When I quit my big girl marketing job *gulp* to pursue freelancing for the first time, I didn’t start with copywriting fresh out the gate.
My business, Rekindle Communications, actually started as a social media and content writing studio. Over time, I eventually shifted into website copywriting and brand messaging and now it’s the majority of my work these days.
You might be surprised to hear me say this, but you shouldn’t invest in a brand messaging guide or full-service website copy in the early stages of your business.
And it’s for the very reason that I explained: my business isn’t the same as it was in 2019. Your business probably isn’t the same either.
However, knowing how to articulate your value and communicate it really well, is something every business owner should understand, no matter what stage of business you’re in.
So if you’re not at a stage where a full Brand Messaging Guide makes sense, the next best thing you can do for yourself is create a brand message framework.
What is that exactly?
Well, a brand message framework is a minimum viable version of a brand messaging guide so you can confidently market yourself moving forward. This post will explain how you can create yours. But first, let’s get our definitions straight…
Your brand message is essentially a big idea or essence that you believe in and want to convey back to your audience — in a way that gets them excited about what you have to offer.
As Dan Kelken says about headlines, it’s true of your entire brand, too:
“Headlines aren’t good sentences. They are good ideas”Dan Kelken
Whether you know it or not, your brand is making an argument for who you are, what you care about, why something should be a certain way, and why they should care too.
Every time your brand shares any kind of message (a blog post, social media post, website copy, sales page copy, etc.) its job is to draw in the RIGHT people who feel as strongly about the argument as you do and repel the ones who don’t.
You know you’ll have nailed down your brand message when it’s easy to understand, hard to forget, and really captures your brand’s personality and value. So much so, that it makes choosing your brand an “easy yes” over everyone else.
Now that you know what a brand message is. Let’s go over the 5 steps you can take to build your own brand message framework.
Before you can build your brand message framework, you have to audit your current brand message, first.
Be honest with yourself — it’s okay to admit if it’s been a while since you really read through your website copy, social media captions, and blog content. Most of the time we put content up just to cross it off our to-do list.
Just know, as you make any transition in your brand, knowing where you’ve been better clarifies where you’re going.
It will take some time, but as you read through different assets in your brand, ask yourself these questions:
Answering these questions will help you narrow down how to potentially move forward.
By auditing your content, you get a clearer snapshot of what’s working really well, what areas can be improved, and where your brand stands right now. The goal moving forward then, is to discover where your brand is headed.
And if you’re feeling at a loss with words to describe, it’s likely that you need to reflect on who you are as a brand (or at least, who you aspire to be).
I realize that can feel like quite a loaded question. Very existential. But I love how simple Mike Kim makes this process.
All you need to do is ask yourself 3 these questions:
That’s it! Honestly, that’s all you need to get started. Remember, we’re building a brand message framework here. Just enough of a foundation for you to have a grasp on your brand and take action in the right direction.
They sound like simple questions, but you’ll be surprised how in-depth your answers will be, and how much more it will help you nail down your brand’s verbal identity.
Understanding who you are as a brand is arguably the hardest part of this process. From here on out, building your brand message framework gets much easier.
Next up? Understanding your target audience.
Marketing is all about building a relationship with your audience. The more you know about their needs, wants, and desires, the easier it will be to connect with them.
But if this is the first time you’re creating a brand message framework, I don’t recommend super in-depth surveys or hours of research. Because honestly, in the early stages of business, it’s not that necessary.
In the meantime though, I recommend gathering intel through easy methods instead, like reading through…
Trust me, these two places will have a goldmine of insights about your audience.
Even if you only spend 10-15 minutes reading through both you’ll start to notice patterns about their buyer persona types. What are the pain points that bring people to you? What are they hoping to get out of your product or service? What makes them anxious or concerned about investing in you? What greater goal or desire does your product or service help them get closer to?
Obviously, you need to confirm whether or not the audience you served in the past is who you want to serve in the future. But regardless, it gives you a great starting point for getting a look inside their brains, how they think, and how you can connect with them through your brand.
With a good handle on your brand’s verbal identity and your target audience, it’s finally time to check out what your competitors are up to. And specifically, where they stand in relation to your brand.
A word of guidance: your competition probably isn’t who you think it is. For example, if you’re a small athletic shoe brand, your competition isn’t Nike. Instead, it’s the other small shoe brands marketing to the same audience as you are.
The same goes for your brand. Don’t compare yourself to the industry giants. It’s not just like comparing apples to oranges — it’s like comparing an apple to an entire orange grove. Those industry giants are playing a different game than you.
Look at the competition that’s closest to you in size, with a similar audience as you, so you can really discover your differences and similarities with a fine toothcomb.
Just like you read through your website copy, social media posts, and content, read through theirs.
What’s their brand personality like? Who are they selling to? What products and services do they offer? And how are all of these either similar or different to what you’re doing?
This is how you’ll find gaps you can easily fill. Then if you have the time, just for fun, look for the brands you align with that are totally outside your industry. Me, as a copywriter, I follow a lot of slow-living lifestyle bloggers and poets because it ties in nicely with my brand. Perhaps you have your own brands that you draw inspiration from that could influence your brand message moving forward.
When you understand your verbal identity as a brand, your audience, and your competition, you have a solid brand message framework to help you market your business.
All three influence each other, too. Knowing your audience like the back of your hand doesn’t mean anything if you haven’t created a brand identity they can truly connect with. But a strong verbal brand identity could be completely off-kilter if you have no idea what the competition is doing. All three influence each other. When one falls short, they all fall short.
This is a lot to take in, so I’ve created The Art of Pivoting Your Business & Message to help break down the process even more for you.
Have you heard the term “brand messaging guide” but weren’t sure what it is or why you need one? I’ve unpacked 4 reasons you need a brand messaging guide and what it is so you can get up to speed.
Action-packed methods so your website can spark connections swiftly. Around the same time it takes to finish a leisurely afternoon stroll with a good friend — we should really do those more often.