When you define your brand values, you make the right decisions for your business.
You will know you have the right team working together when a month of flooding and working from home doesn’t keep you all from collaborating on a new concept for Dana DiTomaso to present at MozCon. Or from launching a (totally real [fictional]) baked potato company.
You will know you made the right decision to fire an employee because the tension goes away and everyone is relieved and ready to step up within their roles.
You will know you made the right choice to not respond to an RFP for a website with a tight time frame and unclear goals, when you notice that four months past the desired launch date, there’s still no new website.
You will learn to say no, and then say no again, because no good ever seems to come from conceding and working with less budget than you actually need to do great work. Saying no is a powerful way to build trust. Embrace it!
When you live your brand values, you also learn to say yes.
Yes to adopting Sketch as your program of choice for designing websites, in order to streamline your workflow and make your developers’ lives easier.
Yes to developing a spur-of-the-moment website to help your fellow citizens, because it’s fun and because it’s also 100% necessary for everyone who has to park at Kick Point.
Yes to canoeing down a river as a team, because nothing else bonds you like the sharing of awkward tan-lines.
At Kick Point in 2016, our brand values became the lighthouse we turn to to make sure we don’t crash into any rocky shores. They’ve brought us together as a team, because we can all rally around our values and make decisions together. For example, when we’re unpacking an RFP or initial lead email, we discuss our first impressions about whether or not the project aligns with our brand values. Is there a clear goal? Who will champion this work on the client-side?
What would our goal be in pursuing this work?
We’ve always talked about everything. When we discuss potential clients and current projects, our open and constant communication is in the interest of efficiency and doing great work. Eliminating silos and committing to being vocal has enabled us to take full advantage of the varied skills and backgrounds of everyone at Kick Point.
But when we would talk about everything else, specifically internal things — our own strategy documents, posts, ideas, hopes, dreams, etc — we would become way less efficient because the answers were less clear.
- Who are we writing this blog post for?
- Should we sponsor a youth soccer team?
- Is Y a person we should consider for Z role?
- Do we need to post about X?
- Do we need to respond to Y?
- Is Z something we would say on Twitter?
- Do we even need to have a Kick Point Facebook page?
- Would we share this in our newsletter?
Sticking to your brand values puts you in a powerful position, one where you are confident about executing major decisions — for internal things, like “should we get matching shirts?” — and for client things, for those times when you’re in an established relationship and you first gently, and then firmly, push your client in the direction of a rebrand, because sometimes that’s what is needed.
Living your brand values can become second nature, but it’s important to continue to be intentional in how you think of them. Think of them as cast iron pans. Tried, tested, true, and reliable — but you gotta treat them right and keep them seasoned.
When your organization makes a decision together, or any one person does something that exemplifies one of your values, discuss it. When you realize you’ve fallen into a situation where something feels off-brand, discuss it. How did you get there? Which value took a back seat? To what? And why? What will you do differently next time? Make the time to respect your brand values, and don’t treat them like the shoemaker’s children.
Not all client-agency relationships are a good fit. However, when all of your communications are guided by your brand values, your relationships have a much better chance of being mutually beneficial and rewarding.
Before we were actually living within our brand values at Kick Point, we would often miss signs of ill-fit during the prospect/lead stage of client relationships. Even when a client mentioned that we would be the fourth agency they were “trying out” within the year during an early sales call, we still pursued the project. Regrets, oh, we have a few.
In mid-June, we had been working with that same client, an online mattress distributor based in Arizona, for nearly two months and were three weeks into implementing a 9-month link building strategy for them. One of the co-owners emailed to say that they were cancelling that part of their contract, because he hadn’t seen “significant high value links come in yet” — remember, this happened three weeks into the execution of a 9-month link building strategy!
Guess what? You can’t build high value links to content that does not exist.
The kicker was the fact that their team was in charge of managing the content strategy we developed for them, but none of those content pieces had been published yet. We could go on and on about how you can’t build high value links to content that does not exist, but suffice it to say, this relationship was falling off the rails.
Yet, as they were cancelling one portion of their agreement with us, they were also asking for our help rebranding their company. If you work in this industry you know that being part of a rebrand can be supremely rewarding, so even though we were uneasy about the company’s dismissal of how legitimate link building works, we remained intrigued by the opportunity.
However, two emails later, a schedule was presented to us that required the rebrand be completed within two and a half weeks (and completely ignored our recommended five-week research and goal setting period). Was the money being dangled in front of us attractive? Of course! Was putting our team on the line for a company that danced from one thing and one agency to the next worth it? No, not at all.
We went back to the initial proposal stage when we debriefed the project and reread all of the emails between our company and theirs. The red flags were much easier to spot then. Hindsight, right?
Do we actually regret this experience? Well, we regret the stress it put on the team. To develop a strong SEO strategy and then not be given the opportunity to fully execute it? That stings. However, this situation highlighted how important it is to respect our brand values, integrate them into our decision-making process, and ensure our communication with current and potential clients is always intentional.
Your brand values become your lighthouse — steering you clear of misfortune and disaster.
When brand values are defined, they become the foundation on which you base every decision you make. They become your lighthouse — steering you clear of misfortune and disaster. With strong values, your entire team can be asked a question about what is right for your company and each person will give the same answer. Sure, they might use different words to get their points across, but the intent of each answer will be the same.
Don’t just print your values, frame them, and put them on your wall. Discuss them in everything you do, cultivate their meaning, let them evolve over time, and celebrate the impact they have on your success.