This month I've been jumping into 5 branding books best for entrepreneurs and content creators.
Here at tobysinclair.com, I've been reflecting more on the brand. Who do I want to serve? How can I help? What problems can I help solve?
I spent the big majority of my career in the solution space as a software developer. Therefore I have a habit of jumping to a solution without fully exploring the problem. Also known as a solution bias.
“The lock and the key. It doesn’t make any sense to make a key and then run around to look for a lock to open. The only productive solution is to find a lock and then fashion a key. It’s easier to make products and services for the customer you seek to serve than it is to find customers for your products and services."
5 Branding Books Best for Entrepreneurs
Here are 5 books I've been reading to build better branding skills:
There are several themes that emerge from all of these branding books.
Here I summarise the 5 big ideas to help you market, sell, brand yourself and your business.
5 Big Ideas 💡
Focus On Critical Problems
There are two mistakes I've made. Firstly focusing on a solution and then trying to find a problem it solves. Secondly, focusing on non-critical problems. The kind of problems that it would be nice to solve but isn't essential. You want your brand to be known for solving your customers most critical problems. What Greg Mckeown calls "the essential few over the critical many".
Avid Kahl shares in Zero to Sold how many entrepreneurs focus on problems that whilst important, are not critical. Given the demand for attention, only the most critical problems will get noticed.
If you want to build a profitable business, you have to solve the most important problem your customer is facing, the one that, when solved, will change their life.
One of the best branding books on this list is Storybrand by Donald Miller. He uses the metaphor of a villain. These are things that will get in the way of your becoming the person you want to be.
If we want our customers’ ears to perk up when we talk about our products and services, we should position those products and services as weapons they can use to defeat a villain. And the villain should be dastardly. The villain doesn’t have to be a person, but without question it should have personified characteristics. If we’re selling time-management software, for instance, we might vilify the idea of distractions. Could we offer our product as a weapon customers could use to stop distractions in their tracks?
Finally, in The Copywriters Handbook, Robert W. Bly shares the importance of writing about your customers most important problems. In positioning your brand you must clearly communicate their problem and how your solution helps.
Solve the reader’s problem. Once you hook the reader with emotional copy dramatizing her problem or a powerful free offer, show how your product—or your free information—can help solve her problem. For example: “Now there is a better, easier, and more effective solution to wobbly restaurant tables that can irritate customers and ruin their dining experience: Table Shox, the world’s smallest shock absorber.” To maximize landing page conversion rates, you have to convince the visitor that the quickest route to solving his problem is taking the action indicated on the landing page, and not—as you might be tempted to let him do—surfing your site.
Far from just being a way to differentiate us, our stories can help us to decide, plan, lead, sell, inspire, influence, persuade, rally, create value, build trust, foster connection and succeed by building better, more purposeful organisations and lives. Our stories can shape who we are.
All of the best branding books share this principle: the most powerful marketing tool is storytelling. These branding books best for entrepreneurs share how to craft a compelling story.
There are two ways you can use storytelling as an entrepreneur.
Firstly to tell your story. This is the focus of Story Driven by Bernadette Jiwa. The strapline to her book encapsulates the power of storytelling:
You don't need to compete when you know who you are
I have used the Story Driven framework to craft the story of who I am. A great way to communicate with your customers but also to reflect on your personal story.
The second way to use storytelling is by communicating the value of your product to customers. The primary question customers will ask when they engage with you: How can you help me?
In Storybrand Donald Miller helps you craft a story using a brandscript. This is similar to the script for a movie. When customers engage in your product they go through a similar journey. Donald Miller uses the example of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. Who is the hero in your story?
Write To Sell
One of the best branding books on copywriting is The Copywriters handbook. This book led to a big insight: Writing to sell is different from writing to communicate.
Over the past few years, I've invested in improving my writing style and approach. The majority of this writing has been used to teach and communicate ideas. The Copywriters handbook taught me that writing to sell has different characteristics.
A really simple distinction is that when writing to sell talk about benefits not features
Novices tend to write about features: the facts, figures, and statistics at hand. Experienced copywriters turn those features into customer benefits: reasons why the reader should buy the product.
Copywriting is becoming one of the most important skills for entrepreneurs to learn. The internet is a great platform to sell. Your success will be limited by the quality of your copy.
Finally, Allan Dib highlights the importance of understanding your customer before writing your copy:
Before you ever write a single word of copy, you must intimately understand how your target market thinks and talks, the kind of language they use and respond to, what kind of day they have and the conversation that goes on in their minds. What are their fears and frustrations? What gets them excited and motivated?
Make Your Customer The Hero, Not You
In Storybrand Donald Miller uses the Hero Journey framework. This describes the journey characters take in nearly all stories.
Donald shares that many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of being the hero, the expert with all the answers. Instead, successful brands make the customer the hero.
When giving a speech, position yourself as Yoda and your audience as Luke Skywalker. It’s a small but powerful shift that honours the journey of the audience and positions us as a leader providing wisdom, products, and services that our audience needs in order to thrive.
When writing it's important to make the customer the hero. You can do this with a good copy. Here's an example Robert W. Bly shares in the Copywriters Handbook:
A good example of copy that “hits home” with the reader is a subscription letter I received some years ago from Inc. magazine. Here’s the opening of the letter: A special invitation to the hero of American business Dear Entrepreneur: You’re it! You’re the kind of person free enterprise is built on. The ambition, vision, and guts of small business people like yourself have always been the driving force behind the American economy. Unfortunately, that’s a fact which the general business press seems to have forgotten. In their emphasis on everything big, like conglomerates, multinationals, and oil companies the size of countries, most business publications pay very little attention to the little guy. The letter is effective because it speaks directly to the pride entrepreneurs feel in being “self-made.” The letter writer has done a good job of empathizing with the reader and understanding how an entrepreneur thinks of himself.
Keep It Simple
One of the hardest aspects of branding is keeping it simple. For your customers to understand your message it needs to be super simple.
All of the best branding books will tell you that you don't need to create a 50-page marketing strategy. The simpler your message the more it will connect with your audience.
The 1 Page Marketing Plan by Allan Dib provides a framework to craft your marketing strategy on a single page.
What is your brand?
These 5 Branding Books Best for Entrepreneurs provide incredible insights. They will show you common pitfalls and how to overcome them. By making your customer the hero, crafting simple compelling copy that addresses a critical problem, you will increase your sales and conversion.
Finally, one of the best branding books that didn't make the list is This is Marketing by Seth Godin. Here is a quote to reinforce the messages from these 5 Branding Books Best for Entrepreneurs:
“Persistent, consistent, and frequent stories, delivered to an aligned audience, will earn attention, trust, and action.”