I recently attended a seminar led by a former executive at Burt’s Bees. She shared her career trajectory with us, including her time as the Chief Human Resources Officer at Burt’s Bees and her experience when the Clorox Company acquired Burt’s Bees.

One thing that stood out to me was why Clorox Company chose to acquire Burt’s Bees. Simply put, the Clorox Company was approaching its centennial anniversary. Making it 100 years as a business is no small feat, no matter the size of your business! As they approached their 100th anniversary, they started thinking about their centennial strategy: What did they want to be known for in the next 100 years? 

Sustainability was identified as a pillar of their long-term strategy going into the next 100 years. You can read more about the Clorox Company’s commitment to social and environmental responsibility here. While the company had a lot of different products, there was nothing in the “green” category. So, acquiring Burt’s Bees aligned well with their new strategic initiative to break into the green products market.

Look beyond the near future

Sidewalk Marketing Co. is a small business that serves other service-based small businesses. We may not have the size and reach of the Clorox Company, but I was still genuinely impacted by this question: “What do I want to be known for, for the next 100 years?”

This is such an important question – no matter the scale you want to grow to, how you hope to expand your business, or how big or small your customer base is. How you answer this question is incredibly relevant when creating or refining your brand strategy.

From my experience, most small businesses plan for the here, the now, and the near future. But even if you don’t plan on being in business for 100 years, it’s important to think further into the future. Not because you’re sure of what will happen, but because this mindset helps you think bigger. You know the saying: Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!

So, here are three ways to reach the moon, look farther into the future, and dream bigger so you can achieve the most with your business.

Conduct an external trend analysis

Conducting an external trend analysis involves staying updated with industry trends and using existing data for smarter decision-making. By tapping into reports, research, and data analytics, businesses can gain insight into customer preferences and market trends. This approach can help you work more efficiently by capitalizing on available knowledge.

There are countless ways to conduct market research, from informational interviews to online research and observations. If you’re not sure where to start, you can begin with a conversation with ChatGPT using this prompt: 

You are a world-renowned analyst, specializing in [INDUSTRY.] Please summarize the top ten [social, technological, economic, environmental, or political] trends in this industry.

I recommend separating the type of trends into different prompts but ask all of them to get ideas of what you can dive into further. Determine what commonalities you see. Take a closer look at the trends that resonate with you most. How are these trends impacting your customers? In what ways do you feel inspired to adjust or grow your business? Trends may change with time, but your business’s ability to adapt can make all the difference in longevity and the legacy you leave. Ask yourself again, what do you want to be known for?

Get feedback from your customers

When seeking direction to level up your business, it is essential to gather customer feedback. You can actively solicit feedback through surveys, focus groups, or social media channels. Businesses can then use this feedback to gain valuable insights into customer preferences, pain points, and expectations. This customer-centric approach fosters stronger relationships, improves product or service offerings, and ultimately drives business growth.

Sending a survey can be a great place to start. It can be as simple as a short Google Form with multiple-choice or open-ended questions. I recommend limiting your survey to 10 questions or fewer so you don’t overwhelm the survey-takers. Also, consider offering an incentive to thank people for taking the time to respond.

If you’re comfortable meeting face-to-face, you can also try scheduling 30-minute one-on-ones with customers willing to share their experiences. Remember to structure your interviews so you address the same or similar questions in an open conversation. This will help you get deeper insights into customer experiences and the issues they face.

Connect with other businesses

Connecting with other businesses and building a supportive community can greatly benefit your brand and reputation. Consider nurturing relationships with complementary businesses or local organizations. The relationships will provide access to valuable resources, knowledge sharing, and collaboration opportunities.

This collaborative approach not only expands your network and opportunities but also boosts your brand credibility and fosters a sense of belonging among stakeholders. Through strategic partnerships, joint ventures, or industry associations, you can leverage collective expertise and resources to achieve common objectives and increase your influence.

What do you want to be known for?

Some of these things may not feel relevant to marketing or branding. However, branding and business development overlap quite a bit. We hear a lot about building our brand and conducting market research. But, there’s also a lot of work to be done to bridge the gap between how you internally build yourself up and how you align with your external customers. Having a strong foundation for your business will help you create a more meaningful and lasting impact on your customers.

So–what do you want your business to be known for, for the next hundred years?