When you understand how branding works and what the process is, you have much easier time finding the right people to hire for the process and directing and guiding you consultant or designer. Knowing your way through the branding process can also help you save quite a bit of money because you know exactly what to ask from your consultant/designer, and you can make their work easier and quicker. The branding process itself can also be helpful in supporting or guiding your entire business strategy, so learning branding is useful whichever way you look at it.
If you’re going to hire out, you have a few options available. You can hire an agency to do the work for you. You could hire a freelance consultant to either do all the work or help you with just some aspects. Or you could DIY your branding yourself partially or entirely. During my 15+ years of experience, I’ve been involved in helping clients and individuals with each of these options, and I’ve seen the pros and cons of all of them.
The most common scenario with solopreneurs is that you hire someone to simply create your visual identity (logo, colors, fonts, etc.). Depending on your budget, you might hire someone who can build your entire identity, or you might just hire someone to design your logo. In some cases, folks buy 100% pre-made visual identity template — if they can find one that resonates with them.
The most affordable options (and therefore very popular ones) are buying a pre-made logo or hiring someone on Fiverr do make one for you. And then finishing up the rest of your visual identity yourself. While this approach is the most financially feasible, it’s also the one I hear most complaints about. Typically the complaints are about the logo not representing the business or offering in the right way. Sometimes we can even quantify why we’re not happy with the end result. We just know it doesn’t look or feel right.
Below you can find a few reasons why learning branding is so important and beneficial for your business — even if you’re going to hire someone eventually to do your visual identity for you.
1. Brand strategy supports your business strategy
Branding your business can be a process that helps you uncover and surface things about yourself and your business that weren’t on your radar before. This is something I’ve seen firsthand working in branding agencies, managing branding in the corporate world, and also working with individuals.
What happens is sometimes folks embark on the branding journey without first thinking about the building blocks that make their brand. They overlook some very critical foundational pieces that would not only guide their branding but their overall business strategy as well. This happens across the board in big businesses as well as with one person shops.
One example of this would be ignoring who your ideal customer is. Sometimes we are so eager to get our offering out there that we neglect to dig deep into who we are serving. The most common misconception is the idea that “my product/service is useful for everyone.” While this actually might be the case, everyone is not attracted to and inspired by same things. You would have very difficult time in building something that attracts everyone and anyone. And it would be equally difficult to create marketing for something that should speak for everyone.
When you build your brand strategy you deep dive into things like what is the value you bring to your customers, how you compare to your competition, and what is the unique competitive advantage you have. All these things are central not only to your brand strategy but also to your overall business strategy.
I’ve seen branding projects where the “a-ha moment” was so fundamental and groundbreaking that the business owner ended up shifting their entire business model and offering as a result. While it meant that they returned to the drawing board and it took a bit longer for them to launch their new brand, they were much happier not only with the branding but also with the business they now had.
2. Your visual identity needs to be based on something
One of the most common complaints I hear about having hired a designer to do the logo and maybe other visual identity elements as well is that “ t just doesn’t look or feel right.” This one is tough to even fix because quite often the business owner can’t clearly quantify what it is that bothers them. It just doesn’t feel like them or their business.
And the thing is, if they were able to explain what it is about the logo or visual identity that they dislike, they wouldn’t be in this pickle. If they were able to describe what bothers them and what they’d like to see instead, they would’ve been able to direct the designer to the right direction.
To me, this is a sign that they don’t know what their visual identity is based on. Do you know why Coca Cola brand color is red? Or why Nike’s tagline is “Just Do It?” They’re not accidents or co-incidences. All these decisions were based on a thorough brain work on what the brand personality is like and why? What do these elements communicate and what kind of position in the marketplace does it imply? Who are they meant to attract? And who do they speak to?
When you hash out the strategy part of your branding, the visual identity part is much easier to tackle. The strategy gives you explanation and reasoning for why the designer should use specific colors, illustration style, fonts, and so on. And it makes evaluating designs ten times easier because your brand strategy gives you a checklist you can compare the designs against: do the colors reflect the desired personality keywords, do the logo elements support the desired positioning, does the logo metaphor represent the mission, vision, or offering, and do the fonts communicate and support the brand personality.
3. Good foundation will save money in the process
When you hire a consultant or a freelance designer, you need to be able to communicate clearly what it that you’re expecting from them. The more open you leave the scope of work because you don’t have any brand strategy thought out before hand, the more expensive the project will be simply because the person you hire will have to use more time to figuring out what would be the right solution for your business.
Or they don’t use the time to figure out the right solution and instead you hate the outcome and end up hiring someone else or having the same person rework everything. And again you pay more. Knowing exactly what you’d like your visual identity to reflect and what tone of voice your copy should be makes working with consultants / designers / copywriters / etc. much easier, quicker, and cheaper.
To combat the project nightmare that comes from getting less than ideal outcome repeatedly, I suggest you draft a thorough creative brief. It’s a document that outlines some pieces in your brand strategy and project expectations and deliverables. To learn more about creative brief documentation read my blog post about the topic.
4. You need to commit to consistency
Consistent branding is critical for a successful business. When you see a businesses whose branding is all over the place, and they never use same colors twice, you know they’re having difficult time committing to their brand identity system. To me, this is a clear sign of not knowing your ideal customer well enough and not having defined the key parts of brand strategy.
Think of it this way: if you knew exactly what kind of branding and visual identity would appeal to paying customers (your ideal customer), wouldn’t you repeatedly and consistently use it? If you knew what attracts more customers to you, wouldn’t you keep doing it? When businesses don’t know what appeals to their ideal customer, when they don’t have a clear vision of their positioning in the marketplace, they end up changing the visual identity and design elements constantly with the hopes of finding something that works.
It’s also critical to remember that while we ourselves may be bored with our branding, our colors and fonts, our customers are not. We look at our marketing and communications every day, multiple times a day evaluating and rebuilding. But our customers see just a glimpse here and there. It takes the customer on average 7 interactions with your business before they make the buying decision. If each interaction looks, feels, and sounds different, they fail to reinforce the core message and the customer is quite likely to bee confused rather than wow’ed.
And while I’d like to tell you that you only have to do this branding thing once, and then you’re done for the rest of the lifecycle of your business, I can’t. Because it doesn’t work that way.Your business has different lifecycles: infancy, adolescence, maturity, and retirement. Depending on how your business grows, each of these stages may have specific branding needs.
While your business moves from adolescence to maturity, you may start to scale up. In that case, your offering may change, your positioning may change, and you may want to adjust the definition of your ideal customer — or any other part of your brand strategy for that matter. So, learning branding skills early on will benefit you and your business through all of its life cycles.
5. Know yourself, know your business
While foundational key ingredients of a brand are nearly always the same, there are many point of views and approaches to the branding process. I advocate for so called human-centered branding. It means we put a human — or in fact two humans — in the center of the branding process. The two humans I’m talking about here are: you and your ideal customer.
The process I use is specifically well-suited for solopreneur service providers, folks making things (makers and “craftpreneurs”), and anyone who wants to build a personal brand. That’s because my process starts by introspection. We take a good look at who are you, what motivates you to be in business, and why do get up every morning to serve others. From there we build towards your ideal customer, who they are, and how we can build a bridge between these two people.
The benefit of this type of process is that when you really know your motivation, when you deeply understand why you’re in the business, you can start infusing that into your brand and business strategy. It doesn’t only create an authentic branding, it also produces more satisfying business owners.
Another added benefit of approaching your branding this way is that it’s easier to commit to something that was born from you. If you stay genuine throughout the process, the result will be true to your mission and vision. And you can’t but nod in agreement every time you see your branding.
And when we define our branding through who we are, what our passion is, what our mission is, and what is the change we want to see in the world, suddenly our marketing is not “sales-y.” Even when we’re selling, we’re not “sales-y.” This is because we are speaking from the heart. And we’re reaching people who need what we’re offering, rather than desperately turning to anyone in hopes to make a sale.
So, learn some branding. Regardless of whether you’re going to hire someone else to build your business identity. It will pay back the time you used and the money you may have invested in it. With words of Rick Mulready from the podcast Art of Paid Traffic “At least make yourself dangerous — meaning have a basic understanding before you go and hire out.”
If you feel like you might be ready to take a stab your brand strategy, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand today.
P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.