Core values: does your business have them?

Core values: does your business have them?

You have values, am I right?

A set of what you might call ‘core’ values that you’ve defined within yourself over the years.

Maybe they revolve around your priorities, your commitment to your family, your ethical standards or your faith.

But what about your business? Does your business have a set of clearly defined core values? Have you ever even thought about them?

Core values are slightly different from standards. You almost certainly have very high standards and it’s a good thing too: businesses rarely survive without them! But your core values are different, they are tangible; they are the rules by which you govern your business and they set you apart from other people. In short, your core values are part of your brand.

Core values
Much like a business strategy or marketing plan, core values need to be defined in order to make your business work. Yes you can bumble along without them for a time. Saying ‘I want to give the best possible service to my customers’ is all very well, but surely that’s the same for every business? Surely it’s a given? It’s like having a marketing plan that simply reads ‘get more customers’ – not very actionable is it?!

Why does it matter?

At the end of the day, your core values are woven into every part of your business. Every decision you make is impacted by them. If your core values are vague then your business’ direction will be vague. If you need to make a major decision within your business, the first thing you think should be ‘is this in line with my core values?’

Your core values are what help you operate with integrity and, if you can do that, then you WILL get more business.

So, what do core values look like?

Ok this probably sounds a bit abstract so far, so let me demonstrate what I mean. If you go to the ABOUT page on the Pink Lemon website you’ll find the following text:

“At Pink Lemon we are passionate, ambitious and results driven.

We believe that creativity and collaboration are the keys to good branding, and that good branding is the key to business success.”

This isn’t just part of the ‘blurb’, this is a carefully thought out summation of everything I want my company to stand for. It’s everything I want from my colleagues, my staff, my clients and, most importantly, myself.

Again you might say ‘well fair enough but aren’t we all passionate? Aren’t we all ambitious? Aren’t we all results driven? What makes this different for you?’

So let’s take these first three terms one at a time and I’ll explain:

Ambitious Passionate – I love what I do, and I’m guessing you do to, but in order to say that you’re truly passionate about something you need to feel it in every fibre of your being. When I was defining my core values I asked friends, family and colleagues to describe me as a professional. My love of design is overwhelming; it’s all encompassing – it’s second only to my love of my family, and that’s why it’s part of my core values.
 Ambitious – for me ambitious doesn’t mean that I want to make lots of money, or make a name for myself. I would like these things of course, but my ambition is so much more than a number or an award: it’s hard wired into every part of me. It’s a solid, actionable 5 year plan. It’s a crystal clear vision of what I want my business to become. It’s choosing my clients as carefully as I choose my staff because my business is a reflection of me.
 Results driven – This is, if you like, my USP. While any business person can claim to be passionate and ambitious these are, I’ll admit, somewhat unquantifiable qualities. However, when it comes to results, I believe that I truly set myself apart from my competition.
I’ve seen far too many Marketeers create a brand, a website, a marketing strategy or something similar, then hand it off to the client and walk away. Marketing takes time; it takes dedication and if you’re not prepared to implement a series of solid markers to measure the success or otherwise of a campaign, then how can you possibly call yourself a success? That’s where I differ. That’s why results are part of my core values.

What are your core values?

core values direction

So how do you define your core values?

Well, for a start, your business’ core values should reflect your own.

People have different priorities when running a business and you need to be honest with yourself about yours.

If you want to help people but know you’re never going to be a millionaire then that’s fine – as long as your business is sustainable, you’ll make it a success. If you want to give your children the financial security you never had, then let your bottom line be your guide and work out how you can benefit your customers without depriving yourself.

Whether you have ambitions beyond your local area or are content to stay small you need to be honest with yourself – your core values will see you right.

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of defining your core values, so here are my 3 top tips to get you started:

Tip 1. 

Set aside some time to think about the things that are most important to you. This is important so give it the time it deserves

Tip 2. 

Ask your friends and colleagues to describe you and your business. The chances are you’ll hear a lot of the same words. The vibrations you put out into the world speak to the truth of your motivations

Tip 3. 

Study other businesses.

If there’s a business similar to yours, or a business person you admire, look at their core values and how they manifest those values in the day to day running of their business. Let the people you admire be your inspiration.

Summary

Remember that your core values are at the centre of everything you do in your business. If you have them clearly defined then your business will run more smoothly and decisions will come easier.

Neglect them and you could find your strategy becoming chaotic. However, as important as this exercise is, it’s equally important not to panic! After all you’re not ‘creating’ core values, you already have them whether you recognise them or not. All you’re doing is allowing them to become solid – defining them so that you can define your business and, in doing so, take it to new heights.

10 signs that it may be time for a rebrand

10 signs that it may be time for a rebrand

To brand or not to brand, that is the question…

If you’ve been in business for a while; the chances are you’ve developed a brand. Good – that’s the first step to business success.

However, when was the last time you really took a good look at your branding? You’re probably pretty comfortable with it, but therein lies the danger – comfort isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Even global brands need a refresh sometimes; just look at Apple: from fussy pencil, to glorious rainbow, to simple monochrome, to stylish silver, Apple is constantly tweaking its brand in line with the times and it keeps it fresh. That’s the beauty of branding: you don’t have to change it completely to keep it up to date. Apple will always be instantly recognisable, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay stuck in the past!

Apple logos
What if it goes wrong?

Ok so rebranding doesn’t always go smoothly – do you remember when Coco Pops changed its name to Choco Krispies in 1999? Don’t worry if you don’t, the public outcry was so great that it quickly reverted to the original branding.

What about the disastrous rebranding undertaken by clothing giant The Gap in 2010? The company went from a globally recognised logo to something so bland and unrecognisable that Execs ended up appealing to the public for help with the redesign (leading some to speculate that it was all just a clever, albeit expensive, publicity stunt).Finally, talk to a professional designer. Rebranding is not something that can be done in 5 minutes on a smart phone, it takes time, skill and experience, and it’s too important to get wrong.

Remember: all brands evolve over time and rebranding doesn’t necessarily mean changing everything completely. Successful rebranding is about evolution not revolution, so don’t be afraid to up your game!

Gap logo
So should you bother?

When you’ve got a thriving company, rebranding can fall pretty low down your list of priorities, and concerns about the cost and possible negative impact of any changes can make you wary of taking the plunge. However, you need to remember the old saying “if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling back” Brands that never change look dated rather than reliable and will soon start to lose customers (or, at the very least, not gain any new ones).

So how do you know if you need a rebrand? 

Take a look at the check-list below and if any of these apply to you then it might be time for a change:

  1. Your brand no longer represents your business’ vision
  2. There’s a disconnect between your business and your target audience
  3. You blend in too much with your competition
  4. Your brand message is too confusing
  5. You want to change perception of your brand
  6. There’s negativity associated with your current branding
  7. You’ve experienced rapid growth and have outgrown your current branding
  8. You want to target a new demographic/audience
  9. The market has changed and your business no longer seems relevant
  10. You want to boost your profits
What’s next?

Start by stepping back and looking at your brand objectively. You may love your old logo but is sentimentality clouding your judgement?

Next, ask friends, colleagues and customers – maybe even create a survey – to gauge public opinion. If the majority agree that it’s time for a refresh then go for it. Finally, talk to a professional designer. Rebranding is not something that can be done in 5 minutes on a smartphone, it takes time, skill and experience, and it’s too important to get wrong.

Remember: all brands evolve over time and rebranding doesn’t necessarily mean changing everything completely. Sometimes only tweaks are needed but when done right, those tweaks can make a fundamental difference to how a business’s identity looks.

Your brand is an investment and investments require commitment.

Successful rebranding is about evolution not revolution, so don’t be afraid to up your game!

If you would like to discuss a rebrand or a simply branding audit then get in touch.

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Are your business cards lacking zest?

Are your business cards lacking zest?

Picture the scene, you are at a networking event and you manage to finally get in front of a prospective Client that you have been wanting to talk to for ages…

Picture the scene… you are at a networking event and you manage to finally get in front of a prospective Client that you have been wanting to talk to for ages.

The discussion is going great guns and you feel as though you are really making a great impression, after all they seem really hooked on what you have to say. Suddenly, this said prospective, asks you for a business card; all of a sudden you panic!

You fish around in your bag for what feels like ages and then finally you manage to pull out something that resembles a rather sad looking piece of paper. You go to give it to the prospective client and then… OMG, it flops!

Standing there feeling rather embarrassed, all you can think is ‘why didn’t I just pay for some professional business cards….!”

How many of you have been in this kind of situation, where you feel embarrassed with your business card?

OK, so it might not literally flop but everything from the thinness of the card to the way it has been designed screams ‘DIY’….

So why you should you spend your hard-earned money on business cards?

Well, where do I start…

1. First and foremost, it creates a first impression
First impressions are extremely important, especially when networking and business cards can leave a lasting impression. If you received a flimsy, poorly designed business card, would you be jumping through hoops to do business with that person? I suspect not.

2. They are inexpensive
In terms of your marketing spend for your business, business cards are relatively inexpensive however they can be quite powerful in terms of marketing your business and telling people what you do.

3. Easy to carry around
Business cards are portable and as such, I keep a stack of business cards in my work bag at all times and they go wherever I go as you never know when someone may ask for a business card. They take up very little room which means if the right opportunity arises, I am able to market my business. Boom!

4. They are a direct marketing tool
Your business card is a valuable, effective and direct marketing tool that people can take away with them. It carries your branding and helps to create an impression of your business. It can also showcase your personality as well which can help your business to be memorable.

5. Creates a sense of professionalism
A well-designed business card can enhance credibility and create a sense of professionalism. It also makes you look prepared and ready to do business!

6. May help to generate potential leads
A good quality business card can help to generate leads which of course can turn into revenue. I have personally experienced this so it really does work!

7. Provides a personal touch
Business cards provide a personal touch. We live in such a digital age where everything is pretty much done via our phones or on the computer so it’s actually quite refreshing to exchange something physical. It helps build connections and you are more likely to remember the person who gave you a business card, as opposed to someone who sends their details digitally.

8. Easy to follow up
By giving your business card out, it makes it easy for prospective Clients to follow up with you at a later date. You are more likely to receive a LinkedIn request or a follow-up email, in which case you are then able to develop a business relationship.

9. Makes you referable
A business card can easily and effortlessly be passed on. Only recently I received a business card from a Solicitor who I met whilst networking. Talking to a friend the following day, they were telling me about their personal troubles and asked if I knew a Solicitor who would give them some advice. Of course, I passed over the business card I had been given the day before and before I knew it, I had made a referral. How easy was that?!

Summary

So, if you are in any doubt as to whether business cards are still needed, the short answer is, absolutely!

Why pass up an easy and inexpensive way to showcase your business and brand? It doesn’t mean you can’t still be digital in your approach but I personally believe it is still a key marketing touchpoint of your business.

I am more than happy to give out my business card whenever someone asks, in fact please go ahead and take one…

Pink Lemon business card

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Why you must invest in your business’s branding

Why you must invest in your business’s branding

Let me start by asking you a question… does your branding, website or marketing material convey the passion you have for your business?

If not, why not?

Believe it or not, branding isn’t just about creating a nice-looking logo or even a great looking website (even though both are important), branding is so much more than that. Branding is about creating something that communicates the essence of your business to your audience and that can’t be achieve through just a simple logo.

Don’t get me wrong; logos are of course, an important part of your branding however a logo is quite simply an identity stamp. It helps people to recognise your business but it doesn’t communicate your brand values or your business’s mission.

Branding isn’t also just about a well written strapline; although a strapline does help to tell people what you do, it doesn’t tell the full story.

In truth, a business’s visual identity can simply make or break a business. If it doesn’t connect or resonate with the right audience then it simply won’t lead to revenue. A business’s branding needs to really set the tone of what customers can expect from the services or products which the business provides. It needs to set the professional standards of the business.

What’s the difference between ‘brand’ and ‘branding?

Now I know it can be a little confusing knowing the difference between what a brand is and what branding is so let me explain…

A brand is simply a name given to a product or a service which can then be communicated to an audience. It is the promise that you make to your customers which sets their expectations about your business / service / products.

Branding is the visual styling applied to the brand so that is has an individual look, feel and style that consumers can then identity.

Branding is everything from the colour palette you use, to the way you lay out your website, to when and where you place your company image. Even the font on your letterhead can have a massive impact on your revenue, so when it comes to really effective branding, the devil is in the detail.

Working on your brand messaging, knowing your USP, understanding where you want to take your business and what your business stands for are essential for being able to brand your business effectively.

It isn’t just about looking good, it’s about getting under the hood of your business, understanding what’s important and then applying the right visual styling that will convey the essence of your brand. It’s vital that there is a sense of cohesion and consistency right across your marketing collateral and throughout your entire brand.

3 key considerations

With this is mind, I’m going to provide you with 3 things to think about when it comes to your own branding:

1. How is your business currently being perceived?
How would you want your business to be perceived and do they match? If you are not sure then why not ask a few people in your network that you trust or perhaps a Client that you get on really well with, you may find the answer quite surprising!

2. Are you being consistent?
Are you being consistent across all your media channels? Whether it’s your design styling or the language you use – everything needs to be consistent. Develop a style that is unique to your business, create templates, decide on a tone in which you are going to deliver your message then stick to it. Be consistent.

3. Are you being social?
Social media (if done right) is a very powerful way of delivering your message. Create original content that will engage and resonate your audience – not just about your business but about your industry as well. Build an online presence through your website, blog and social media platforms. This will not only help you to communicate your business’s mission but it will also gain you brand awareness.

Summary

When branding is done right, it can really help to showcase a business’s products, services, ethos and standards. It builds trust and credibility and can also help to position a business in the marketplace. It will also have a positive effect on the company’s revenue both in the short term and long term.

Branding a business is not an easy task and, of course it does take time but it is vital to a business’s success.

If you are still wondering if your branding is worth investing in then please remember that branding really does matters because branding helps to sell and most importantly, it is what makes your business unique.

Please do share your thoughts and let me know what you think.

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What is branding?

What is branding?

The first question people tend to ask about what I do is “what exactly is branding?”

You see, people understand that a business needs a logo or a strapline, but they often think that branding stops there.

Worse still they think that branding consultants are just ‘paid for doing nothing’ – remember when the Post Office changed to Insignia and was then forced to change back at a cost of millions of pounds? That’s what people think of branding.

In truth they simply couldn’t be more wrong. Your brand is your identity and a good brand can make or break your business. It’s not just a logo; it’s a logo that is instantly recognisable. It’s not just a strapline; it’s a strapline that tells people what you do. It’s everything from the colour palette you use, to the way you lay out your website, to when and where you place your company image. Even the font on your letterhead can have a massive impact on your revenue, so when it comes to really effective branding, the devil is in the detail.

What do I do?

First and foremost I learn about your business, from your places of origin and your reasons for starting your company, to your current demographics and your hopes for the future. I research your business thoroughly so that I can understand exactly what you’re trying to communicate and to whom.

Once I know your business inside and out I can work with you to put together a brand. Often that brand will begin with a logo, but sometimes it might be something as simple as picking a single colour! Your complete brand package will include house guidelines on colour, font, images and style, and can even extend to the words you want to use and the places you want to advertise. That means that if you want to communicate with your clients at any point in the future you and your staff will be able to do so, without disrupting your company image.

Why does it matter?

Branding is all about cohesion and consistency. Imagine if you were searching for a McDonald’s and the ‘M’ was in a different font; would you still pull in for lunch? What if the Times newspaper journalists suddenly started using text speak, or Nike changed their tick for a cross?

The most successful brands are instantly recognisable and that’s because they have a style that is purely, and unchangingly their own. That’s what I can do for you: create an all-encompassing brand that helps your company become instantly recognisable for all the right reasons. A brand that showcases your product, your service, your ethos and your standards, and that helps you become firmly established as one of the best in your field.

The fact is that my services can increase your business in both the short and long term.

Branding matters, branding sells and it’s your business’s branding that will ultimately makes you unique.

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