I want to share with you a very simple, practical and helpful exercise that I do in my business pretty regularly, and it’s something I ask my clients to do as well, preferably several times a year.
For many of you listening, I know you want to build a uniquely differentiated brand as you continue to grow your business and become known for your unique thought leadership. But at the same time, this “brand” thing can oftentimes feel really elusive and abstract.
In this episode, I’ll walk you through several reflection prompts that I really, REALLY would encourage you to work through, as well as a quick exercise that you can use right now to audit your brand and figure out exactly what you want to change moving forward.
Because this is a super interactive episode, I would encourage you to take out a piece of paper and a pen, or open up Google Docs, and work through the prompts and exercises that we’ll talk about.
Sounds good? Awesome. Let’s dive in.
P.S. Some of you might be able to pick up a difference in my voice and energy on this episode – Yes, I was actually sick when recording this episode 👀
When it comes to building a brand that is not only uniquely differentiated but also a genuine and honest reflection of YOU, being yourself is the brand strategy.
If you are truly expressing yourself, it’s not just genuine and honest to you, but it’s also refreshing, distinct, and uniquely differentiated. That’s what’s going to “stop the scroll”.
This means that your identity is at the core of your brand. Because every touch point you make with your people (ex: Your LinkedIn posts, website, a direct message (DM) conversation, etc) contributes to your brand and helps to foster that relationship with your people, your identity will inherently shape how you interact with your people through those touch points.
Oftentimes, there may be external influences or surrounding norms that shape your identity (ex: Your thoughts and beliefs about your offer, yourself as a coach, your audience, your clients, and so on). These will inevitably reflect in the energy that emanates from the virtual touch points you’re putting down.
Let’s start by looking at where external influences and norms (ex: culture, society, school, parents, the coaching industry, your specific coaching niche, etc) have influenced how you’re showing up and what you’re posting.
Side note: This is where I invite you to take out your pen and paper, or start typing on your Google Docs.
In total, there will be 7 prompts.
The first question I invite you to think about is:
1) What do you feel like are the “should’s” of content, marketing, sales, and business? What are you “supposed” to do or be as a coach or entrepreneur? What are you “not supposed” to do or be?
Some examples of “should’s” that I’ve coached on with clients include:
Please spend a few minutes writing your thoughts on this question. Hit pause here if you need to.
All of the above that you’ve written are what I like to call “coach boxes”.
But here’s the thing: They’re not real. They’re not a “best practice” or “guideline”.
They’re just imaginary and arbitrary rules we imposed on ourselves.
These are just “coach boxes” we’ve made up, which in turn constrain the energy and impact of our brand and the touch points we put out on the Internet.
Now that we have awareness of these “coach boxes”, let’s see how we can untether from them.
To do this, I’m going to offer a few more questions for you to reflect on:
2) Among the “shoulds and should nots “ I wrote down for the first question, how are these “coach boxes” holding me back in my content and marketing? For example, where am I “toning myself down” because of my assumptions?
3) How are these “coach boxes” NOT true? How might I be wrong in my assumptions?
4) What could be possible if I break out of these “coach boxes”? Who would I become? How will my content, marketing, and selling be elevated without the boxes?
I’d love to share one of my own responses to the questions above.
One “should” that recently came up for me, is that I had the thought “I should look more put together and be less sloppy in my appearance and daily routines.
I noticed that recently, I was judging myself for the way I dressed, the way I looked, and not taking care of myself the way I wanted to.
Now, I want to make a distinction and say that while there is nothing wrong with wanting to refresh your wardrobe or to look and feel a different way, or to take better care of your body.
However, this was showing up as a “coach box” for me because I noticed myself crafting a certain image of what a “put together” coach is supposed to look like both online and offline. And I was shaming myself for not looking like that picture I made up in my mind
How this particular “coach box” inadvertently showed up in my content and marketing was that… Well, I wasn’t showing up at all.
Because I suddenly started judging how I looked and was being mad at myself for not looking a certain way, I found myself with much less cognitive or energetic capacity to create.
I didn’t show up at the same frequency, let alone the same potency and impact, as I used to, especially on Instagram stories.
I didn’t show my face as much on Instagram, because I suddenly created all these super unhelpful thoughts about how I looked.
Fortunately, through these reflective prompts, I was able to catch this spiral that I was falling into.
Question 3 in particular, which is, “How is this NOT true / how might I be wrong in my assumptions”, was helpful for me to remind myself that there is no one specific way I’m supposed to look in order to be successful.
There’s no specific style of clothing or way of dressing that I’m supposed to adhere to. I don’t need to be at a certain body weight or body shape to look the part. All of these have nothing to do with the quality of my ideas and the impact of my work and thought leadership.
All of those things I was judging myself on and shaming myself on, have no bearing on the income and impact I can create, especially through the vehicle of my brand and business.
Once I had this awareness and was able to give myself reassurance, I could see that I started having more capacity to create, once again. By freeing my mind from these boxes, I was able to feel much more creative and bold when I sat down to type on my keyboard or take out my phone to type something for Instagram stories.
Overall, our job is to be aware of where we’re tempted to put ourselves into these boxes, and make a conscientious effort to NOT do so.
This is how we uniquely differentiate ourselves from the other coaches who are adhering to the industry’s boxes.
Now, I’d love to offer three more prompts to get even more granular…
5. What is the brand you want to create? What impact will that brand have on your industry?
For instance, my goal is to build a brand that
6. Why are you the perfect person to create this impact?
When I reflect on what my strengths are, I could see that some of my natural gifts or personality traits naturally position me to build this brand.
7. What does this brand look like visually? What energy does this brand have? What does this brand feel like? What thoughts and feelings do you want your people to have when they interact with your brand?
For example, when it comes to the brand I want to create, I noticed that there are three particular types of Cheryl energy that tends to come across:
Now my job is to think about how I can either:
1) communicate or express the above “energy” in every single touchpoint I have with my audience, and also
2) constantly be in one of these states of being, so that I make decisions from this energy. Or I create content from this energy. Or I speak to someone in my audience or comment from this energy, and so on.
I hope that by working through these 7 prompts, you too can start getting more clarity on what brand you’re building and identify specific tweaks you can start making right away to build your next level band.
Let’s start thinking about what your brand can LOOK and FEEL like, through the lens of brand archetypes.
According to https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/brand-archetypes, a brand archetype is a representation of your brand as a persona based on 12 key human desires and values, such as safety, power, and belonging.
The idea behind creating your archetype is to build a brand narrative and create an emotional connection with your target audience.
There are many websites available that talk about what each of the brand archetypes mean, and they give different examples of actual brands that represent that specific brand archetypes. The website I tend to reference the most is: https://iconicfox.com.au/brand-archetypes/
Before I give a quick overview of the 12 archetypes, I want to read an excerpt from the website I just shared above from iconicfox.com.au:
“If you don’t want to be just another business in the market competing on price, benefits and features, then you will need to connect with your audience on a deeper level. Your brand needs a real personality with a tone of voice. Less experienced brands may pick a couple of traits that they think their audience will relate to. But archetypes are fully formed personalities with an outlook on life, an opinion on the world and firm beliefs that allow brands to connect as though they were human.
In other words, if you want your audience to know who you are as a brand, your brand needs to know who it is. Aligning your brand as tightly as possible to a single archetype will allow your brand personality feel all the more familiar to your audience and allow you to communicate with the consistency and humanity of a real person
Brand Archetypes Are Not About Appealing To Everyone
As the old adage goes “If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one”. Great brands are focussed. You may be tempted to take traits from multiple archetypes to express your brand’s individualism but understand the consequences of a “confused brand”.
Referenced in the book “The Hero and The Outlaw” an analysis uncovered that brands with “tightly defined” archetypal identities rose in value by 97% more over six years than “confused brands” or brands with characteristics from many different archetypes. The moral of the story? Know who you are, know who your audience is and don’t try to please everyone.”
The 12 brand archetypes:
For a full, more in-depth explanation of each archetype, I suggest taking a look at: https://iconicfox.com.au/brand-archetypes/
As you’re reading through the different brand archetypes and examples of each, pay attention to which archetypes immediately speak out to you and you feel an affinity towards. And which ones grab your attention but you feel like it’s not something you should feel some type of way towards.
Then, I want you to answer two questions:
1) Which are the 2 archetypes that best describe your current brand?
2) Which are the 2 archetypes that best describe your next level 6 figure brand?
I’m going to invite you to hit pause here, and answer these two questions.
Now that you’ve written down two archetypes that best depict your current brand and also two archetypes that best depict your next level brand, are there any discrepancies between what you wrote for the two answers?
If so, let’s think of how we can help you embody more of what your next level 6-figure brand would showcase in their brand.
When I first did this audit of my current brand and what my next level brand would look like (I did this around Summer of 2022), I realized that there was a pretty big gap between where my brand was at the time, and where I wanted to take my brand.
At the time, I saw that my brand was really embodying the Sage archetype, as well as the Everyman archetype.
But the archetypes I know I want to embody for my next level brand are the Hero and Creator archetypes.
That’s when I realized that there needed to be some shifts moving forward in my brand. And that prompted me to look at my visual branding, my messaging, the way I was talking about my offers, the specific topics I was talking about in my content, my website copy, my Instagram feed and so on.
It’s not that the Sage and Everyman archetype is not as good as the Hero and Creator archetypes. It’s not that any archetype is more superior than another.
Rather, it’s about which archetype embodies the values that I want to be known for, and which one I want to be most strongly associated with when someone thinks of Cheryl Lau, the person, or the Cheryl Theory brand, or my program, The Side Hustle Club program (now Thought Leader Club), or even this podcast!
When I realized that right now, my brand was showcasing more of the Sage and Everyman values and characteristics, rather than the Hero and Creator archetypes, that gave me the gentle nudge to start realigning my overall brand towards what I really want to be known for.
The most successful coaches have a brand that is an honest and genuine reflection of who they are and their identity.
The more deeply you embody your identity, the more deeply you resonate with your people. The more deeply you resonate with your people, the more deeply you impact them.
Ultimately, the more deeply you impact someone, the more likely they’ll desire to work with you. This is why moving forward, let’s tighten the gap between your current brand and what your next level 6-figure brand looks like!
Everything you put out carries a sort of “energy” that others feel:
All of these are tools to express your identity and hence your brand.
If we aren’t intentionally expressing our genuine and honest selves and energy when we’re using these tools, what ends up happening is we start to look and sound like everyone else.
People don’t necessarily want something perfectly curated, formulaic, generic, or standardized. They want something different, unique, and fresh.
So let’s start playing with these tools and see where we can “turn up the energy” and express more of YOU.
Sounds good? Awesome. Let’s get to work.
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