The future depends on you understanding it.

Do you know that your brand is in a moment? It’s an important one. And it really matters what you do next. But how can you know what to do next if you don’t understand the moment you’re in – or possibly – don’t recognize that you’re in a moment at all?

Is your business on the move? On the attack? Or are you under attack? Perhaps, you’re in that mid-life assessment (crisis?) that every B2B brand inevitably experiences. That’s right. You launched with a solution: good R&D, engineering, something that solved a problem for your buyers. “Brand” at launch, isn’t nearly as important for B2B as it is for retail. But after you’ve had some success, maybe even achieved category leadership – you must understand the moment your brand is in if you hope to continue your growth, let alone level up. At some point, all B2B brands wake up and become sentient. When this happens, you want to be in control instead of running from a cyborg assassin sent from the future to do you in. (No? I’m talking about Skynet people. The Terminator.)

Before we can begin working in earnest for a brand, we ask them this simple question: What is the moment you’re in?

What You Can Learn From Mindfulness

The practice of mindfulness has become extremely popular, and with good reason. Creativity, productivity, and decision-making are all enhanced with this discipline – not to mention the real benefits of staying sane and happy in a crazy world. Individuals all over the globe have re-acquainted themselves with this ancient practice.

Mindfulness is big business. Try searching “mindfulness for business” or “business mindfulness” and you’ll get around 90 million results, most of them relating to the business of mindfulness as a commodity. So it’s not surprising that businesses are implementing mindfulness workshops, retreats, and training activities. They’re doing so because they know they’ll get a return on this investment. Organizations believe their employees need it, and a growing list of vendors are more than happy to sell the know-how.

But I’m actually talking about something a little different here. Mindfulness as an individual practice teaches you to be present – in the moment. So, what happens when a group embraces it? For a brand, it means understanding the moment you are in and then knowing what to do about it.

Market indicators: topline revenue, profit margin, stock prices, employee retention, and a host of other factors can help you discern this moment. But matching this moment with the ethos of your brand, your purpose, the “WHY” of what you do can be tricky and takes discipline. Like anything else, it’s a practice that must be developed. Depending on your leadership team, it may even require the help of an outside party.

Developing Brand Mindfulness

Discerning this moment and determining your next course of action comes from your ability to synthesize market indicators with your purpose (why you’re in business), your existing capabilities, and the opportunity that you may have in front of you as a result.

Sometimes, this synthesis presents itself when you’re in the shower or lying awake in the middle of the night. But usually, great light bulb moments only come when you and your team have exercised a process of disciplined reflection in some key areas. Let’s call this Brand Mindfulness.

I’ve thought a lot about this, recognizing that most of our clients need help with it. Search “Brand Mindfulness” and you won’t find anything teaching brands to go deeper than the digestion of market research and analysis, customer satisfaction, or shareholder value so they can actually identify how they should advance or course correct (whatever the moment requires). Because getting it right when it comes to what’s next is based on deeply understanding who you are and what you’ve originally set out to be.

If this sounds like a lot of psychobabble or navel-gazing to you, then you do you. But consider a couple of failures and maybe you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Blockbuster thought they were in the DVD and VHS rental business. Netflix understood they were in the content and entertainment business.

WeWork, after enjoying huge success initially, adopted a plan of catastrophic growth that led them to acquire businesses and property outside of their core vision, even a private school in Manhattan. Their current crisis is more than a story about growing too fast, it’s a story of losing focus on their original vision: creating impactful workspaces that inspire your best work.

Once again, it starts with “WHY.” I’ll talk more about discovering your brand’s why in part 2 of this article. But even before you’ve finished that journey, here are some simple ways you can gut check to see if your brand is getting out of step with your why, letting something else take front and center.

  1. Evaluate your top 5 customers.
    Are they ETDBW? (Easy to do business with). Ie: Is the partnership relationally enriching? Do they value your expertise making the relationship consultative? (And paying what your services are worth and allowing you to earn a profit?) Are you proud of the results of your work together? You need to be able to answer “yes” to at least two of these questions for this relationship to be sustainable. If you’re answering “no” then maybe you’ve wandered into territories that aren’t a fit for your brand.
  2. Measure your churn and burn with both clients and team members.
    Which clients left you this year and why? Did your work output meet or exceed expectations? Was the process of working together painful for either of you? And what about team members who left your company? You’ll learn a lot about the moment you’re in by fearlessly answering these questions.
  3. Listen to every employee and invite their input.
    If you don’t have open and frequent dialogue around employee experiences with company policy and client relationships, then create an apparatus for them to evaluate these important elements (surveys, interviews with help from a third party, and the like). Why? Because policy and client rosters both flow out of core mission.

If you’re less than thrilled with your answers to the above questions, you might be discovering that your brand has gotten out of step with your core purpose as a business. Or maybe you’re just growing out of your startup self, and it’s time to take brand more seriously.

My friend Matt Steel, a Creative Director over at Parisleaf, wrote recently that “…branding is the strategic art of finding and telling magnetic truths. Magnetic to whom? The people you’re here for: ideal customers and ideal teammates. Your people – the ones for whom you created a product or service because it brings meaning and value to your life as well as theirs. When you deliver on your brand’s promise, cultivating a reputation of consistency and quality, you gain trust. And when people trust you, the net result is stability. Trust retains employees. Trust keeps customers coming back.”

Matt’s right. And the scene he describes flows out of us understanding our purpose, finding our why. I’ll talk about this more in a future post.

Steve Smallman

Founder & CEO

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