What are your business core values?

It is far easier to think of your widget and how to make people want to buy your widget–than it is to ask why.

Why should someone buy your widget, especially if they can get it at a discount at WidgetMart?

Iconic brands don’t just happen because they have a great widget.

They happen because someone was smart enough to identify the company’s core values.

Does Starbucks really have a better cup of coffee?

Or is it because they knew how to package core values of integrity, leadership, and high standards within their “legendary customer service?”

Just as your core strengthens your body (and vastly improves your posture), so can your business core values strengthen your brand.

How to Develop Your Business Core Values

I keep referring people to David C. Baker’s book. The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth, because it’s so good.

In the book, he shared a story about pinch-hitting for a speaker who fell ill during a conference. He already was scheduled to give his own presentation, but the conference organizer asked if he could fill in for a speaker who had cancelled.

Baker agreed and planned to engage the attendees in a few planning exercises during the session. He gave them a very particular type of exercise that was going to help them understand that their positioning was flimsy, at best.

Here was his exercise:

Each audience member had to jot down the two or three things that made them completely different from other firms like theirs.

These are items that would help a prospective buyer evaluate their choices. The audience member was to write 2-3 statements, totaling no more than 50 words combined. Each statement was to give a compelling reason why a buyer should choose their firm. The audience member was also to highlight characteristics or qualities unique to their business but untrue about their competitors.

After writing down their statements, Baker then asked them to exchange their paper with their neighbor so no one would have what they had written for themselves.

Then Baker would call on each table, asking the attendees to read their neighbor’s statements. The goal was to have statements that described the firm’s unique qualities in such a way that couldn’t be said about another firm.

After the attendee read their neighbor’s statements, Baker would ask, “Okay, can you say those things about your firm?” In almost every case they would say yes.

Here’s the point: You may consider certain values as your core values. You may look at them as being differentiators from your competition. And although they may be true, they aren’t uniquely true.

And that’s the foundation of good positioning. You want to present your business as less interchangeable with everyone else and show up as being uniquely true rather than just true.

What Are Core Values?

You may be wondering what exactly are core values? Here is a small list:

  • Leadership
  • Integrity
  • Accountability
  • Passion
  • Diversity
  • Quality
  • Communication
  • Innovation
  • Courage
  • Passion
  • Selflessness
  • Simplicity
  • Legendary Service
  • Responsiveness

This type of soul-searching takes time. If you work with a team, ask them to write down their perception of your business’ unique values. If you’re the boss, take at least a half-day to think about it. Some questions to get you started are below:

  • Why did you start your business?
  • What were the most important areas of customer satisfaction you created for your business?
  • What personal values have you transmitted to your business?
  • What do your customers value? Do you give that to them?
  • What are your employees’ personal values? Do they feel they are contributing them to the business?

Those are just a few questions but may generate more as you consider them. These types of questions will give you clarity on what exactly you deliver when you are dealing with clients and customers. They also give you an idea of the type of employees you want on your team.

And… here’s my favorite part: It makes marketing your business a heckuva lot easier!

Marketing Your Core Values

Marketing your core values can be as simple as including them in your marketing assets such as brochures and sell sheets. They can also be communicated by the actions you take each time you interact with your customer or client.

As an example, let’s look at Chick-Fil-A. Most people recognize it as a fast-food chain that serves tasty chicken sandwiches and waffle fries.

But Chick-Fil-A is also well-known for their core values. And the very first one is, “We’re Here to Serve.”

This core value is expressed every time you hear a Chick-Fil-A employee say after being thanked, “my pleasure,” instead of “you’re welcome.” There’s a story about that.

The point is that saying “my pleasure” emphasizes there is a pleasure in serving others. By reciting this phrase, you get the impression that your request isn’t a bother at all, but that the employee is grateful for the opportunity to serve you. It matches Chick-Fil-A’s goal of offering hospitality in a variety of ways.

That is a business staying true to its core values.

If you’ve ever observed the way Chick-Fil-A employees interact not just with the customers, but with each other, you’ll see that they also put into motion their remaining core values: We’re Better Together, We Are Purpose-driven, and We Pursue What’s Next.

How It Could Look For You

Once you have your core values nailed down, you’ll have an easier time creating your marketing assets.

With every webpage copy, email, podcast, video, and marketing collateral—you’ll have an opportunity to demonstrate your core values. Soon these values will be what you’re known for, and your employees will be able to contribute more, knowing what it is exactly you want to communicate.

Use your marketing collateral to consistently communicate your core values. It will support your brand and also give your customers and clients something to share with others.

You can’t be all things to all people. But if you’re true to your mission, you’ll find that you can be more than enough for the right people.

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