Confused about branding? Ask yourself: what are you selling.

I’m going to give a little advice. Stop worrying about what your brand is. Really. STOP.

I gave a workshop the other day, and it went okay. Worse than I hoped, but it helped me realize something. I prepared a workshop on branding BECAUSE marketing wasn’t an option. I feel like marketing is a better workshop, but I was told skip the marketing because folks don’t sign up for marketing workshops. They got it figured out. But they DO sign up for branding workshops, because they don’t understand it, and they’re looking for someone to walk them through how it applies to their business.

I think I disappointed a few. I asked the group if they had been to a branding workshop before, and some answered yes. When I asked what they covered, they said the instructor broke out the crayons and brought scrap paper, and they drew on paper what their company was about. They worked on their logos. They used colors and scrap paper to help identify their businesses.

So, this isn’t wrong. But I do understand why the majority of companies and small businesses think that branding is a ‘thing’ that can be separated from the rest of your business plan. Like it’s something that can be put on paper, similar to a mission statement, and then plastered all over social media and email taglines so customers just ‘GET IT’.

And then my heart fluttered in fear. OH SHIT. This is not going to be the class they expected.

I’m going to tell you something that the rest of the advertising and marketing world are going to hang me by my toes for. I’m going to tell you to stop thinking about your brand, and start thinking about content marketing. Just forget the word brand. Just tuck it away into the bottom of the pile and stop trying to ‘figure it out’. And then start listening to people talk about content marketing. Your business is going to be better off for it.

Here’s why. We’re going to work backward.

It’s not worth explaining what branding is…because you are looking for a path to success. It’s easier to ask you questions about your business, and then tell you five things you can do to get you closer to success.

Content Marketing is A BETTER WEBSITE. A better website is a better brand.

If your website doesn’t answer or solve a customers problem, it’s useless. Instead of talking about your features, you need to be explaining the value behind your features. Nobody cares if your wonder mop is pink, cheap, and 46 inches tall with a really great mop head. They care that it is helping them clean the floor faster, easier, leaving us less tired because it’s lighter, and it wrings itself out alleviating us having to do it by hand. A good website has ‘content’ that is diverse (good copy, video, and images), has articles or case studies where prospects can understand what you do, and the overall site is easy to navigate and use. How does a better website relate to your brand? You are telling your customers why you are unique and valuable, you are defining your purpose, and you are saying it in your ‘personality’.

Content Marketing is SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE. Where and how you post on social media solidifies your brand.

If you have nothing interesting or relevent to talk about, you aren’t doing social media right. And if what you just talked about has nothing to do with your business, you aren’t supporting your brand. What is different about your business? How does it relate to other people? How does it help other businesses? How are you inter-related to the world, the things, and the current events around you? THIS is good social media. When you post fun, interesting, and relevent things, people start to talk about your post, look at your business, repost your post, and then you have the possibility of generating new business from this. The better you get at it, the more loyal people become to your social media. And you can’t just ‘show up’ to social media. You have to participate. You have to be doing it consistently. You cannot waste the opportunity when people are listening. How does this relate to brand? It would make more sense for a restaurant to be on Instagram or Facebook than LinkedIn. The relevent customers and the appropriate audience isn’t on LinkedIn looking at pictures of food, or trying to find the menu. The messages you would post on snapchat are going to be vastly different than talking about your restaurant in a blog post. And if you are inconsistent and post things that are irrelevent? Your brand will be known as the company who doesn’t have their shit together.

SEO is good content marketing.

The internet (okay, Google) has one purpose. YOU have a question and need an answer. You ask Google. Google starts searching the web for the answer. Here is an analogy: the person with the most points win. Google gives you a point for having a website. They give you a point for having Facebook. They give you a point for having LinkedIn. They give you another point when someone shares your Facebook. They give you another point when they find your business on the chamber of commerce website. They give you another point when they see your business linked to another legitimate business…and even further down the rabbit hole we go. The person with the most points gets put at the top of the search. The more times it can find you, the better. The question is, were you found for the right reason? If someone is looking for a cat sitter, Google doesn’t award points for you having the word ‘cat’ 600 times on your website, and post a thousand cat videos on your Facebook. It doesn’t count. If someone Googles cat videos…you might just come in first. Is that your goal? Is this the right audience?

Here’s the deal. Content marketing is USELESS if you don’t know your brand. Branding is how your business made other people feel.

Jeff Bezos, founder of said it first: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” What are people saying about you? That your website is ugly? Was it too hard to find what they needed? Did they tell their neighbor not to bother going to your website because it didn’t offer solutions? Are your social media posts useful and meaningful, or are they just reposts and re-iterations of what others have to say? Are you presenting new information, or a new relationship to current information? Are you bitching about something? Does your social media include HORRIBLE reviews? There are several levels of this: if people are saying nothing, that’s not a good sign. Your brand made no impact on any level. Your content marketing has failed. People may be saying horribly wrong things, for the wrong reasons. This can be useful…collecting reviews that are confused or awful can give you a chance to turn the ship around and make a better impression and get your brand back on track. This means you have to work hard and fast to get your content better, more accurate, and more meaningful. This means changing the attitude of you, your business, and the perception of your business through your employees and your marketing. And if people are saying great things, it gives you the chance to review WHERE the most impact was made, and gives you a chance to refine a few areas.

And here is why I caution people about separating the two. YOU MUST understand your brand before you start marketing…it’s wasteful to spend marketing dollars in places where it means nothing. Your goal is to market your brand to an audience who is most likely to buy your brand. Your next goal is to tell your audience WHY they should buy your brand. People don’t buy ‘stuff’ or ‘things’. They buy the value it brings to their life. They buy maid services because it gives them back time and energy. They buy better mops because they clean the floor with less effort. But if you aren’t marketing right, no one discovers your maid services. And if you market incorrectly; metaphorically ‘bark up the wrong tree’, then you may miss prospects…and when you walk out of the room, people might be saying “gee, no wonder they advertised in the penny saver…” because you had no idea what to say, and how to say it. Or perhaps you just didn’t speak up often enough…that also tells people that ‘you aren’t very serious’. Having trouble figuring it out? Ask a salesman! A sales guy ‘builds value’ in a product or service. Ask yourself…what are you selling?

Branding and marketing are like bookends. They stand apart, but don’t make any sense or have a purpose unless they work together.