You know how in the beginning of your business, for marketing purposes and for anything else, you develop an ideal customer avatar (ICA)? This is a critical process for being able to build a successful business model and offering. And it happens in the very beginning of your business when knowing your ideal customer is the most challenging. After you’ve worked with your customer for a while, the ICA becomes crystal clear. But in the beginning, it can still be a bit unclear. Yet, in the very beginning, you already have to start making important decisions regarding your business — such as creating your branding.
Along comes a starter brand. What is a starter brand and why do you need one? A starter brand is a brand specifically created for a solopreneur service provider who doesn’t have intimate understanding who their ideal customer is. But more about this later. Let’s get back to the ICA…
Quite often entrepreneurs develop a clear understanding of their ideal customer after having worked with them for 1 to 3 years. Recently, I interviewed female entrepreneurs — all service providers — about their branding process and brand development. All of them explained to me, in one form or another, that working with customers during these first years of their business has been critical for really getting to know who their ideal customer is.
Some of them even lamented having developed a particular style of branding in the beginning. Only to now, a couple years later, having to change their branding significantly as they have come to know their true ideal customer. That’s a big investment of either time or money — or both — that they have to make again.
In reality, it’s a really good thing to know your ideal customer intimately. So, at the end of the day, these women are lucky to have the experience and understanding, because now they can build the branding that truly attracts their ideal customer.
But how do you prevent from having to build your branding twice within such a short period of time? Even a new solopreneur — a business just starting out — needs branding to look professional. And if you haven’t worked with customers yet, and haven’t been able to gain that knowledge, what can you do?
I often recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting out — especially if they are solopreneur service providers — to create a starter brand. A starter brand is a professional looking branding that is less specific than a mature brand. A starter brand will make your business look clean and nice. And you can still have some personality attributes associated with it. But it’s not so specific, it’s not so focused that it prevents you from changing your ICA during those 1-3 first years of your business.
NOTE: I want to emphasize that I am not against niching down with your ICA — or your offering. In fact, as they say riches are in niches. So, you definitely have to find your niche. And you definitely have to find your ICA. But when it comes to branding you can’t keep changing it constantly. Your branding has to stay consistent.
And when it comes to your branding, you need to understand that your branding is not your logo. It’s not your color library. It’s not the font you choose for your website. Yes, all these things are part of your visual branding, but those things alone don’t make your branding.
Your brand is an experience. It’s a sum of all the things you do and say in the context of your business. It’s all the communication your business puts out there. It’s the experience your customers get when they interact with you, or when they call your customer service. It’s the Facebook Live you do once a week. It’s the newsletter you sent every now and then. Your brand is an experience and you’re in the center of it. Your logo, colors, fonts, and other visual elements are an important part of your brand, but still just one part.
So, I recommend that new entrepreneurs build a starter brand. It’s much easier to achieve. And you can even do it yourself. And like said before, you can already associate some personality characteristics to it. Like, is your ideal customer a woman of a certain age in a certain industry? Just don’t make it so specific that you’re gonna be stuck on creating it for weeks or months, and it’s preventing you from moving forward.
Just create a starter brand, and keep moving forward. During the first years of your business you will get clarity over who your ideal customer is. And when you do that, you are ready to create an amazing mature branding. Until then you can get away with your own personality and looking professional.
P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.