Building Brand Alignment Before Building a Website (part 1) ~ Soulful Brand

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  • February 03, 2017


If you see the potential of what a website can be, you might imagine how a new website could lead to objectives like:

  • an increase in sales
  • a competitive distinction
  • more inspiration inside your organization

And if you’re part of a purpose-driven organization that either doesn’t fit into the mainstream or is trying to stand out in a crowded market, you probably desire clarity around one or more of the following questions on the way towards a new website:

  • How can we tell others about our work in a relatable way?
  • How can we do this without losing our sense of who we really are?
  • What does our work boil down to?
  • Why does it matter to us and why should others care?
  • How can we get noticed without being pushy?

Upgrading the Website

To address these objectives and questions, organizations often focus on upgrading a website as the main project because it’s an external thing—i.e. you can easily point to and look at it with your colleagues to make progress.

You might have heard yourself or someone else say something like, “we just need to update the website so it looks and sounds more current and then learn how to use social media better. That way, we can become part of all the conversations happening online and more people will know about us.”

To admit it’s time to make some changes is a great start. And focusing on the website seems to be the common approach that others take—so why would you think any other way?

Here’s something to consider…

Often at the root of our marketing communication challenges is something that won’t get addressed through a website facelift and learning how to share content via tweets and posts.

If you want to address the root, you need to look deeper. And when you avoid depth and treat your situation like a “quick-fix” by saying, “let’s give our problem to an expert and let them give it back to us solved” then you miss the opportunity to develop the people in your organization as part of the solution.

In other words, marketing communication upgrades are not just about sharp-looking websites, they are about the clarity and embodiment of the people behind the brand.

Another way to say this: enhancing your marketing communications is an internal change management effort.

The Quick Fix

The seduction of the externally-focused “quick fix” can happen to anyone who wants to improve their marketing communications and thinks of the new website as the main goal. It’s happened to me many times in the past because my job depended on it.

As a former graphic designer who has worked on over 100 websites, I knew firsthand that whatever design I proposed would be influenced by two things:

  1. My ability to see and understand the deeper essence of my client’s business (often because they could not articulate it themselves)
  2. The client’s clarity and readiness for their work to be seen and understood by strangers in an online marketplace

I mostly knew how to address the first one, but until recently, I didn’t know how to address the second.

You might think, “if they want to improve their website, then they must at least be feeling ready for their work to be seen by others.”

Yes and no….

Conflicting Internal Voices

If we’re facing a marketing communications challenge, there’s a good chance that inside ourselves and our organizations we have conflicting voices that haven’t yet been resolved. For example, when it comes to the ‘Outcome’ of a new website, one confident voice is saying, “yeah! let’s put ourselves out there as soon as possible!” and another concerned voice says, “I’m not sure we’re ready yet—what if people misunderstand us?” Another compelling voice is saying, “the main thing we need to let people know about us on the site is _____” while another doubtful voice says, “no, that doesn’t feel true to what we’re all about.”

When it comes to the ‘Process’ of how a group might get to more clear marketing communications, one assertive voice could be saying, “we need to figure this out now!” and another quieter voice says, “the way we figure things out feels so forced and heady and hasn’t always worked for us. Isn’t there another way?” And a more determined voice might be saying, “just get someone to do it for us” while another wary voice says, “what if whoever we hire doesn’t ‘get’ who we really are?”

This misalignment of voices (or unspoken thoughts) is both an energy suck—one voice pushes the gas and another pushes the brake—and a sign of lacking shared clarity and intention. In general, staying misaligned inside the organization can defer the current marketing communication challenges to a later date, even if a website project seems initially successful (i.e. “We got our new site done 6 months ago, and it looks great. So why are we feeling so stuck about our marketing efforts now?”)

Most responses to this misalignment lead to moving quickly by favoring the “gas-pushers” while ignoring the “brake-pushers”. This approach can squash one group’s sense of influence and potentially ignore a deeper wisdom beneath what they’re saying that’s actually valuable for the larger group to hear. At Soulful Brand, we always start our engagements by taking a look at what’s going on inside the organization and how we can engage different perspectives along the way.

In fact, every one of our clients has needed to address either parts of themselves or differences within their organization before they’re ready to communicate with a relatable depth in the marketplace. When they get to that place of alignment internally, they gain clarity and experience more inspiration. This is what allows for those original objectives to occur more naturally, as a result of new internal understanding and shared intentions, rather than only from the handiwork of outside creative folks. In other words…

  • an increase in sales
  • a competitive distinction
  • more inspiration inside your organization

This internal process is harder to “see” and point to and generally can’t be handed off to someone else to deal with and solve (organizations that heavily favor the “tangible” over the “intangible” will not likely consider this route). And while it’s fine to get outside support through such a process, this internal alignment for the sake of clear and open communications is work that must be done first by the people who are part of the organization.

In part 2, we share more about the purpose and process of getting aligned, as well as some tips on getting started with such an exploration.

See how internal team alignment with a Soulful Brand client led to a more efficient website development, ongoing marketing efforts, and an increase in customer enrollment:

Client Example >>

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