Who is your company? What is your mission and vision? Why should HOA board members value you? This week, we’ll help you define your company’s brand identity, positioning and targeting to craft the right message for the right ears so that your brand aligns with your dream client.
If your management company were a person, who would it be? Perhaps you think of someone like George Clooney – classy, timeless, and dapper. Or someone like Dua Lipa may come to mind – fun, fresh, and ahead of the times. You may even consider someone like Steve Jobs – forward-thinking, bold, and a technological innovator.
The fact is, your business has a personality. A lens through which your customers, your partners and your prospects perceive the company. A brand identity.
More than logo design.
Many assume a brand identity is a design term. There are plenty of people on Fiverr who will sell you a brand identity package for fifty bucks. They assume that a logo design carries your whole brand identity. If that were true, nobody would ever need marketing. You would just put your logo out for people to see and they would buy. Logo design is important, but it’s not your brand’s identity. That goes much deeper.
So what is brand identity? Let’s say you had to describe yourself to someone else. You might begin by describing how you looked, say tall with short brown hair and brown eyes. That is your logo. It’s the physical description of your brand. But we don’t really know anything about you apart from that description. It doesn’t tell us what kind of person you are.
Your brand identity fills in the gaps, painting your brand as a whole entity. It encompasses your company’s personality, its purpose, its process and its results. The brand identity is who you are and who you want to be as a company. It’s how your company presents itself to the world.
Whether you have defined it or not, your brand already has an identity. The question is, does that identity match with how you want the company to be perceived?
A Quick Personality Test:
Brand Alignment or Identity Crisis?
Now that you’ve reviewed how you want your brand to sound, take some time to review your website, communications, and other marketing tools. Does your desired brand’s identity align with what you put out there to your clients and prospects?
When the way your brand is presented to the world matches, whether digitally, in print, or in person, we call that brand alignment. It means that you are presenting a consistent message of who your brand is across every platform.
Here’s a little-known secret: no company perfectly aligns with their brand identity. None. Even the biggest brands in the world have published something that makes you go ‘Huh?’. If it seems tone-deaf or out of left field, it’s generally because they are stepping away from the identity you perceive them to be as a company. Sometimes, it’s on purpose, to shake things up, but sometimes it’s a misstep.
It’s a testament to how strong a brand’s identity is when they can recover and move on quickly from a gaffe. They can move on quickly because they have a strong foundation. That foundation is their company values.
Defining Your Brand Personality
Use this worksheet to develop your tone of voice and brand personality. This exercise helps with your brand identity, and it makes for a great teambuilding exercise!
Your Values Are Your Compass
Your values are the core beliefs that define who you are as a company. Values are aspirational, meaning that they describe how you want the world to see the company, not necessarily what they do see from day to day (although you should always aspire to!)
Your values should be 3 to 5 statements that define who you want to be as a company. They generally start with an action word, followed by a statement that describes what that word means to your company.
Your Values should:
Your values inspire and guide your choices in the way the company operates and deals with people. The core values guide leadership, inspire people, and demonstrate the best aspects of who your company is.
Think of your values as a compass for your company, always showing you and your team true north. When you have a solid direction for everyone in the company to follow, achieving brand alignment is much easier. Before making any decision, you simply ask, does this align with my company’s core values?
Finding Your Core Values
Think about the things that you most want your clients and potential clients to know about your management company. Is it your responsiveness to homeowners? Your timeliness in delivering financials? Your communication skills? Your personal touch?
List all of the traits you can think of that fit who you want your company to be. Enlist the help of key players and ask them questions such as, ‘What does our company stand for?’ and ‘Why do clients choose us over another management company?’
You should wind up with a pretty big list of ideals. But you will probably see that many of those express the same thing in different words. For example, honesty, integrity and trustworthiness are all different ways to say the same thing. Sort those thoughts into categories.
Next, narrow down the categories into a single action word or phrase that encompasses all of the words in that category. Pick 3 to 5 of these words that you feel best describe your company values. (You don’t want to choose too many values, or they will be hard for you and your team to remember and follow them!)
Finally, write a sentence that describes what that word means to your company.
Your Core Values
The Brand Alignment Test
Once you have defined your company values, you have a test against which you can apply every aspect of your marketing (and your business!). Whether it’s something big like website design or a trade show booth, or something small like a Facebook update, an email signature or how your team answers the phone, consider how you can bring that back to your company values. Is it in alignment?
Finally, return to the personality test above. Does your brand’s current personality align with your core values? If not, what changes can you make to project who you want your company to be?
Your core values reflect your brand’s identity. With this information, you have a better understanding of who your management company is, and what experience it is important for you to deliver to your clients. But this is all internal. Next in this series, we will look externally at Brand Positioning and how your brand affects the world.
There are a lot of decisions for a management company executive to make when it comes to marketing your management company. The one thing you don’t need to think about is what you do. You know your market, you know your competitors, and you know where your business stands in relation to those two.
Why You Shouldn’t Skip this Article
So your instinct may be to skip over this article, thinking it doesn’t really apply to you. After all, you already know your brand’s position. All you need are the tools to make it bigger!
But these ARE the tools. You cannot build an addition onto a house unless the foundation is solid. Your positioning is a vital part of your brand’s foundation. When we talk about positioning your brand, it’s more than just what you do and how you do it better than the next guy.
Your brand’s position dictates how memorable it is to your ideal client. The brand position answers the question, “How do we want to be remembered?”
To understand why positioning is important, you need to think about your losses. Not the clients that have stayed with you for years, but the ones who you have lost to another management company. Or the ones whose business you never won in the first place. Why did that happen? Common reasons within our industry include:
You may see these issues as external factors. And they often are. But by changing your brand’s positioning, you’ll find that you can mitigate them to the point they become a non-issue. How? By engaging with your clients and prospective clients on an emotional level, rather than a logistical level.
Why Your Mission Statement Is Not Inspiring Action
Does your management company have a mission statement? Chances are that the answer is yes. It’s one of those universals that every business creates when they first start out. But does your mission statement have a role to play in the day to day operation of your business? Does your mission statement guide your team in the actions they take? Does it inspire potential clients to choose you?
If you are like most small businesses out there (not just management companies!), the answer is no. In fact, you probably created the mission statement back in the beginning, slapped it on your website’s ‘About Us’ page and promptly forgot about it.
That’s because most mission statements are not engaging on an emotional level. They do not inspire you or your potential clients to take any action. They describe WHAT you do and HOW you do it, not WHY you do it.
Start With Why
Simon Sinek, author of the book, “Start With Why” calls WHAT, HOW and WHY the Golden Circle:
When leading their business, most people start at WHAT and they never actually make it to WHY. Sinek encourages leaders to start with WHY:
Finding Your Why
Once you can articulate your purpose, your belief, your WHY, you can craft a mission statement and a vision statement that inspires. These are the physical output of a soul-searching process that helps you get to the heart of your business to craft the messaging that inspires action, both internally (from you and your team) and externally (from your clients and prospects).
If you can answer your why in the time it takes to read this, you are probably not digging deep enough. Remember that the goal is to inspire people to action because they believe what you believe.
Your why needs to be specific to your company and your customers. It needs to express a belief that inspires action and evokes emotion. It’s time for some self reflection.
Start out by looking at your core values. Form them into a statement, ‘We believe that…’ Then ask, ‘What’s the benefit?’ ‘Why?’
Think you’ve got it? Now test it. Ask these 5 questions about your positioning:
If the answer to any of the above is no, modify your position. By the end, you should have a concise positioning statement for your brand. (Your why is also a great resource for your company’s tagline, if you don’t already have one.)
The final test is a personal one. Can you live it? This is not a one and done. You cannot pay lip service to it. You cannot throw it on your About Us page and forget about it. Your positioning means nothing if you and your team don’t live by it. It’s time to start changing the world, one client at a time!
Finding Your Why
Build out your What, How, and Why to consider in your company’s mission statement.
There’s no magic bullet when it comes to marketing your business. However, there is a secret sauce. A playbook that successful businesses have followed and honed over centuries to become the successful brands they are today. One of the primary tenets of that secret recipe is not to try to be all things to all people.
When you are trying to serve too large a market, your message becomes more muddled. You cut words and phrases from your language so that you are inclusive to every possible client. Your message is like the light from a streetlamp – wide and diffused over a large area.
Say for example, your business does property management, but you want to grow, so you are willing to do it all. Commercial management? Sure, we do that! Community association management? We do that too. Rental property management? You betcha.
Now, how do you talk about the services you offer? You can’t say Condos and HOAs because you might cut out the commercial and rental markets. You can’t say malls and retail space because you might cut out the community association and rental markets. Suddenly, you find yourself couching your message in vague terms that might appease every market, but don’t speak directly to any market.
Instead of making you look big, this strategy actually makes you look small. You generic, please everyone message gets lost in the noise of thousands of other businesses making the same mistake.
That’s why if you want to get big, you need to think small. What we mean by that is to find your niche. By narrowing your market, you can turn your messaging from a streetlamp to a laserbeam – narrow and focused on your target market. Your message penetrates your target market more deeply because you are speaking their language, using terms and ideas that they understand, and they respond to you better because they feel that you ‘get’ them.
Whether you’re a startup or an established business managing hundreds of HOAs, establishing your niche is a highly effective way to further hone in on your brand’s positioning and your WHY. Some of the benefits of niche messaging include:
1. Collect Client Data. The first step is to collect information about your current top-tier clients. Who are your most profitable accounts? Who had the shortest sales cycle? Who do you enjoy working with? This will set your foundation to distinguish your great from not-so-great.
2. Conduct Client Interviews. Next, conduct interviews with your list of top-tier clients. Glean from them information about their short-term and long-term goals, pain points, and understand what keeps them up at night. Bonus: client interviews will also help further establish rapport.
3. Research Competitors. Consider competitors who have a similar niche to yours and research their reviews on sites like Google and Nextdoor. Negative reviews will help you understand where they’ve missed the mark so you don’t make the same mistake, and positive reviews will give insight into what specific benefits excite your dream client.
4. Gather The Information. Now you’re ready to build out your Dream Client Profile! Be sure that you have the following information available to you, based on previous research:
Your Dream Client
Use this worksheet as a starting guide to conduct your client interviews and build out your Dream Client Profile.
Your Niche Messaging
When You Know Exactly Who Your Brand Is,
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