Being an entrepreneur is hard. It’s not just the long hours, the incredible risk and the need to focus intently on today (not to mention the “today” six weeks/six months/six years from today). Entrepreneurship is a marathon and a sprint – run simultaneously.
One of the quickest ways to burn out as an entrepreneur is decision exhaustion. In the first few years of building a business, you’re playing a never-ending chess game: every move you make can have a major impact on your success, your time and focus is limited, and the sheer number of possibilities (and the volume of information available to determine those possibilities) is exhausting. (You may remember Michael Lewis’ 2012 Vanity Fair article, “Obama’s Way“; regardless of where your loyalties lie on the political spectrum, Lewis’ reporting of the president’s efforts to fight decision making fatigue by eliminating decisions about what to wear or what to eat is enlightening.)
So what does decision exhaustion have to do with branding? It’s simple, really. Developing a strong brand positioning – a brand positioning that every employee at your company, from the receptionist to the top executives understand – can ease decision making by helping you to:
1. Clarify the problem you are trying to solve for your customers.
2. Make proactive decisions on what’s right for your brand instead of reacting to what everyone else is doing. Do you still need to pay attention to your competitors? Absolutely! But brands that understand the connection between their audiences – primary and secondary – and their brand‘s unique offering to them are better able to ask the right questions and streamline the type of information necessary to make good decisions.
3. Consider the impact decisions have on strengthening the brand or diluting the brand, unclouded by personal preferences as opposed to brand attributes. (Which, in turn, impacts customer loyalty, customer acquisition, etc., etc., etc. – read Why a Brand Matters if you need a refresher.)
4. Avoid bright shiny object syndrome (which we’ve we’ve talked about at length on this blog). Brand attributes, done right, should give you the clarity to ask the right questions. Deciding who you aren’t chasing helps you develop a laser focus on the people you need to reach.
5. Make decisions about product features based on their benefits to the customer. Once you’ve clarified what’s important to your core, it’s easier to prioritize developing new features that versus developing new features for each new “whale” customer your sales team wants to capture – it’s easier to evolve in a manner that builds the kind of customer love that moves your products, services and company as a whole away from a commodity. (Great insight on this from Gary Stewart’s “7 Things I Learned from Startup Failure.”)
Aside from providing a framework for design, marketing and sales activities, your branding should help you make decisions that strengthen the core of your business – the unique value (aka “What’s in it for me”) you bring to their customers, how customers experience that value and how that value is delivered.