When you talk about a business identity, people often assume that you mean your branding.
They talk about logos, the colour palette you use on your promotion materials or you website and the fonts you use. But even branding is so much more than just the styles you adopt.
And developing your business identity is even bigger. It is what the public sees when they walk past your store or scan the pages on your website.
It is the perceptions they build about how you do business every time they interact with you or one of your employees. It is how they feel when they do business with you and it is at the core of what or who your business is.
It is the 'personality' that you create for your business and share with the public either consciously or unconsciously.
If you do not spend time defining your identity and aligning your business practices with your identity and make sure that everyone who works in your business is one board, you will present a disjointed or conflicted view of your business to the people that you want to work with.
You can tell people who you are until you are blue in the face, but they are not going to believe you until you walk the talk.
Expressions of Your Unique Business Identity...
The sub-heading below will lead you through a process of considering some of the more significant decision you need to consider when you are defining your business identity. The list is not completely comprehensive as there are many more expressions of your business identity that can and will evolve over time, but they are a good place to start.
Your Business or Domain Name
Choosing a business name is one of the legal or administrative tasks you will have to complete before you open your doors for business.
Unless you are planning on operating as a sole trader using your own name, you will have to select and register a business name for your business. In many jurisdictions, carrying on a business without a registered name is a criminal offense.
Choosing a business name will be an important part of defining your unique business identity and needs to be chosen with care.
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Choosing a domain name is a whole other kettle of fish, and there are different aspects of making your choice that you need to consider.
For example, it is likely that people are going to be typing your domain name into a browser at some point, so using unusual spellings or a mix of words and numbers in your domain name may mean that potential customers cannot find you.
You also have to consider factors related to availability, SEO, possible trademarks issues and one or two legal issues as well. As one of the first things people will see with an online business, selecting the right domain name is one of the critical expressions of your unique business identity.
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Your Business Values
Your business values are going to be a mix of your personal values and the values that you feel are important for operating your business. Our values are largely unconscious and based on previous experience which means that much of our behaviour is an unconscious response to our environment which is based on our values but without any conscious control.
Not all business owners have taken the time to actually look within themselves to identity the values that are important to them, but their values will always be expressed in their day to day behaviour and will be what guides everyone that works in the business. If our internalized values are not consistent with our stated business values, our actions will be out of sync with our intentions.
But the good news is that if we find that our internalized values are in conflict with our stated business values - we can change them. They can be identified and changed if we take the time for some introspection.
So what are your core values and what values are going to be important for your new business? Of all the values that you discover, which ones should you incorporate into your unique business identity?
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Your Mission and Vision
This one is about defining your business and identifying the direction you want to do in with your new business, and it is more important than many people believe.
Basically your mission is a short statement about what you believe your business to be, and what you can offer to your target market,your employees and the business owners. Your mission can be expansive, intriguing, curiosity invoking and inspiring. Or it can be boring and constricting. It creates a mindset or a way of thinking about the business for you and for the people who interact with your business and once established it can be very difficult to think outside that mindset.
You vision is again, a short statement about where you want the business to be in the future and what impact you want the business to have on the people who come into contact with it.
Put simply, the mission is what you do and the vision is the anticipated result of what you do.
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I put this section on branding at the bottom of the page for a reason. Your branding is important, but it needs to fit or suit all of the other expressions of your unique business identity.
If it doesn't, for example if your business is about personal care and you have a colour scheme that is cold, sharp or rigid, then you branding is not going to be consistent with the message you want to portray to your customers. A serious business (like a law firm for example) is not going to use soft pastels and cartoon characters in their logo or their letterhead, and a playground/cafe targeting stay at home mums and their children are unlikely to select corporate looking or formal branding.
Work out who you are as a business owner and what you want people to see and feel when they come into contact with your business before you start designing your branding or you look and feel for your website. Only then will your promotional and business materials be consistent with the image you want to portray to the public.
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