What is the essence of your business? The question is not what do you sell? or why are you better than your competition?

The big question, the one all great companies know the answer to is this:

What do you stand for?

In other words, why do you exist? What is the driving purpose of your business (beyond making money)? What ideal are you so committed to that it enables you to help your customers and employees and everyone that comes in contact with your business be energized and engaged and ready to commit to your way of doing things.

Here are some examples that’ll help this make sense.

Nike stands for “athletic excellence” – not making sneakers. They want to empower everyone – you, me and Lebron James – to achieve extraordinary athletic performance.

Disney stands for “family happiness” – not simply movies or theme parks.

At Scribewise, we stand for “a better customer relationship.” Not just digital marketing or content marketing or social media; our goal is to help our clients create a deeper, more profound, trust-based relationship with their customers. Digital marketing is just the way we do it.

What You Stand For equals your brand

What You Stand For is the very heart of your company’s story, and your story is your brand. That might sound like “soft stuff,” but understanding your story and your brand is the difference between runaway success and just doing okay. So many businesses understand their goal of making money, but they don’t look to a higher reason for existing. In Good to Great, author Jim Collins wrote that great companies generally have one thing in common – a higher purpose that goes beyond financial goals, a purpose that is well understood both internally and externally, and guides the company through virtually every decision it makes. This consistency of theme stands the test of time and elevates companies to greatness.

Today, it matters more than ever before. We’re all operating in a hyper-competitive business climate. Breaking through and connecting with the audience is more difficult than ever before because customers and prospects have global options. If you don’t understand why you’re in business, then how will your prospective customers ever figure it out? How will they choose you over everyone else? And why will they remain a client if there isn’t anything special about your company?

It comes with truly understanding your story, your brand. Your brand must be a clear view of what your organization really is. Small business owners know this. In an American Express Small Business Monitor Study, 93 percent of small business owners say that having a unique brand that differentiates them from the competition is more important now than ever. Eighty-four percent say that brand building is the most important characteristic to the future success of their companies.

Despite what many people believe and what some graphic designers and branding agencies would have you believe, your brand is not a logo and a color palette. Those items should be the graphic representations of What You Stand For – your brand consists of words, not images. The branding process should always begin with a deep dive exercise to figure out that story.

Building Your Corporate Story

The rationale for corporate storytelling is scientific – stories have been proven to fire our brains and drive purchase decisions. Embracing storytelling is smart business. Importantly, you can’t just spit out the same old sales messages and call it storytelling. Building your company’s requires that you step back, empathize with the audience and understand what Seth Godin calls the audience’s worldview – the way they acted and believed and judged before they encountered you.

Can you tell a story that the audience can believe in? That it wants to hear?

The key to getting it right begins with understanding what your organization believes in – What You Stand For.

For more on the importance of knowing your company’s deeper purpose, give this great Ted Talk by Simon Sinek a watch.