Your brand is so much more than your logo, fonts and colors.
In retail, brand encompasses every aspect of how your shop makes people feel whether you are in the physical or digital realm.
There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ve thought long and hard about the vision for your business, the values you hold and how that aligns with the products that you carry.
However, brand integrity and an “11-star customer experience” requires you to align all parts of your business with that vision. As i like to say to clients – you can’t sell what you don’t have.
Too often in the news recently, we’ve seen big brands (with lots of capital) torn down by their lack of integrity with the strong mission that had been driving their marketing. Not great!
Building a business that feels different and aligned is a topic that arises all the time in client sessions- maybe not in those exact words, but with statements like:
“I see everyone doing x, but that doesn’t feel right to me”
“The recycled packaging is so much more expensive, but it’s important to me. Is that crazy?”
“I feel like a fraud because I despise capitalism, but I own a shop!”
“I really want to make sure my employees have a different experience than i did when i worked for other people”
The list goes on and on. Business “as usual” can feel very formulaic and operating outside of the norm can make you feel like you’re wrong, or bad, or don’t know what you’re doing when in fact you’re running your shop with integrity.
If you’ve ever felt that friction, I want to help by sharing some tips for building a brand that aligns with your vision and values from all angles.
This seems so obvious, right? In order to calibrate towards your mission, you have to know what it is, but so often retailers think they have their vision and mission clarified, when in fact it all lives in their head. Not a bad thing necessarily, but as your brand grows and your team expands, you need your entire operation to know exactly what the shop stands for. This will allow for more clarity in decision making, better service and a standard that is not left up to opinion because it’s crystal clear.
Hint: Go back and think about what inspired you to start your shop – how did you want to make people feel? To paraphrase Jennifer Armbrust, what vision for the world are you building within your business?
You may have heard that in business it’s best to fall in love with the problem you’re trying to solve, not the solution itself. That’s because when you are obsessed with the problem, you’re open to finding and testing tons of different roads and solutions. When talking to retailers, i often find myself saying “form follows function”. If you lead with “why” your business exists and the story you’re trying to tell, you will become infinitely more comfortable with pivots, more innovative and find more freedom running your shop.
Example: Think about 2020 – brick and mortar shop owners were all but forced online, and those who embraced bringing their shop experience and mission (aka their function) digital found a lot more ease and excitement in this change than those who considered their brands IRL only (form).
Integrity is a long game, and that means regularly doing a very honest audit of how well you are embodying your values. This isn’t a set it and forget it area of your business. As your brand grows, there will be new areas to asses – internal policies, marketing across channels, partnerships, vendor relationships and even how you care for yourself as the business owner. Try to be critical without being judgmental – these audits are meant to support, not shame you.
Exercise: Set aside time quarterly (1-2 hours should be sufficient) to review both internal and external operations to ensure that your mission is embodied across your brand, not just within your messaging. Make adjustments where needed.
For independent retailers, putting brand experience first will not only feel good, but it’s paramount to your success. The less friction that you feel between what matters to you and how you run your business, the more energy is freed up to focus on growth. And when those opportunities for growth arise, you will be able to see clearly what is for you and what is most definitely not.