how many times do we catch ourselves sitting at the dinner table with our family thinking of client deadlines, upcoming bills, troubles with employees, or where your next lead will come from?

If you can’t allow yourself to be present with your family or friends, you’re probably out of balance. If you feel too tired or mentally taxed to read a book simply for your enjoyment, you’re probably out of balance. If you’re constantly checking your email because you’re worried that you may have missed something or that an emergency may have occurred while you were away, you’re probably out of balance.

How Can I Find Balance?

There are some ways that we can make the work-life balance feel more manageable. However, don’t expect to be perfect in your efforts. Here are some ideas you can start trying:

  1. Prioritize Social Time with No Agenda. Spend time with your family and friends for no reason other than just enjoying time with them. Do your best not to talk about your business. Talk about life, hobbies, dreams, interests, sports, politics – anything but your work.
  2. Be Flexible with Your Schedule. Create your own definition of balance. Maybe balance for you is enjoying time in the morning alone while you read a book. Maybe it’s leaving your office early every Thursday afternoon to spend time with your kids. You own your business, you make the rules. Create your own schedule.
  3. Unplug and Relax. Be present with yourself and others. Turn off your phone. Leave your laptop at work. When you’re with others, or alone with yourself – be present. There’s a never-ending stream of emails, calendar invites, meetings, missed calls. Don’t worry, they’ll be waiting for you and you’ll have time to take care of everything later. As much as possible, keep those moments away from your business sacred.
  4. Work smart. In this day in age, there’s a buzzword floating around the world of business and entrepreneurship – hustle. Typically this word means to work hard all hours of the day and night with a relentless and never-ceasing drive to grind away in an effort to grow your business. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time for “hustle.” However, what’s better than working hard and working a lot? Working smart and being extremely effective.

This idea of working smart vs. working hard isn’t a new one and is extremely important as you are seeking a work-life balance that is sustainable. However, most business owners don’t feel like they have the tools or know-how to work smart. This is why a strategic foundation for your business is so important. A brand strategy will bring alignment throughout your business, and allow you to run your business in a smarter way.

5 Ways That a Brand Strategy Leads to Balance

1. Clearer Focus Will Require Less Mental Energy

A strategic foundation will narrow your focus so that you aren’t wasting time on things that don’t matter. You’ll have a better idea of why you do what you do, how you will accomplish it, and where you should be spending your time and energy. By doing this, you’ll free up your thoughts allowing you to be more present with your family and friends outside of your workplace. You’ll be more deliberate in your efforts, and begin to see how you can spend your time more wisely on a daily basis.

2. Spend Less Time & Energy Worrying About Decisions

When you have a clearly defined vision and values for your business, decision-making is simplified. Many decisions, big and small, become easier because you have defined guidelines in place. These guard-rails provided by a brand strategy will continually bring you back to your roots and ensure that you’re always aligned with your core values and always consistent. When decisions are easier, you aren’t as drained with the day-to-day of your business – giving you more mental energy to spend on things you enjoy outside of work.

When decisions are easier, you aren’t as drained with the day-to-day of your business

3. Empowered and Engaged Team

One of the best ways that a brand strategy will help you find a work-life balance is how it can help empower and engage your employees. Studies show that employees who are more engaged perform better, are more committed, and more loyal.

Although your brand is at the forefront of all your marketing efforts, it is also displayed throughout your team – from the receptionist answering phones to the service technician out in the field. Smart branding means that your team members will have a complete understanding and ability to confidently deliver on your brand promise. When your team members are engaged and empowered, this means they will often take on more responsibilities and be brand ambassadors for you.

This allows you to delegate with more confidence, freeing up more of your time to do other things you love.

4. Better Results from Marketing Agencies You Hire

The beauty of a properly built brand strategy is that it enhances everything that you’re currently doing. It’s likely that you’re doing some marketing; whether you’re doing it on your own or you’ve hired a marketing agency to do it for you. For most business owners, the reality is that they feel like their marketing efforts aren’t as effective as they could be. In fact, we recently did a survey and found that 100% of business owners feel that their marketing efforts aren’t effective.

A brand strategy will give you the confidence to know that you’re sending the right message, with the right look, and talking to the right people. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression. When your marketing efforts are performing well and you’re seeing great results – it puts less stress on you outside of your work.

5. Customers Working for You, Brand Evangelists

What’s better than getting a new customer? Getting a new customer from a past customer referral.

When you are doing great work and have a great brand, people take notice. When you are relating to people on a human level, people will listen. Knowing your customers intimately is a vital step in the brand strategy process. When you truly know your customers, their desires, their fears, and their goals – then you’ll be better equipped to turn them into brand evangelists.

When you are relating to people on a human level, people will listen

Having a free workforce of past customers who gladly refer their friends, family, and colleagues to is a great feeling. This is one other way to make your business run stress-free and create a brand that you’re proud of.

It may seem impossible to find a work-life balance, but it’s worth the effort. However, I can assure you that not having a strategic brand will greatly hinder your efforts and set you back tremendously.

The only thing stopping you from building a more strategic brand is you. At Longitude°, we have developed a streamlined process that will help accelerate your growth and help you reach your vision for your business. Smart business leaders everywhere are loving BrandGPS, and you will too. Want to talk with a Brand Guide? Request a meeting today.

5 Ways to Build an Influential Brand that Every Leader Needs to Know

The bottom line – as a business owner you want your business to grow. If you don’t, then you should probably question whether or not you should be a business owner. What’s the most common indicator that your business is growing? You’re making more money.

This is true for every business, non-profit, and individual. People don’t like to talk about making money, but the truth is we need money to operate. But what’s the best way to earn more money? It may be tempting to start throwing out tactics, buzzwords, and strategies like: “You need to innovate”, “You must diversify”, “You need to penetrate the market”, “You need to build a sales funnel”, “You need more Instagram followers”….  yadda, yadda, yadda.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all valid methods to consider and could play a large part in how you operate your business. But, for a business owner who’s growth has flat-lined and is struggling to keep up, “penetrating the market” means nothing. If you’re tired of just surviving as a business and ready to start thriving, I’ve got good news for you – it may be more simple than you think. Humor me if you will, and allow me to give you a more simplified answer to the question, “How can I grow my business?”

For your business to grow and make more money you need…

  1. More people to buy more of your stuff.
  2. More people to tell more of their friends to buy more your stuff.
  3. To invest more in methods that will get more people to do both of the above.

It may sound simple, but for most businesses who are struggling to gain traction – these three things seem like an unreachable goal. The reality is that for most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) achieving these three things is easier than you may think. This brings up an important question that I’m sure you’re asking yourself: “Yeah, that sounds great and all, but what’s the best way to accomplish those three things?” It’s a simple answer, influence.

Building an influential brand for your business could be the best decision you have yet to make.

Understanding Influence

We’ve worked with many SMB’s over the years, and we’ve found a common trait shared among the ones who are struggling – a brand strategy is either underutilized or completely absent. That’s unfortunate because a strategic brand plays a vital role in virtually every aspect of your business. It can have a huge impact on your reputation, customer experiences, employee onboarding and engagement, important decision-making, gaining support for your vision…  and yes – influencing people to buy your stuff.

Let me make something clear – when I say influence, I do not mean “manipulate.”

Influence vs. Manipulation

Influence – the process of getting someone else to want to believe, do, think, or react the way you want them to. This approach encourages your audience to feel inspired, excited, and harbor warm feelings about you. It makes your audience feel like you care about their needs, and genuinely want to help them.

Manipulation – exerting devious influence over a person for your own advantage. This method creates anxiety, stress, or discomfort for your audience with the goal of getting them to take an action. This makes your audience feel guarded, and like you don’t care about their needs.

Both methods work in their own way. However, there are key differences in the outcomes.

Influencers…

Manipulators…

  • Seek to understand not to convince.
  • Communicate clearly.
  • Listens to their audience.
  • Relates to the emotions of their audience.
  • Care about the relationship.
  • Ask plenty of questions.
  • Focus on gaining a loyal customer.
  • Seeks to convince not understand
  • Communicate ambiguously.
  • Talks to their audience.
  • Control the emotions of their audience.
  • Care about the transaction.
  • Don’t ask questions.
  • Focus on landing another customer.

It’s easy to see how being an influential brand will help your business grow. Now let’s begin to dissect how you can begin to build an influential brand for yourself.


 

The Building Blocks of an Influential Brand

1. Tell Your Story

Your story is the most human element of your business, yet it’s typically the last thing people bring up when they approach customers. Your story will begin a natural conversation with your customers. It’s this story that will show them that you care about more than just landing a sale.

Start with “Why?” Next time you are making a sales pitch start with answering the question “why?” Tell them why you do what you do, and why it excites you. This will give people something to relate to. It will also show them that you are passionate about what you do, and believe in its value – instilling confidence in them. Sharing your “why” is only one aspect of your story. Another aspect is the story of your brand.

The Story of Your Brand. Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. This 3-part approach is the natural progression of your brand story as well:

  1. Beginning (the Problem): Explain the problem that your audience faces.
  2. Middle (the Solution): Clearly explain how you solve this problem.
  3. End (the Success): Show the results and success your customers can experience.

Create a compelling story. You want your audience to feel like you’ve read their journal, and you understand their deepest thoughts. Really knowing the people that you’re talking to will all your message to stir up their intrinsic motivations. This will help you to influence people not because of what you do, but because of how what you do can help them. Telling your brand story can be one of the easiest entry points for building an influential brand.

2. Know What Makes You Different

Understand your position in the market. It’s hard to be an influential brand if you can’t clearly explain and defend what makes you different, and why someone should choose you over the competition. Many business owners mistake the quality of their product or service as their positioning. Simply stating, “we have the best quality products,” or “we have the best customer service” isn’t enough to communicate how your business is different.

“we have the best quality products,” or “we have the best customer service” usually isn’t enough to communicate how your business is different.

Instead, try and pinpoint 1 or 2 specific and relevant aspects of your business that are completely unique in your industry or region – lean into those. Maybe it’s not the fact that you have quality products, but the process you use to ensure that every product manufactured meets your quality standards. Maybe it’s not the fact that you have the “best customer service”, but the fact that you guarantee a quality experience or you’ll give your customer a full refund.

Check out your competition. It’s important to do some competitive review, to see how your competition is positioning themselves. However, be sure to find something that is different than your competition. If you simply try to copy what’s working for them, you’ll find yourself getting lost in the market, and that’s a sure-fire way to not build an influential brand.

3. Make it Personal

Get personal with it. Know who you are talking to. Remember, “People do business with people.” Ask yourself, “What motivates them? What discourages them? What gets them up in the morning? What keeps them up at night?” Seek to truly understand your audience, and how you can best serve them.

This also involves getting face-to-face with your audience. Go where they are. Attend the same conferences, seminars, networking groups, or workshops that they attend. Doing this will not only help you make in-person connections but will also give you valuable insight into the industry or demographic that you’re targeting. It could help uncover areas that your business could improve to provide a better value to your customers.

Your brand messaging should be focused on your customer, not on you.

Your message. Your brand messaging should be focused on your customer, not on you. What I mean by this is that you should talk less about “I” (you the business owner), and more about “you.” (the customer). This will help you in your effort to make a connection with your customers, not just talking to them. Let’s face it, no one wants to hear about how great you are all the time.

4. Be Consistent and Clear

The value of consistency. Brand consistency is another simple approach that pays huge dividends. We’ve written about the importance of consistency in the past, but it’s worth mentioning over and over. Be consistent.

Put brand message and identity guidelines in place. This is why all BrandGPS clients receive a Brand Guidelines Handbook. It’s a vital piece to maintaining brand consistency across all customer touchpoints, as well as maintaining internal clarity around your brand values, message, and story.

Consistency earns visibility, visibility earns credibility, credibility earns trust, trust earns loyalty.

5. Be Authentic

These days, “being authentic” is one of the most common buzz-words to describe a business attempting to relate to millennials, or be relevant to modern culture. Despite the negative connotation that “being authentic” has recently earned, there is a real purpose in being an authentic brand. Building an authentic brand requires time and effort spent on keeping your promises, and ensuring that your messaging aligns with what you do.

The 3 pillars that play the part in building a healthy and influential brand are:

  1. How you look
  2. What you say
  3. What you do

If any of these three aren’t aligned, you risk being seen as an inauthentic brand, which can be extremely harmful to your business. A good example of this is when United Airlines responded to a passenger being pulled off a plane with two different messages – the messages contradicted each other, and caused public confusion. The mixed signals created a sense of distrust among the public and did further harm to the brand of United Airlines.

Actions speak louder than words. It should go without saying, but don’t claim to be something you’re not. Don’t make promises or claims you can’t deliver on, and be sure that what you say to your audience is exactly what they’re getting. If you claim to have the best customer service experience, and you have heaps of 1-star reviews saying otherwise, no one will take your brand seriously. You’ll never gain the trust of people if you’re not keeping promises, and you can kiss the idea of customer loyalty good-bye.

Building an authentic brand gives people a reason to care.

A Final Word

These five things play an important role in building a brand that is influential. I can’t stress enough the importance of a brand strategy for your business. If your business is struggling to get to the next level, gaining traction in your market, earning customer trust and loyalty, or simply getting beat by your competition – then you need a brand strategy.

An influential brand, like the ones we help our customers build through BrandGPS, is an investment you won’t regret.

 

[Survey] How Strategic is Your Brand?

In a recent survey of small business owners, we aimed to find out how many businesses truly have a strategic brand. Some of the responses were troubling.

  • Lack of brand values. Almost 40% of businesses didn’t have clearly defined brand values or were unsure about what that even was.
  • Confusion. Over 30% of businesses thought that people were confused about what their brand represented.
  • Better than your competition? 1/3 of businesses couldn’t clearly define what made them any better than the competition.
  • Internal brand guidelines. Almost 70% of businesses had no internal document for their brand guidelines, to help them maintain consistent visuals and messaging.
  • A brand that attracts a buyer. Over 60% of businesses weren’t confident that their business’ brand was powerful enough to attract a buyer for their company.
  • Brand audit. 70% of business owners say they’ve never done an internal audit of their brand.
  • Customer surveys. 70% of businesses said they had never surveyed their customers in an effort to better understand and connect with them.

And the most alarming stat we found…

  • Ineffective marketing efforts. 100% of businesses said that they felt like their marketing efforts aren’t as effective as they could be…. 100%. 10 out of 10 small business owners. Crazy, right?

(Want to see how your brand ranks? Try the Brand Evaluator tool)

Weak Foundations Will Crumble

Our findings seem to fall in line with our own anecdotal evidence we’ve seen first hand over the years. Business owners are struggling. Many of them don’t have defined values, leaving them in a constant state of confusion–with no identity to align with. They’re causing confusion in the market and don’t know how to relate with their audience.

The reason it’s so troubling is that the very struggles that many business owners have can be easily traced back to a lack of a brand strategy. When you inject a strategic framework into your business, which gives you tools to make more informed and thoughtful decisions regarding building your brand – many problems that you once had, seem to fade away.

Having a strong and strategic foundation simplifies everything.

In fact, this has been echoed by a number of our BrandGPS customers. After guiding them through our process, our customers can’t believe the improvements they see to their business. Often times, almost immediately. Having a strong and strategic foundation simplifies everything. Decisions that once seemed difficult, now have an obvious answer. The feeling that you’re wasting money on marketing efforts starts to fade.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

You’ve probably heard this said before – garbage in, garbage out. The time, effort, focus, and money that you put into something will be directly tied to the results that you get out of it. This principle manifests in our personal lives, as well as the business world.

If I told you that I wanted to have a six-pack, and a chiseled beach body in 3 months, but then proceed to tell you that my diet would consist of pizza and chocolate shakes, and my exercise would be doing 1 push-up each day – you’d probably laugh at me, wouldn’t you? It would be absurd to expect such great results while putting in such minimal and pitiful effort.

It would be absurd to expect such great results while putting in such minimal and pitiful effort.

How often do our actions not align with our expected results?

  1. You’ll pay your buddy from college $100 to design your logo, and then expect to reap the benefits of a world-class brand strategy.
  2. You won’t spend 30 minutes to create a basic survey to send to your customers to better understand them, and then wonder why your messaging and communication isn’t connecting with your audience.
  3. You’ll wonder why you don’t seem to be attracting as many customers as you thought when you slap your $100 logo on a $10,000 sign.

Whether it’s a priority to you, or not… whether you are intentional about it, or not… whether you think it’s important, or not… you will have a brand. That brand is your reputation. If your reputation is causing confusion, and sending the wrong message to customers, there’s no amount of clever marketing tactics or catchy advertising campaigns that will save you. And as you frantically try and figure out a solution to why your business is slowly slipping out of your control, you’ll waste a lot of time and money along the way.

Branding on a Budget of $0

We hear this a lot. “Your BrandGPS process sounds awesome, and I can really see the value and how it could help my business… but…”

  • “We just can’t afford it.”
  • “We have other priorities right now.”
  • “Maybe it’s something we can implement later on.”
  • “We really just need a logo right now.”

These are not good reasons to give up on branding for your business. Even if you can’t afford to hire a professional branding agency like Longitude°, you can still be strategic in your branding. We’ve written a number of articles that could help get you started on the right path, as well as published a free guide called “The Business of Branding.” These types of resources should be utilized and implemented in your business.

There’s plenty that you can do to grow your business into a powerful and profitable brand. Don’t give up on building the brand you want, simply because you don’t believe you can afford it.

Ready to Talk? Send a Message

Or just email us at info@longitudebranding.com