As a solopreneur, your company is your career and passion. Your business truly is what you make of it. It can be very personal, and it can be extremely empowering. Running your own business can even be a healing experience. It is also what you spend the most of your time with. You probably spend more time working on your business than you do on any other thing in your life at that time. And the face of you business is its brand. It represents your products and services and reflects how you do business. That’s why you want to get it right. And you want it to be authentic.
I’ve worked in branding for more than 14 years. I’ve worked in small and large branding agencies. I’ve worked in in-house studios and in large enterprise teams. I’ve worked directly building the brand with clients, and indirectly maintaining corporate branding through products I’ve designed. Below I’ve shared four things I’ve found super important for building a successful brand.
1. Know your audience
This is the single most powerful ingredient of building a successful brand. You need to know what your audience wants to see and hear from you. You need to understand how to talk to them and where to connect with them. What appeals to your audience and how do they see the world? If you are already intimately aware of these things, the difficult part of your job is done. All this information will be used when you start defining your brand’s personality.
2. Define your relationship to your brand
While you are building the brand for your target audience, you still want it to reflect your values and be something you can feel proud of. Some entrepreneurs choose to build a personal brand. For service based solopreneurs, this is highly recommended, but not required. People want to buy services from people, not from a faceless company. And they want to see the person behind the services. And they want to build a personal connection. Whether you build a personal brand or not, you represent your business every day. Therefore, you want to build something you can stand behind and agree with. You want it to be something you feel excited about every day. And something you won’t be bored with easily.
3. Define the future of your business
Only you have the vision of where your business is going, and where you want it to be a year, five years, ten years, or twenty years from now. You might be thinking: “What does it matter what happens in twenty years from now? I need to build this brand today!” Well, it matters for one important reason: scalability. If your plan is to sell the company one day, you want to consider that right from the start.
The super successful entrepreneur, angel investor, and analytics expert Neil Patel says he now, in retrospect, regrets building his business empire around his name and personal brand because it makes selling the business much harder as “[–] without me, many companies wouldn’t come on board as clients. If I changed the name of the company it also probably wouldn’t do as well because my personal brand is influential within the digital marketing world.”
If you never plan on selling your company, then you have more leeway to create exactly the kind of brand you want. If you’re building your business for yourself and for the passion you have in your industry, you’re in a better position for getting hands on in the branding process and making it look like you. Passion and empowerment do not exclude success. You not planning to sell your business does not mean it won’t grow and be hugely profitable one day. It just means you have a different level of commitment to it than some one who is planning their exit from day one.
4. Make sure you will be hands on in the process
If you know your audience and you’re an expert in your industry, then you are the best person to build your brand. Even if you feel like you don’t know how to do it, you actually have all the knowledge at hand. All you need is a process and a system to guide you through it.
Too many times I’ve witnessed an agency pushing hard on a client to steer them towards the solution the agency thinks is best. And I’ve sat around the table knowing that the option is not the best for them — or their audience. But the agency needed to make a sale. Or they wanted to win a contest. And I’ve seen too many creative projects left unused by the client (after they were already paid for!!!), because the agency did not care to (or couldn’t for other reasons) dive deep enough to the client’s industry to understand the challenges, the audience, and the requirements. But you are the expert in your industry: you know these things already. That is why you need to be hands on in the process. That is why, with the right process and system in place, you can do it yourself.
Branding is not easy, but it is something you can absolutely do if you want to. The closer you are to your business and the more meaningful it is to you, the more hands on role you should have in the process.