So I’m sitting in the waiting room for 45 minutes and I can’t believe I’m still here.
I’m the kind of guy who hasn’t touched a piece of physical mail in 7 years because I find it super inefficient.
(Shoutout to Lisa who helps me with my mail… she’s A-W-E-S-O-M-E!)
But then I realize – I’m not here just for the haircut.
I’m here for the story. The vibe. The connection…
That’s what I love about Handsome Devils Barber Shop (HDBS), a super small shop started by a 22 year old kid passionate about hair named Ryan.
So what makes them so special?
It’s because they’re true to who they are.
They are unapologetically themselves.
100% through and through.
Every aspect of their shop, the people that work there, the music they play – it’s them.
I want to cover some key elements of building a great business and brand that creates raving fans.
I’m not talking about happy customers.
I’m talking about people who stop their friends and walk them to your doorstep telling you “You have to try this!”
(I pretty much did this with 10 friends after I got my first haircut.)
I call it Branding With a Soul.
These are the four elements that are present when it’s done right:
1) The Brand Is Extracted From The Soul
As much as you want to conduct market research, create customer avatars and build core value documents… I believe it HAS TO come from the people in the business.
There is no other way.
At a minimum it needs to be extracted from the Founders, and better yet – the leadership team.
When I started Clarity the first thing I did was hire my good friend Gair to sit down with myself and the team and “extract our brand”, or what Gair calls “Story Extraction”.
We spent days conducting surveys, writing out stories and having his team talk to our customers.
What they came back with was a Branding Blueprint that we could use to guide EVERY decision as the company grew.
Our big underlying mission statement?
“We help entrepreneurs get unstuck.”
Simple, to the point and it helped us evaluate new opportunities in the business and choose the ones that aligned with our mission.
2) The Experience Is The Brand
When I hear people talk about branding being about colours and logos it gets me frustrated.
The brand is not a visual thing (those I call the Visual Identity – they’re not the same thing).
Also, you don’t control your brand – your customers do.
The best you can do is help guide them to experience your ideal brand values.
Someone once said your brand is like a painting and every interaction your customer has with your business is a brush stroke. At the end of that interaction, that painting is the brand for that customer.
When you think about it from that perspective, the best option is to architect your ideal brand scenario.
What would you like people to say, think and feel about your business (i.e. re-read #1, because without that – you can’t do this part).
From there, you work backwards and ask yourself if it aligns.
EVERYTHING is part of the brand:
- How you answer your phone
- What kind of toilet paper you have in your bathrooms
- The parking situation
- Your about page
- The photography on your website
I don’t want to overwhelm you but you need to know what’s involved.
It’s not about the logo, the tagline, or your core values.
Yes, those things matter, however spending 99% of your time on that – and not on the rest – is missing a huge opportunity.
3) They Focus On a Core Customer
Once you’ve extracted the soul of the business, figured out the experience you want to deliver on, then you need to choose your core customer.
If you don’t have this figured out it’s probably because you have a fixed mindset.
You believe that if you only focus on one type of customer you won’t have enough business from that small group.
That’s usually never the case.
What happens is the “Halo Effect.”
I’m not the core demographic for Handsome Devils.
I drive a BMW not a fixy bike. I don’t have tatoos. I don’t have a beard…
… BUT it connects with my youth.
Growing up I had “colourful” teenage years.
These guys remind me of what it was like living then.
Sure I had challenges but there were some exhilerating rides…
…and everytime I get my haircut I get to revisit that part of my life in a small way.
The other aspect of connection is “story.”
Ryan’s story is great. When he opened, he spent his own $$$ ensuring he had photographs of his brand.
(What’s funny is I bet Ryan didn’t do this intentionally – he just had a “I want it done my way, or I won’t do it” kind of attitude.)
I first heard of them through a friend on Facebook… after I checked it out, I told like 10 people.
Everyone that went LOVED the place and their haircut.
In 2 years they’ve expanded 4 times… now having almost doubled the space and 4 times as many barbers than in the beginning.
It works because he’s true to his core customer (himself and his friends), does GREAT work and won’t sacrifice any part of it for an extra buck.
4) You Know Who’s Behind It
Even though Ryan has never told me this… I know it’s never been about the money.
Recently while I was getting my haircut I asked the barber if they planned on expanding further and he said “Nope, not likely… Ryan likes the size we’re at. People don’t have to wait too long and it keeps it good (the quality)”.
When you focus first on the customer – and secondary on how to make money – great things will happen.
Too often businesses are engineered for growth and I’m just not convinced it can be that easy.
In todays world it requires a focus on the customer, your story and ensuring that it gets told.
I also believe your customers need to know the creator of the business.
Just think of all the great businesses you admire… Do you know who the CEO is?
Yep. (Amazon, Zappos, Apple, Tesla, Uber, Facebook, Twitter, etc..)
For the most part we do?
Why? Because we know their story.
Why they started the company and it’s mission.
For them, money was just a way to reinvest in creating better experiences for their customers.
When a business is run the other way (making money at all costs) you feel it .
How To Do It Right
In my mind, it’s about creating something special in the world.
Something that others can point to and say “That’s a great example of this.”
Sure it could be your logo, website or design…
But as I mentioned above, a brand is not about logos and signage – it’s about the soul.
If you’re interested in digging deeper, think through these key areas for your business.
- Is your business a reflection of it’s people? Their beliefs? Passions? Motivations?
- How much of your brand is based on thoughful experiences the customer goes through?
- Do you have a core customer avatar that you think about in everything you do?
- Does everyone that comes into contact with your busines know the CEO/Founder story?
Using these questions as a guideline will help you build a business and brand that stands out and builds a fan base that will drag customers to your door.
In the end I’d rather be known for my substance than my exterior appearance.
If you have great examples of great stories of business doing it right, please leave a comment with a link to their website and the reason why. I love learning about companies building business with a brand extracted from their soul.