Most of my job as a brand strategist is asking the right questions.
So let’s kick off the new year with this question: what brought you here?
Not to this newsletter or my corner of the internet, not to your inbox, and not to that cup of coffee I see juuust off to the side there 🙂
What brought you here? To your creative work? How did you end up where you are now?
I love this question because on the one hand it seems vague. Like, I woke up and here I am, lady, wtf. And at the same time, once I ask this question your mind is already going back in time to a moment, a time, or a place. You’re already thinking about the threads in your life that have lead to the work you’re doing whether it was out of necessity or passion. Whether you’ve gotten to where you actually want to be or not yet. This question opens the doors to your past so both you and I can see the infinite number of choices that have led you to this point in your journey. It’s an all-encompassing question and doesn’t want you to leave anything out.
Last year, I worked with a client last year who is an expert at tech and systems, but took all these creative detours in her life before realizing oh this is what I’m actually good at. She started a health and nutrition blog— and said her favorite part was building the website. She spent a stint professionally decorating cakes — and her favorite part was the detail-oriented-ness of the job. It’s like, sometimes the threads in your life just need to smack you in the face before you have that “aha” moment and feel aligned with your work.
What brought you here?
This past December, I did most of my Christmas shopping at arts and crafts fairs. I would saddle on up to a booth that looked interesting, ask the person standing there if they were the artist, and then immediately jump into saying things like, what’s your story? Tell me about how you got started. Gorgeous work – I love this piece. What was the inspiration?
The folks who generously took the time to answer my pestering questions are the ones I most often bought from immediately. They were always confident in their answers, proud of their work, and more often than not their work actually spoke for itself. But I felt so much more connected and interested when I knew the story behind it, even if I got the reader’s digest version and not their autobiography. You tell me that you made these dolls from recycled quilts because your grandmother used to quilt and you wanted a way for her legacy to live on? Take my money.
You see, that’s just the point. People don’t always need your autobiography in order to buy from you. They are more drawn to the moments of connection, the relatable stories, the validation and permission you give when you share about your work.
And yet, what are we more likely to talk about because we think it’s what people need in order to trust us with their money? Credentials and expertise. Tips and tricks. The easy wins that can start to build a relationship but just scratch the surface because we’re not sure how to talk about what actually matters to us.
It’s so much easier to talk about the reasons why we “think” someone should care. Or even, reasons why they might not; “i’m self-taught”, i dropped out, whatever it may be. Or the story about how you’re just doing this on the side…
Side hustle, self-taught, whatever it is, it all matters. it’s all a part of your story.
What brought you here is what matters. It’s the vision you had long ago that brought you here. And for the record, it doesn’t have to be dramatic in order for it to matter, either. All that matters is that you own it completely, building up your confidence to share and sell and market your way to where you want to be.
Strategies for working this question:
- Create a timeline – 10 years into the past and 10 years into the future. Show all the twists and turns along the way and see if anything surprises you.
- Write down your story like you’re meeting someone for the very first time and they ask you what you do. The past holds the keys to your vision of the future in business; creative entrepreneurs do this especially well. You loved film as a kid and want to give people a powerful way to remember. Or you’re a graphic designer and in the 7th grade designed newspapers for your book reports and spent all your free time in Microsoft Publisher because it was fun…
When it comes to your brand, the answer to this question is your origin story. It makes up the layers underneath why you do this work and it’s the framework for how you do it, too: two important pieces of the brand strategy puzzle.
For more, listen to this episode on the Inspired Ideas podcast on Spotify: