Updated: Aug 19
There’s more to brand strategy than the visual aesthetic. Sure, you need to get noticed, but you also need to captivate and retain their interest through your brand messaging. You cannot rely solely on your visual presence to grow your business. In this two part series, you’ll learn a brand messaging framework that you can use to better connect with your ideal clients, deliver your key message, and grow a sustainable business.
This first part is all about clarifying your message. Grab a notebook, there are challenges along the way.
Here's what we'll cover:
STRONG MESSAGING IS PART OF YOUR BRAND STRATEGY
Like many solopreneurs, when you start your own business you become a CEO, content creator, a copywriter, web designer, and an accountant all at once. It’s impossible to be great at all of these things while still focusing on the product or service that is your business. What does help make all of these things more manageable is having a brand strategy.
A brand strategy will lay the foundation for your business, all before designing its visual identity. Some of the key areas of focus in a brand strategy are:
defining your ideal clients
brand message architecture
content or brand pillars
The goal of brand strategy is always the same: to gain clarity on your why and your who so you can build a roadmap that will guide your business towards achieving your goals.
So how do you start to find your voice in your brand messaging? You need to understand the problem your ideal clients are facing.
BRAND MESSAGING: IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM
Every business, in a nutshell, is delivering a solution to someone’s problem. In order to sell that solution to someone, you need to know who you’re selling to and the problem they have.
To know who this person is, you need to define your ideal client or customer—it’s a must-have for building a successful, sustainable business. If you don’t yet know who your ideal client is, like really is, stop everything and focus there first. You can download my Ideal Customer Profile template to help you.
External Problem Versus Internal Problems
Wearing the shoes of your ideal client, you need to identify the problems they have in relation to your product or service.
The external problems are obvious. These are the tangible, surface-value things that your ideal client needs. Two examples of external problems would be
needing a car for their sales job
needing a coffee maker because they work from home
The internal problems are the underlying emotional needs that stem from the external problems. These are the real issues your ideal client is looking to solve and is generally what will get their attention when acknowledged in your brand messaging. Internal problems for the examples above would be:
they need a car that can operate as an office on the road
they want a coffee maker that can be set to brew automatically so they can have a few extra minutes of sleep
Brand Messaging Framework Challenge #1:
Identify all of the external problems your business is solving and then match those with the internal problem they are likely fulfilling as well.
THE SECRET TO A STRONG BRAND MESSAGE
In Donald Miller’s Building A Story Brand he suggests that the best way to pitch your product or service is by factoring Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into your brand messaging strategy.
I know, I know. Sounds crazy right? But bear with me. His point was that, psychologically, we are motivated by things that will fulfill the needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
First, you have your basic needs:
things that impact your survival
Your psychological needs:
feelings of accomplishment
sense of belonging
finding your purpose
Consider the ways in which your product or service delivers a benefit that touches on any one of these categories. By doing so you are able to tap into the subconscious motivators that influence our behaviour.
Using the two examples from earlier let’s see how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can factor into their potential brand messaging.
1. Needs a Car to Do Their Sales Job
provides shelter from the elements
provides security in that he/she is able to do their job
makes them part of a tribe of car owners for that same make and model (i.e. Think of Jeep owners and the Jeep Wave)
2. Needs a Coffee Maker to Auto-Brew in the Morning
ensures they get enough sleep
gives them the energy to focus on the day’s tasks
gives them more time in the morning to spend with their family before work or school
Brand Messaging Framework Challenge #2:
Brainstorm the ways in which you can position your product or service to align with concepts from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
THE HERO OF YOUR BRAND STORY SHOULD BE YOUR CUSTOMER
One of the simplest things you can do to improve upon your brand messaging is to make your customers the hero of your story. This is where most of us get it wrong—and I’ll be the first to admit, this was a huge eye-opener for me.
People are bombarded by brands all day long and when your messaging is singing your own praises, your audience checks out.
“What’s in it for me?”
What your audience really wants is to feel seen, heard, and understood. When you can acknowledge their struggle in your brand messaging, you’re writing them as the hero of the story.
This is why it’s so valuable to understand who you’re selling to and the deeper intangible benefits you have to offer them. Your brand messaging should be focusing on their needs and wants, followed up with the solution your business has.
Brand Messaging Framework Challenge #3:
How can you reframe your brand messaging in a way that empathizes with the needs and wants of your ideal client or customer? Revisit the internal problems you identified as a starting point.
HOW TO WRITE HIGH CONVERTING MESSAGING FOR YOUR BRAND
The key to impactful brand messaging is to deliver a lot without saying a lot. So to write high converting captions and website copy, you really need to paint a picture. According to Donald Miller, there are two ways you can go about this in your brand message strategy.
Show Them the Stakes
People are far more motivated to act when there’s something to lose compared to an opportunity for gain. When you can showcase the obstacles or failures your ideal client can avoid by using your product or service, it’s likely to grab their attention and influence their decision to buy. This is not fear mongering, but rather a shift in the narrative that reveals the potential risks of not using your product or service.
Show Them How Life Will Improve
The other approach to increasing your conversions in your brand storytelling is by telling them what life will be like after they use your product or service. Through your messaging how can you allude to the way they’ll feel or how their lives will be improved? Don’t rely on them to conjure up the image of life after using your product or service, paint them the clearest picture. If you need inspiration, look to your client testimonials or reviews. They’ll likely be telling you exactly how life is now that they’ve worked with or purchased from you.
Brand Messaging Framework Challenge #4:
Identify the risks and/or disadvantages your ideal clients or customers will be faced with as a result of NOT using your product or service. Follow that up with a description of life after working with you or buying from you. How will they feel? What will they gain? How will life be different? Get specific in your description.
The number one goal of a brand strategy is clarity. The same is true for your brand messaging strategy. Many of the things I’ve covered here are from Building A Story Brand (it is a must read for anyone in business looking to strengthen their brand messaging framework).
These are not new ideas but they were a revelation to me and made a huge impact on how I position my own brand messaging. Here are the key takeaways:
identify the external and internal problems your business solves
what fundamental need does your product or service fulfill?
empathize with the needs and wants of your ideal customers
make your ideal customers the hero of your story
show them the stakes of not using your product or service
paint a clear picture of life after using your product or service
In Part Two of the Brand Messaging Framework Series, we take your new insight for brand messaging and further refine it to be used to convert on your website, in your content creation and content marketing, plus 4 more challenges!
Jenny Henderson is a brand strategist and business mentor. She collaborates with service-based solopreneurs to design memorable brands that allow them to make a living doing what they love. Since 2020, her branding studio has become a place where small business owners learn to think like a brand.