A Brand Values Exercise For Your Creative Business
In this post I want to tell you how I uncovered the brand values that define The Stitch Writer, how they help me and how you can do the same for your own creative business.
If you’ve ever wondered why you might need brand values, then consider this.
When you have a baby that doesn’t sleep and you drive yourself mad because you don’t know why, people comfort you by saying “there’s no manual for a baby”. Which is true.
Lots of people are in the same situation with their creative business. They’re searching for a manual and getting bombarded by a wealth of information online.
But every business and person is different, so what do you do if you don’t have a manual or the one you’ve found isn’t working for you?
You write your own.
You write your own set of simple brand values and practices that you can turn back to every time you can’t see the wood for the trees. These define what your brand stands for and will help you every time you’ve got decisions to make.
Bear with me, it’s going to get a bit touchy-feely.. but if you’re creative, you’ll love it and it’ll be worth it, I promise! Put aside an hour or two tops and this could make a huge difference to your business world.
Why Does My Creative Business Need Brand Values?
The short answer to this is that if you can define what your business stands for you’re about to make life 100 times easier for yourself, as well as set yourself apart from the crowd.
One of the most overwhelming things about running your own creative business is the overwhelming amount of decisions you have to make every day.
So imagine if you had something to orientate yourself, that was true to who you are, that you could turn to in order to help yourself make those decisions. This is what brand values do.
In Rand Fishkin’s brilliant book ‘Lost and Founder’, the Silicon Valley founder of SEO super-biz ‘Moz’ talks about hiring people based on shared values, rather than on experience, and taking major decisions based on what the business believed in at it’s core.
When brand values underpin your business they start to give off a very strong sense of who you are, just like a person, and the effect of this for capturing people’s attention is phenomenal.
A Brand Exercise That Uncovers Your Values
I’m fortunate that my better half works for a very well-established British brand that is constantly refining and questioning it’s vision.
In the hundred or so years it’s been around, this brand has become globally iconic. It has a one-line vision and everything it does falls into line with that vision. That’s what we’re aiming for.
So, I got this training second-hand from my husband, who got it first-hand from this super-brand. Here’s what happened and how you can follow the same steps to uncover some values for your brand.
1. First Things First
Hubby asked me to think of an analogy for my business and draw how it is today with all it’s good and bad points ( you were warned about this touchy-feely part - but go with it!)
Your analogy can be anything at all. For example, if you run a kids boutique that puts on in-store events for kids that are fun and colourful, you might use the analogy of a circus to describe it.
If you run a fantastic jewellery business in the wilds of Cornwall, maybe you’d use a beachside cafe. Me, I like to get outdoors, so I picked the analogy of a garden for the Stitch Writer.
On a huge sheet of A1 paper I drew a garden that represented my business with all the good and bad things that were going on.
I drew that in certain places there were plants that were flourishing - these represented the good relationships that I’ve got with customers.
I drew that in other places there were weeds I couldn’t get on top of - these represented all the icky picky jobs like accounting and IT management that bog me down.
I drew a line of question marks around the whole garden to show that there was not a clear overall vision and that I didn’t understand how everything held together.
I represented every good and bad thing with plants, pests and garden paraphenelia! All together I drew about 10 different things.
2. Making Bad Things Good
Out came the A1 paper again. I re-imagined all the things that didn’t work. I drew how I wanted the plants to work well next to one another - this represented how I wanted to work and collaborate with like-minded others.
I drew how the soil was rich and the plants were really healthy - this represented the quality and excellence I wanted to bring to my business.
I drew how it was a pleasure to be in that garden - this represented how I wanted anyone who came into contact with The Stitch Writer to feel when we worked together.
I looked at my original, imperfect garden and turned all the bad points into how I wanted them to be in the future, rather than how they are now. It didn’t matter how idealistic or far from reality these things were, I set about making all the bad things good in a new, improved garden.
3. And Now For The Fun
As I looked at this ideal garden I’d drawn, I could see how it revealed what I hoped for my business. I looked at each place in the garden where I had imagined the bad things good, or the good things even better. I assigned a word to each one. Here they are.
I aim to never stop learning, trying new things and allowing myself to sometimes fail.
I aim to make sure that everyone who comes into contact with The Stitch Writer leaves more hopeful than when they arrived.
I need to continually recognise I’m not super-human and need a full day off every week to rest well so that I can come back and do my best work.
I aim to work where and when I like to allow the most productivity and creativity and enable others to do the same.
I will acknowledge that I can’t do all the jobs myself and that other people are better than me at some things. I won’t be too proud to give the things I’m rubbish at to someone else to do and pay them to do them well.
I’m going to do things the way I believe in, not the way everyone else does them.
I’m going to do things as well, or better, than I’d like them done for me.
In summary I remember this random word ‘LIRFDIQ’ to help me recall the first letter of each word.
Finally, I thought of the ONE THING. The one, most important thing that represented all the others that would be the place I was ultimately aiming for (or ‘Vision’ if you like). It’s not perfect (yet), but this is my vision.
‘That customers flourish and we never stop learning’.
This business will always have customers at it’s heart, so that they will flourish and that together, we’ll never stop learning exciting things. In short, I want to help makers to make more things, whatever form that takes.
Seven truly heartfelt qualities and one solid sentence came out of some crazy doodle drawing and imagining on big sheets of paper!
Work Out Brand Values For Your Own Creative Business
After doing the drawing exercise I went into super-ace, free design tool Canva and made a booklet to remind me of each value. Now I carry this around me everywhere so I can always grab it and re-orientate myself.
When I plan my diary, I’m looking for where the day of rest is coming in (REST). When I’m looking at my budget I’m asking where I need to spend money on the things I’m bad at doing (DELEGATION). When I’m thinking about the next way to reach more new customers I’m asking whether the other social channels people are using sit well with me or not (INTEGRITY).
These seven values are starting to affect all the decisions I’m making about my business.
So go on, grab yourself a sheet of paper and start drawing. Maybe your business is represented by a theme park that has an amazing entrance way but lots of holes in the fence around it. In other words, you’re great at getting new customers but you’re not good at retaining them.
Or maybe your business takes the analogy of a car showroom. Your products are shiny and perfectly displayed, but the back office admin is a nightmare.
Be honest and draw things how they are. Then start again, draw how you want it to be and think of the words to describe those wants.
These are your values.
These can be your inner compass and guide your brand to feel and act almost like a person. It’s this that customers will respond to and set you apart from others in your niche.
So I dare you. Grab that pen and paper and go with the flow. Then let what you discover guide you forwards.
I share snippets of posts like this every weekday on Instagram. You can follow The Stitch Writer here.