Learn why you need to define your core values, why your values and actions must align, and how brand values benefit your business and bottom line. Plus, get free mini workbook to help you define your brand values.
For small business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs, values play an important role in the definition of brand. The values you choose to represent your business and the truths it stands for effect your communications, marketing, decisions, and most important, your relationships and the connections with your audience, vendors, prospects, and clients.
Your values are uncompromising truths and guiding principles that articulate what you stand for, and the primary driving force behind your brand, business, behaviors, and decisions.
Values define what is most important to you, providing innate guidance in and influence over your choices. They also influence consumer buying decisions and affect your sales and profits because people are more likely will buy from a brand whose values are aligned with their own.
Some businesses merely define their core values to complete the task and check it off their business branding to-do list. These businesses can rattle off their values, but they are often hollow and meaningless. For these businesses their values are merely words that sound good, not defining attributes they will live by.
Successful brands on the other hand, carefully select their values and infuse them into each and every aspect of the company, team, message, sales, marketing, service, and offerings. These businesses use their core values as standards of behavior that keep the company moving forward in the right direction.
The key is walking the talk…
The Benefits Of Defining Core Values
By taking the time to define your personal values and the values of your brand, you are making a statement about what is most important to you. As a freelancer or entrepreneur, you are making a statement about what you want to be known for and how you want people to feel about you.
When you are clear on your core values, you will be able to:
- Make better decisions: When making a decision ask yourself, “Is this in alignment with my values?”
- Assess new opportunities and potential joint venture partners: Discover whether or not potential partners share your values are have values that are compatible with and in alignment with your own values.
- Gain greater credibility as a leader: When you walk your talk and live your core values consistently, you will gain the respect of others.
- Hire the right team members: While you can define your brand culture any way you want, the true brand culture is created by the people that represent the brand. With a core set of company values in place, you can use those values in the vetting process to help hire the right people.
- Improve morale: When team members believe in the core values of the company they work for and the company walks their talk, morale is boosted, productivity soars, and retention increases.
- Build stronger relationships: When consumers can easily identify brand values and how they align with their own, they are able to make a faster connection and build a stronger relationship with your brand.
- Shorten the sales cycle: When your values are crystal clear, prospects can easily identify themselves as an ideal client and they will seek you out.
Just as a compass is a trusted guide for hikers, always pointing true north, values are a trusted guide for brands, always pointing toward the company’s true beliefs. Unlike a brand mission that describes what a company hopes to achieve and how they are going to achieve it, brand values represent the brand’s character and what the company stands for.
If your actions are not in alignment with your true core values, you’ll risk feeling unhappy, anxious, detached, unfulfilled, frustrated and even resentful. Also, your team, your clients, and your customers will be able to sense your lack of congruence and your business may suffer.
- Once you define your personal values, you should use them to guide your daily actions.
- Once you define your brand values, your entire business and team must operate in alignment with those values, demonstrating them in daily actions, message, communications, voice, products, programs, and services.
When you and your brand act in alignment with your values, you will feel happy, peaceful, engaged, fulfilled, motivated, and satisfied. Your values will permeate all aspects of your business, your team will rally behind your brand, and ideal clients who share your values will be naturally attracted to you.
Download my FREE Brand Values Mini Workbook to get a GIANT list of 300+ values and step-by-step instructions to define your brand values.
Defining Your Core Values
The process of defining your brand values is not a one time task. It is an exercise that needs to be revisited over time to ensure that your values remain aligned with the true essence of who you are and what your business represents. Your values must be true to who you are, to your brand, and to what is important to you. They cannot be based on what other people think or what you think they should be.
For freelancers — where you are your business — your personal values and brand values may be almost identical. As you personally evolve, your brand will also evolve, and you may find that the values you hold most important now aren’t the same as those that were most important to you even a year ago.
Four Ways To Define Your Values
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to defining your core values, here are four exercises you can use to brainstorm potential core values:
- The Eulogy: Begin by writing down everything you want people to say about you in the eulogy at your funeral. When you’re done, look for repeating patterns or central themes. The values that you see show up consistently in the exercise should be used as a guide in determining your top core values.
- Narrow Down A List: Begin by circling all of the values that you feel are important. In the first, step you will more than likely have selected a large list of values. Then narrow them down to your top ten values, then your top five values.
- Brands You Love: Begin by writing down the names of brands/people you admire and want to emulate in your business. For each one, write down the single word qualities that represent them — use nouns (freedom, creativity, inspiration, perseverance). Identify consistent themes and characteristics that show up and use them to guide the development of your values.
- Ask For Input: Send a survey to your clients, customers, and trusted colleagues and ask them to select the top five values that best represent you and/or your brand from their perspective from a list of options, or ask open-ended questions to learn what perceptions and feelings exist about your company and brand. Consider working with a third-party to administer the survey to ensure the results are honest and accurate.
As you go through the values definition process, you may identify many values that feel important to you and that align with your beliefs and how you want to run your business — and that’s okay. But what we’re focusing on with these exercises is narrowing down everything you identify with to only your core values — the values you will emulate in your business and use to shape your brand experience.
Want some help identifying and defining your own brand values? Download my FREE Brand Values Mini Workbook and get it done in five easy steps.
Once you have a list of your top core values, it’s time to define what they mean and represent to you and to your brand. The definition explains how the value will be honored and upheld in your daily actions and/or the actions of your business.
- For your personal values, I highly recommend creating a one-sheet for your values — a single page that you can post in your office, bedroom, bathroom, or somewhere else where you will see it every day.
- For your brand values, create a one-sheet and a poster that lists your values and what they mean/represent. Share it with your team and staff and post it in the office or break room to remind everyone to act in alignment with those value each and every day.
The process of selecting and narrowing down your top core values may be challenging because it forces you to be honest about what is truly important to you. I recommend giving yourself a couple days to complete the values definition process. This way you have time to think about what you really want out of life, what is important to you, what you want to be known for, and what legacy you want to leave.
Remember, your values shouldn’t be identified then ignored. They should inspire you daily to do better and be used to guide your actions, decision-making, marketing, customer service, and the way you connect with your audience. When you and your brand show up in full alignment with your core values, you’ll naturally attract others with similar values, which means you’ll enjoy a more engaged tribe, better clients, and greater success.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Bourn is founding partner at Bourn Creative, a full service design and development company specializing in WordPress. With twenty years in the industry under her belt, she is an award-winning designer who consults on branding, website strategy, and content strategy. Jennifer speaks often, delivering workshops and keynote presentations, blogs about food and travel at Inspired Imperfection, co-organizes the Sacramento WordPress Meetup and WordCamp Sacramento, and writes often for other websites on freelancing, client services, blogging, marketing, websites, and branding.