How to Stay True to Your Business Vision
What’s the first thing you do?
If you’re like most people, you do this: Google the idea to see if someone is already doing it, how they’re doing it, and how much they charge for it.
I’m not talking about market research. I’m talking about an I’m-not-a-weirdo validation (I’m not the only one who got this idea = people won’t think I’m crazy) and normalization (So this is how it’s done! Let’s do it the same way).
What happens next?
You end up with a me-too version of your original idea that’s no longer original and yours.
It’s the average of everything you’ve read and heard. And that’s how people see it: as average, mediocre, one of many. No reason to choose you. No reason to pay more (not that you charge more – you charge the average).
And this isn’t the only problem; I can think of more:
✰ The me-too mentality buries your voice under all the noise and makes it impossible for your Dream Client to hear you.
✰ When you look around yourself, you can’t help comparing yourself to others, you measure your success with someone else’s stick, and the never-good-enough feeling sticks with you wherever you go (pun intended).
✰ Pretending to be someone you’re not and trying to fit your square pegs into someone else’s round holes cost you energy, time, and money.
And after trying all the proven techniques, tried and tested strategies, and secret hacks, you wake up one day, and you don’t know who you are and why you’re doing this.
You’ve lost yourself and your why somewhere along the way. The only thing you know for sure is that you’re exhausted, in all possible ways. “That’s it,” you tell yourself. “I give up.”
And that’s how the me-too mentality literally kills your brand.
How to stay true to yourself
With all the bloggers, gurus, coaches, authors, course creators, and app designers fighting for your attention, it’s hard to stubbornly ignore all the shiny objects (many of which can actually help you) and stay true to yourself.
You need something you can look at whenever you feel lost and overwhelmed. Something that will always remind you of who you are and why you are here so that you don’t lose your way or get rolled over by all the marketing noise and well-meant advice.
You need a Brand Manifesto.
And you know what? I’ve created a workbook that will help you DIY your own manifesto. You can get it here:
Why a manifesto? And what is a manifesto, anyway?
Great questions. I’m glad you asked. I’m also glad you asked why before you asked what. That’s what the best brands do: they start with why, and then work backward to figure out their whats and hows.
Everyone will tell you that you need a business plan. And it’s true, you do need a business plan. But before you create one, you need a business dream. Or, you can call it a vision. A worldview. Your True North. Whatever. No matter the name, you need to know where you’re going and why.
“Martin Luther King didn’t say ‘I have a plan’, he said ‘I have a dream’.”
If a personal brand has a personality, it also has a soul. And a manifesto is a map of the soul.
It is a verbalization of your why, declaration of your values, your moral guidelines, your plan for a better world. It is a call to action for your tribe. It is an ultimate cheat sheet for your brand.
And you are the only one who can create this cheat sheet. That’s why I didn’t create a checklist or an e-book, but a workbook. You are the one who will turn it into a cheat book for your business.
A book that will be more helpful than all the Amazon self-help biz books together, because it will be yours.
Elements of a great manifesto
Disclaimer: The only rule is that there are no rules. What follows is just my opinion.
✦ The content
Every brand comes into being because of a problem, pain, or frustration. I believe that you—the person behind the brand—must have experienced the problem yourself.
I believe that a personal brand’s message must be deeply personal in order to resonate with your Dream Clients and cause changes in their lives.
The way I see it, great manifestos don’t talk (only) about the problem itself, but about the world the problem lives in, or the world as it would be if the problem disappeared.
In other words, a manifesto is not just about you and your tribe; it’s about the bigger idea that speaks through your mouth, to the people who might help you make your vision a reality.
✦ The voice
Manifestos speak in a proud, passionate, and firm voice. They don’t try to convince or persuade. They state facts and call to action. They speak from a position of a leader: “This is my plan for a better world. Join me if you want. But I’m doing it anyway.”
To ignite emotions and inspire action, a manifesto can be a little bit sentimental, theatrical, utopian, and romantic. Your business plan represents the rational part of your brand. Your manifesto doesn’t have to.
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
✦ The format
Some manifestos are minimalist (like the famous Holstee manifesto), some are full of colors and illustrations. A manifesto can be a design masterpiece, or it can be just a list of bullet points.
The length may vary from a couple of words (Nike’s Just do it) to a whole book (Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist).
I—with a huge help from the girlbosses listed at the bottom of this article—have put together a “directory” of manifestos to show you all the shapes and forms manifestos can take.
But don’t spend too much time looking at other people’s manifestos. What you need is inside of you. In the workbook, you’ll define your values and personality and then make sure that your manifesto’s outside look represents them visually.
The following aren’t manifestos in the traditional sense, but they will inspire you to think about how to talk about the world you want to live in:
✰ John Lennon: Imagine (song/video)
✰ Ozzy Osbourne: Dreamer (song/video)
✰ Martin Luther King: I Have a Dream (speech – text + audio)
✰ The Top 20 Things Oprah Knows for Sure (article)
✰ gemma correll: A Map of Introvert’s Heart (illustration)
✰ And basically any TED talk (playlist)
Let’s have a look at some famous manifestos:
✰ Apple Manifesto (video)
But you don’t have to be a big/famous brand to have a manifesto. Here are examples of manifestos created by people like you, solopreneurs and freelancers:
Now go and create your own manifesto!
★ In the comments, please tell me: Do you have a favorite manifesto? What makes a good manifesto, in your opinion?
★ If you already have a manifesto, please send me a link! I’d love to see it.