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Brand Mapping or Bust

How a Brutally Honest Brand Map Can Get Your New Independent Venture Humming

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

What’s Brand Mapping and Why Should I Care about it?

  • Your Competencies (as described by clients)
  • The Market Need for Your Competencies
  • The Candidate Brands that will serve these Market Needs
  • The Brand Marketing tactics that will pull prospects to your Brands
Figure 1. Brand Mapping Categories (Blue Globe Management Consulting)

Before you Start Your Brand Map, Check Your Hedgehog Concept

Figure 2. The Hedgehog Concept Venn Diagram (Jim Collins)
  1. Are you passionate about this venture, and the work you’ll have to do to make it successful?
  2. Can you be the best in the world with this venture? In other words, does the work involved come naturally to you, like it was in your DNA all along?
  3. Does the venture “drive your economic engine? i.e., does it at least pay you what you what you need (not necessarily what you want)?

Starting Your Brand Map

  • Preparation: Consider how you’ll start to build your Brand Map. Brand Mapping is best done as a brainstorming exercise, but, as mentioned previously, it is not pie-in-the-sky brainstorming. It will require a lot of what Collins calls “piercing insight and egoless clarity.” So, consider bringing your trusted advisor(s) into this exercise, but make sure (1) they really know you, including the good, the bad, and the ugly; and (2) they’ll be brutally honest with you, especially when it comes to competencies.
  • Pick your Mind Mapping Tool: Decide whether you want to use a White Board with Sticky Notes or a Mind Mapping tool. There are many good mind mapping tools out there that may make the iterative cycles with your Brand Map a bit easier. You can even use Microsoft Visio, if you must, although that would not be my choice. My favorite tool for this kind of work is LucidChart, since it also includes the ability to collaborate with others well constructing Mind Maps. In addition, it provides a primer for each of its chart templates, which will be helpful if you have not done a lot of Mind Mapping.
  • Begin with Competencies: Start by building the highest level Brand Map Categories as the root main topics, as shown in Figure 1, above, and then just start on the Competencies (See Figure 3, below). This is where you must be honest with yourself, and ask: “What are my clients calling back about? What would my most consistent internal client (at my day job), Ruth, say I am known for?” You can also add those things you believe you have a competency in, but you are not yet known for; be sure to mark these as a lower priority with chart (or sticky note) coloring, since these may be part of your business, but they are not part of your current brand.
Figure 3. Mapping your Competencies (Blue Globe Management Consulting)
  • Flesh out Market Need: For each Competency that you’ve defined, ask yourself: is there a specific Market Need that would seek out this Competency (See Figure 4, below)? Right now just brainstorm, but before you can call this Brand Map complete, you’ll want to do some level of validation (and ideally even quantification) of the Market Needs you’ve identified.
Figure 4. Mapping your Market Needs (Blue Globe Management Consulting)
  • Propose Candidate Brands that meet Market Needs: These can be existing or envisioned product lines, or just ideas. But every Market Need should be served by at least one Candidate Brand. (See Figure 5, below).
Figure 5. Mapping your Candidate Brands (Blue Globe Management Consulting)
  • Develop Marketing Tactics that build awareness of Brands: As Alan Weiss puts in his work on building unique brands, these marketing tactics should build a kind of “gravity,” so that prospects are drawn to Brands in multiple ways. A key factor here is ensuring that the marketing tactics continue to build upon your expert level status, which is what echos and validates the brand that is based on the market need for a perceived competency. (See Figure 6, below)
Figure 6. Mapping your Brand Marketing (Blue Globe Management Consulting)

Completing Your Brand Map

Figure 7. Snippet of a Completed Brand Map (Blue Globe Management Consulting)
  • Do the mappings all make sense between the topics in the Brand Mapping Categories?
  • Are you confident in your assertions of Market Need? Can you validate them?
  • For the Competencies you’ve defined, can you think of an example of each client or informal contact who has articulated that competency? Which competency comes up the most? Consider marking these in some way. These will be on the top of your list, since you’ll want to start your venture with existing brand strengths. Also, at the bottom of the map, consider listing those Competencies you know you possess, but you are not known for them yet. These will be areas to potentially stretch your brand (or brands) toward in the future.

What to do With Your Brand Mapping Output

Figure 8. Key Market Needs and Candidate Brands from your Brand Map (Blue Globe Management Consulting)



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Peter Walzer

Peter Walzer has over 30 years of experience in management consulting, project management, systems development, and “get up you’re not hurt” persistence.