Leadership

How Brand Strategy Addresses 5 Questions Leaders are Asking Right Now

by Bridgette Palm
7 min

It’s starting to feel like 2020 has been one giant lesson in how to stay on your toes. The effects of this year have already made great and lasting changes in how the world does business.

Like several thousand business leaders across the world, we have had to make major adjustments to keep our business moving forward, despite the barrage of challenges we have faced.

As we wrap up the year and dive into 2021, we are thinking strategically about how to create the best possible outcome for our team and for our clients.

Sam Reese, CEO of Vistage, asked and answered five questions that leaders are considering about the year ahead.

As we walked through them, we recognized that each of these questions are impacted by brand. Whether you have a brand strategy in place or not could be the difference between answering these five questions confidently in 2021.

How Long Will We Be Operating in Short-Term Sprints?

We’ve all taken a hit to normal operations this year. Teams across the world have had to improvise, pivot, and completely upheave their operational standards. Leaders are looking to the future and trying to better understand how long we’ll be operating in the short term cycle of putting out fires.

It’s impossible to predict when things will “settle down”. However, it’s important to lean on your brand strategy to get out of the cycle of short term sprints.

When a strong brand strategy is in place, you no longer have to be caught up in a temporary reactive response pattern. An established vision and bigger picture goal will provide a sense of comfort and stability in a time when your team desperately needs it.

Where are the Gaps in Skillsets Among Members of My Leadership Team?

If 2020 revealed one thing, it’s your team’s sore spots. This year, every leader’s skills were tested, revealing true strengths or current shortcomings.

A good question to ask yourself is: What values came up over and over again this year? Maybe it was transparency or communication. Maybe it was compassion or flexibility.

Whether they were praised or brought up as an opportunity for growth, if they were talked about, they should be considered as potential core values. What your company is known for – good or bad – is your brand reputation, and this year especially has taught us that people make choices.

Though it’s been a frustrating year of discovery, this information is invaluable in better understanding how to build a more robust leadership team, and better serve your team and customers in time of challenge.

Your team’s strengths and weaknesses are reflected in your brand.

There’s no better time to make adjustments internally and externally so your team can back up your brand, and your brand can be a true reflection of your team.

How Will My Team Want to Work in the Future?

This year, teams have made major pivots in how they work. Many people have adjusted to working from home. Where that isn’t possible, leaders have had to set up new protocols to adjust to new CDC standards in the consideration of their team’s and their customer’s health.

Arrangements have been made to accommodate sick team members or team members who have had to isolate due to exposure. So many teams have had to make major changes to their day-to-day workflow.

Though these changes were made out of necessity, some of them have been positive changes. In fact, figuring out how to seamlessly integrate remote work and in-person work will set you up for attracting top talent moving forward.

In fact, figuring out how to seamlessly integrate remote work and in-person work will set you up for attracting top talent moving forward.

Now that this has become a standard out of necessity, workers are going to demand these benefits stay around in 2021 and beyond.

Leaders will be asking themselves, how can we best accommodate how our team needs to (and likes to) work now. Things like flexible start/stop times, more paid sick leave, work from home hours, and digital meetings instead of in-person meetings are likely here to stay.

Businesses that have established their core values are leaning on them to help answer these questions. Core values are the foundation of your brand, and are key to answering this question. What values does your team encompass? How can you best live them through accommodating a new work style?

If your core values include things like efficiency, dependability, flexibility, accountability, accommodation, growth, etc., take some time to understand how your team wants to work, and how those preferences can help best live out your core values.

Your core values should remain the same no matter what. How you live them through your team as an evolving part of your culture should change with the times.

How Do I Bring More Value to Customers to Over-Deliver?

This year, leaders have had to stand up and be more present, more transparent and more hands-on than ever before.

Turning to your brand strategy, you’re able to identify the areas where your team brings high value to your customers. Maybe it’s through educating, extensive training, or providing unparalleled aftermarket support. Consider those areas and look how you can be more communicative, more transparent and more honest.

What challenges will your customers be facing during these times? Can you offer additional resources to address their needs? Do you need to take another look at your warranties and adjust them for the demands of this time?

Whatever the answer to those questions may be, now is the time to integrate those solutions permanently. In March and April, we all frenzied to try to find ways to better support our customers.

Now, months later, we need to show up as a stable partner.

The process of figuring out your customer’s burdens, looking ahead on their behalf and relieving their troubles should not be something we leave behind in 2020.

How Do We Maintain/Revive Culture in 2021?

This year, all eyes turned to business’ employer brands. Employer brands describe the value that a company gives to its employees through things like cultural values, benefits, and community support.

In 2020, the world wanted to know two things: how are you treating your team members, and how are you supporting your community.

It’s easy to think of culture as things like retirement celebrations, after-work happy hours, and holiday parties. Those are the products of a positive culture, but as 2020 has taught us, culture runs much deeper. Culture is much deeper than simple events; it’s about what brings your people together, and a shared sense of belonging.

Culture is much deeper than simple events; it’s about what brings your people together, and a shared sense of belonging.

Consider the scope of your culture through an employer brand lens. It should show how your team has fun together, but it’s also things like: supporting a grieving team member, offering flexible work time, protecting your team from a contagious virus, and supporting your community in their time of need, etc.

These aspects of culture are what we will need to continue to concentrate on in 2021. Leaders may be looking to jump-start team gatherings to revive the camaraderie and fun.

However, when the clock turns to 2021 in just a few weeks, not much is going to change. Priority still needs to be the safety, stability and wellbeing of your team and your community.

Right now, your team members need to know they have a stable income and benefits, supportive leadership, that you’re making efforts to provide relief in your community, and are remaining as safe as possible.

As we continue to evolve in 2021, and slowly start to gather again, you want your team to get together and discuss just how safe and taken care of they felt during one of the most difficult years of their lives.

Moving Forward

As a leader, what you do in your team’s, customers’ and community’ times of need will determine the future of your company and your legacy as a leader.

Though there are hundreds of unanswerable scenarios that may pop up, knowing you can lean on your established core values, cultural imperatives, and strong brand strategies will help you weather the storm and make the best decisions or what you need to happen in the short term, and how to set up a better future moving forward.

We wish you all a more calm and predictable 2021.

Bridgette Palm
Bridgette has developed a career around content. Her work as a writer and editor began nearly ten years ago, and since she has harnessed her experience working as a ghostwriter for business owners to develop marketing strategies that connect businesses to their ideal audiences through content. When not devoting her eye to content revision and development, she can be found reading, enjoying the diverse and delicious Milwaukee restaurant scene, or taking long road trips to explore America.