Building a Brand That Represents Your Values

Director of Marketing
7 min read

At Float, our mission is to help professional service teams make the most of their time and grow their company sustainably.

Earlier this year, our CEO Glenn provided a framework for us all to align on why we do what we do today (the company mission) and what we’re working towards tomorrow (the company vision).  Our values are not only what we use internally to hold ourselves and each other accountable, they’ve also helped shape what we stand for as a brand and influence our marketing strategy.

“Our values guide our behaviors, our attitudes, how we interact with our team, our customers, and the community. They should challenge us, and they should be committed to, meaning that we should be willing to hire people and measure the performance of our team against these.”

Glenn, co-founder and CEO of Float

Values give your brand a purpose

As a marketing generalist, brand building is one of the areas that I get the most excited about. It’s creative, it’s strategic, and when you get it right, it serves as both the foundation and inspiration for your decision-making.

To break down the marketing lingo, “brand” is how people feel at every touchpoint and interaction with your business. It's the emotional connection you establish with your customers, your team, and your community.

In the words of the infamous Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what people say about you after you leave the room.”

As a marketer, the natural question then is: “What do you want people to say?” Having a clear set of brand values can help you answer both strategically and intentionally.

Values keep your marketing accountable

Nir Eyal wrote a post critiquing that values are commonly misperceived as being what we care about. He argues that what we care about is ever-changing, and values are not that superficial or disposable. They are the attributes of who we want to be.

By thinking of them as attributes, we can hold ourselves accountable to embodying and practicing the values that we identify with and aspire to.

Brand values are set by your marketing team and should be derived from your company values. They are the attributes that you want people to talk about when you leave the room, i.e., after they read your blog post, try out your app, or visit your homepage. They’re also the standards that all of your marketing decisions should be held accountable to, and they should drive the future direction of your marketing strategy.

Brand values in practice

Marketing can sometimes have a reputation for talking the talk, but it’s your brand values that get your marketing team actually walking the walk!

At Float, we hold ourselves accountable to our values, and we actively refer to them when making decisions on how and what to do.

So, enough talking, let’s start walking. Below are our five Float brand values, with examples of how we practice them across our marketing activity, decisions, and strategy.

🌱 Grow sustainably: Sustainable as much as we are profitable

We aspire to grow sustainably and help our customers achieve the same. We measure our productivity by both the impact and output of how we spend our time.

Growth is a primary KPI for us in marketing. From the top of the funnel it starts with growing our awareness, which converts down to new leads, paying customers, and ultimately revenue. Our dedication to grow sustainably helps us evaluate where we spend our time, money, and energy.

It also makes it easy to know what marketing we don’t (and won’t) do—i.e., scrappy and sometimes scalable tactics that are certainly not sustainable. For example, bidding on competitor brand names in AdWords is a no-go for us.

Take this example from explicitly targeting their competitor Trello’s brand name search with paid advertising.

An example of paying to appear for Trello's brand name in search. Consequently, Trello has to use terms like "Official Website" to explicitly point out their authenticity in the #2 ad position.

We don’t believe brands should pay to be the first result people see when their brand name is being directly searched for, especially when they are already organically ranked as the first result.

Trello is the first organic search result for it's own brand name, but this gets pushed down the page by competitors' and their own ads

Google doesn’t have a policy that protects brands from these types of practices either. If I search for “Red Cross donation,” it doesn’t give me confidence of how my donation money will be spent when I see charities beholden to bidding on their own brand names too.

The Red Cross paying to appear as the first result for their brand name, and competitor advertising still appearing before their #1 organic search position

👌  Keep it simple: Simplicity without compromising quality

Asynchronous communication, minimal viable process, and documentation are our default. Our goal is to deliver new features to our customers that offer a best-in-class product without the bloat.

A mentor I’ve worked with, Mitchel Harad sums up the role of simplicity in marketing communications well: “Develop cut-through messaging on why your product is better than everyone else's. Explain it in a way a 12 year old can understand.”

When it comes to marketing copywriting, we’re constantly challenging ourselves to find a simpler way to explain things, and get to the point. Our mission is to help teams make the most of their time—which means respecting the time we ask of them as well!

Marketing Examples posted a terrific copywriting tips article, which we still use as a benchmark to guide our communications today.

Tip #3 especially resonated with setting the goal post for us with copywriting.

We respect the reader with brevity, and look for where we can reduce bloat in our product as well as our marketing.

An example of holding each other accountable to our ‘simplicity’ brand value

🌈 Strive to improve: Continuous learning and improving

We’re curious and we listen intently - to the customer, to each other, and to our own instincts. We ship often.

As a team, we pursue excellence and strive to be best-in-class in our industry. This applies to marketing as well. Constructive feedback helps us to improve, and we welcome it. We know that marketing mastery requires a disciplined balance of being humble enough to keep learning and hungry enough to keep trying.

A recent example of this is an internal debate we’ve had about making our product roadmap public or not. While it’s something we’ve considered, given that we work agile and our priorities can shift quickly, our roadmap dates can often change. With that in mind, we asked Senior Technical Product Manager Tony to write a blog post explaining more openly to customers how we manage feature requests. We felt that this would improve how we could respond to a very common question and provide more meaningful insight to customers.

An example of a marketing solution, in this case, a blog post, that improves how we educate customers about feature requests

🙋🏻‍♀️ Own it: We're proudly accountable

From soup to nuts, we each take responsibility for our actions. We do this by leading with good intent, turning up authentically, and providing and receiving honest feedback.

As a fully remote team that works async, accountability plays an important role in our trust-building. It’s a part of our team culture, and built into all of our processes.

In marketing, we keep ourselves accountable by getting to the deepest why of everything that we do. Our brand values are the blueprint of the attributes that we are answerable to.

A few value tests for accountability that we run internally include:

  • Is this work that we are proud to put our own name to?
  • Does the standard of work exemplify best-in-class?
  • Would the team be inspired to get behind this?

Sometimes what we don’t and wouldn’t do makes for a clear case of our values in practice! For example, we know that backlinks play an important role in SEO and we (like most marketers) want to acquire as many quality backlinks as possible for our site. However, we haven’t engaged with agencies or freelancers who bulk send backlink requests on behalf of clients. Why not? The screenshot below is one of countless emails we receive from other brands. This non-personalized, copy and paste communication isn't something we'd ever want to put our own name to or ask of other brands. Even for a link.

An example of a generic link building email sent to our support team and three Float team members

🔐 Security and privacy: These are our foundations, not just features

​​The security and privacy of our customers are a priority. We don’t take their business for granted and we do everything in our power to ensure their data is safe.

As marketing becomes more data-driven, so too does the responsibility of storing, managing, and using customers' data. At Float, we believe that privacy is a basic right, and your data is yours—plain and simple.

As a company, we’re SOC2 certified and GDPR compliant, and we openly share our security and privacy practices on our website. Relationship marketing is about trust building. We take the relationship we have with our customers seriously and the trust they place in us.

Bringing values into your brand building process

If you haven’t defined what your brand values are yet, I highly recommend starting with your company values and adapting them to be relevant, applicable, and accountable externally. Other areas of your brand marketing like tone of voice and visual identity, should also directly reflect your brand values.

Values are a marketer's best way to build a consistent brand experience and align your team on creating work that matters.

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