When starting a business, people often focus on their external presence. They want to get their “look” just right with colors, logos, website design and tone. These things are important parts of branding your business externally, giving it familiarity. The much harder, yet totally necessary, step is to identify and define your core brand values. Your values are an internal force, and should be seen as an unwavering moral compass for your business. Your core values are what helps you form a relationship with your customers. Consumers today want to connect with the brands they are buying from on a more personal level.
Your core values help your business stand out in a crowded marketplace. They are what makes you unique and should be the first things people think about when they mention your company. Steve Jobs said, “to me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world. And we’re not going to get the chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.”
Core values won’t be as easy as picking a logo color. You’re going to have to put some real thought into identifying them. Recruit help from your peers, your team and your customers to get a full picture of how people see you now, and what they expect from you in the future. Ignore overused cliches or vague words like “integrity, honesty, and friendly.” Your core values should be unique to you and clearly defined into small phrases using action words. Apple doesn’t just say they make great computers, they vow to strive for innovation while keeping their products simple and intuitive to use. Steve Jobs saw a gap in the market, other companies were making electronics too but they weren’t focused on the user experience.
Think about your target market and ask yourself, what do these consumers really need? What problems do they have with my competitors? Are there any gaps in the market I can fill? Make a list of all the possible values you could bring to the table, let your imagination run wild, write down anything and everything that comes to mind. Then, start narrowing it down. Circle the best 15, then the best 10 out of that 15, and finally lock in to the most important 3 or 4. Look at these values and think about ways to express them using actionable language.
Example: A skin care company that values overall health and knows their customer base is concerned about toxic chemicals could say, “At XYZ, we only use simple, non-toxic, organic ingredients that everyone in your family can easily identify.” People will learn to associate your brand with having safe, natural ingredients you don’t need a PhD to read or understand.
Your core values should represent uncompromising truths or guiding principles about your business. Embracing them will help you make better business decisions and have a direct impact on marketing and sales. Make sure that your values speak volumes about what you stand for as a company. For example, Nike’s “Just Do It” marketing campaign comes from their value of supporting and celebrating the success of not just athletes but all people who are exercising or otherwise striving for excellence.
Once you have identified and defined your core values, write them down. Create a one-sheet that explains your values that can be used as part of your brand book, shown to team members and used in marketing. To create a company culture that is based on these values you can even print them out and hang them up on the walls as a decoration and reminder to everyone on your team. Having core values at the forefront of your mind will help you stay consistent and better engage with your customers.