I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of letting your business consume all aspects of your life – easy to do when you may have put everything you own into ensuring its success, there from the very start and growing it from its infancy.

But this level of dedication, while admirable, can be limiting, and often the need for continuous change and transformation can cloud the true essence of your business. Innovation and agility are essential, but equally so is standing still and taking stock of your what your business does really well and using this insight to inform future plans.

So how do you identify what makes your business your business, and different to any others in the market? And how do use this knowledge to your best advantage?

Look at the people you employ

Why were your employees attracted to your organisation? This is often a good measure of the external perception of your business and its key strengths. Your employee value proposition (EVP) should very much align and feed into why your target audience engages with your products and services.

Re-visit your brand values and vision

There may be many aspects of your business that has changed over the years – product development, business structure, the role of technology – but what shouldn’t have changed is what your business stands for and the shared vision you are working towards. By sense-checking your brand model, you are ensuring you are better able to attract customers who share your beliefs.

Re-group as an organisation

So your brand values and vision still make sense, and captures what makes your business great. The next step is to make sure everyone is on board. As your organisation has grown, you need to communicate your origin story at every level to ensure everyone is as proud and enthused about the business as you are. An engaged workforce increases productivity and brand commitment.

Break down barriers

There is often a reluctance amongst businesses to really shout about what they are good at. Most have great stories and products or services – make sure as many people hear and can benefit from them as possible. This is not the time to rely on the strength of your products alone. Take control and maximise on the capital of your brand, which has accumulated after many years of hard work and sacrifice, to take your business to the next level.

Ask for an objective view

Working within your business day-in, day-out, it can be hard to get enough distance to analyse the business objectively. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes is what is needed. Don’t see using external help as a weakness. Bringing in strategic partners is a smart move to re-focus and re-prioritise, identify your key differentiators and ensure your business thrives and grows.

Listen to your customers

The best opinion to listen to when assessing the strengths of your business is your customers. In a digital age, where everyone is sharing, commenting and reviewing online, social listening of your target audience is essential. There will be a reason your customers love your brand – amplify these drivers and tap into this user-generated affection. This will help ‘spread the word’ amongst your consumers’ network of peers about what makes your business stand out and create brand advocates.

Learn from your history

Why did you or your predecessors start your business? Ultimately it would have been to fulfil a need for a consumer, or to plug a gap in the market. The way you communicate with consumers may be different, the product and services may be refined, but are you still fulfilling that same need? While your service offering may develop, ensure that your existing customer base and their satisfaction remain a priority to maintain their business and increase brand loyalty.

Don’t try and do too much

Lots of businesses try and appeal to the broadest audience possible, but there is a danger in trying to be all things to all people. The outcome can be a confused consumer journey, where people may find another brand that has a clearer defined proposition. Again, in the same way that Amazon is known for books and Apple for tech, identify what you are best known for and make sure this is coming across loud and clear in all your comms.

Analyse where your opportunities are coming from

How are people first connecting with your business? Are you answering a specific frustration in the industry, or do you have a cult product that is driving sales through word of mouth? By looking at what generates the highest levels of engagement, you can amplify these results by tailoring your marketing and business development activity accordingly.

Give time to any complaints

Without wanting to end on a negative, customer complaints can be a positive learning experience, if they are not in overwhelming numbers! Use them as an opportunity to identify areas for improvement and improve customer communication, but perhaps more importantly, as an indicator as to whether your core service offering is becoming lost and needs to get back on track!