Branding your business — or yourself — can feel like a really big project. I often hear small business owners discuss the overwhelm they feel when they think about the branding project they’re in the middle of. It’s understandable considering that most of us are not professional brand strategists and managing all the moving pieces can feel like a drag.
Quite often the business owners who experience branding overwhelm describe the feelings during the branding as “being stuck,” “getting more and more confused,” or even as being “totally lost.” They might feel like while they have a sense of clarity about their programs or products, when it comes to their branding suddenly things feel discouraging.
Just like with anything else in life… the right attitude can make the process feel easier, smoother, and “figureoutable” as Marie Forleo would say. So, let’s take a look at how you can shift your mindset slightly to change your attitude about branding and eliminate the branding overwhelm.
Five mindset shifts to eliminate branding overwhelm
1. Your brand is not the final destination — it’s a journey with multiple milestones.
As the very first mindset shift, I’d like you to stop thinking about your brand as something you build once and then it’s done. You need to understand that brand building and management is a journey that will last through the entire life cycle of your business.
Your business will go through different stages during it’s lifecycle: infancy, adolescence, maturity, and retirement. Your brand might go through different stages during that lifecycle as well.
Once you stop thinking about branding as a one time project, and start seeing it as an ongoing process with multiple smaller milestones, it becomes a natural function of your business.
Just as your business evolves, so will your brand. And as long as you build a solid foundation and manage your brand well, you can allow this to happen strategically.
2. Branding (when done right) can actually save you time and money.
One of the biggest branding fears I hear from solopreneurs is that branding will be a constant “time and money suck.” If you have no idea what you’re doing, you keep spinning your wheels, and making disappointing hires, I can totally see why people would feel that way.
I hear you. And I want you to shift from this limiting belief into seeing the potential of saving both time and money good branding can bring you.
How does branding save you time and money? When your brand strategy and messaging are crystal clear and when your visual identity guidelines are well-established and well-documented, the designers and VAs you hire have much easier time creating marketing assets and other brand aligned content for you.
That means less revisions, less hourly work you need to pay for, less time you need to spend directing and guiding them, and less energy wasted in frustration, and absolutely no time wasted on constantly tweaking and changing your branding.
3. You already have everything you need for creating a powerful brand strategy.
The third mindset shift is around your ability to create a powerful brand strategy. “Brand Strategist” sounds fancy, doesn’t it? That’s my title (along with “designer.”) If I ran an agency where the money came 100% from consulting work and me drafting brand strategies for businesses, then it would serve me to make what I do sound as complicated and intimidating as possible, right?
That’s how this work traditionally is done. But what if I told you that you already have everything you need for creating a powerful brand strategy? The agency people probably don’t want you to know that because they want your money. But it’s true.
I used to work in branding agencies in San Francisco and in Finland. And I witnessed it many times over when the strategists in these agencies “extracted” all the critical knowledge needed for a powerful brand strategy from the business owners or their representatives.
You have all the information you need. You just need to learn how to extract it from your heart and brain — and what to do with it. But you have it, and you need to understand that you hold the power.
4. Trust the process: action brings clarity.
If there was one thing I could help all entrepreneurs understand about branding it’s this: “action brings clarity.” I already mentioned the feeling of being stuck earlier in this post. That feeling is holding many small business owners back from figuring out the best branding for their business.
With the misguided idea that you need 100% clarity before you can make branding decisions, many small business owners remain stagnant in the process and end up not only feeling overwhelmed but also creating a mediocre brand.
I’d like you to adopt this mindset: action brings clarity. It doesn’t mean that you mindlessly run to any direction that pops in your head without thinking. It doesn’t mean that you hastily launch the first visual draft of your brand identity.
Instead it means that when done right, the branding process can be broken down into clear bite sized steps where each step builds on top of the previous one. And when you follow the process, you don’t all the time need to have clarity of all the steps ahead of you. You can trust that going through this step will bring you the clarity you need for the next step.
5. Think Lego blocks, not Sistine Chapel
This idea builds on the previous one about moving forward step-by-step, and adds systems thinking to it. Many people think of visual identity as this masterpiece of creativity that brings your business to life. And they’re not necessarily wrong.
But when you look at the “masterpiece” more closely, it’s not the Sistine Chapel, which took years to paint. Instead it’s a masterfully crafted Lego construction where each piece works individually as a solid building block — and together form a clear whole.
This is how you should think of your visual identity as well. It’s a system consisting of multiple individual building blocks. They all need to work together seamlessly, but you can separate them in smaller units and just use those, if need be. And you don’t immediately need all of the building blocks, either.
This type of thinking allows you to prfioritize your needs and first create only those “building blocks” you need — and amend and enhance your collection of blocks as you go.
To ask questions about branding and design, come check out my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own brand strategies and create their own designs.
Is Brand Strategy worth the effort? What even is Brand Strategy? And most importantly: how do you know if your brand strategy is inadequate and lacking? What are the signs and symptoms?
In this video, I go over what is brand strategy and how does it affect your business and visual identity. And of course, what are 7 classic telltale signs of a brand strategy that is inadequate or lacking.
What is brand strategy?
Brand strategy is all the thinking, decisions, and definitions that lay the foundation for what your brand will look, feel, and sound like. Among others, your brand strategy outlines things like who is your ideal customer, how do you want to position yourself on the marketplace, and what makes you unique and different from your competitors.
Your brand strategy also creates a solid foundation for your brand story and how you talk about your business and products or services. If your business goals change, your brand strategy should reflect it. In other words, your brand strategy is deeply connected to all aspects of your business.
How to know if your brand strategy is not working for you (anymore)?
There are seven classic symptoms to keep your eye on if you want to understand whether your brand strategy is well-crafted and working for you — OR if it’s lacking and inadequate.
These symptoms are:
You want to keep changing your branding (colors, fonts, etc.) constantly
You are not attracting the right customers
You’re not attracting ANY customers
People are confused about what you do
People keep asking for services/products you don’t offer
Your business is not growing
You don’t know how to talk about your business
To learn more in detail on each of those, check out this video. And for more branding goodness, subscribe to my YouTube channel.
To ask questions about building a personal brand — or anything else branding and design related, 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.
In this video blog post, I go over what is a brand, how is it different from “branding,” and finally what is brand management. And of course, why you essentially want to get hands on in the process as early as possible.
You know the inevitable things that happen to all of us? …whether we’re prepared for it or not. Things like your kids getting older (didn’t I just yesterday lug the carseat home from the hospital??) or the Tax Day (how is it possible that April 15 comes sooner every year???)
There just are some things that are like force of nature. And while some of them are deeply entangled with our personal lives… some affect our businesses. (No worries, I’m not going to be talking about taxes 😂)
One of these “forces of nature” for our businesses is the Birth of Your Brand. The thing is… you brand can have a life of it’s own. Yup. That’s right.
Your brand is not waiting until your are ready to start building it. Instead, your brand begins to form the day your business starts to operate.
This is because a brand is like a reputation: it’s essentially what your customers say about your business behind your back. What do your customers say about you when you’re not in the room?
And just like your reputation, your brand is formed by the experience people have with your business. And people talk.. boy, do they talk these days.
So, if you own a business of basically any kind, you’re ALREADY involved in the process of creating and managing a brand — whether you’re prepared to do it or not. And I’m guessing, since you’re reading this email, you’d rather be prepared.
To make sure you understand what brands are made of (so that you know what you’ve gotten into), I made a super quick video (13 min 49 s) on “What is a brand? And why you might want to build one…”
The video in a nutshell:
Essentially your brand is like your reputation — it’s what people say about your and your business when you’re not in the room.
Your brand is also an experience, it’s a sum of all the thing that make up your business and the experience your customer has with it.
Branding then is the process and effort you put into build a brand — it’s the strategy and visual manifestation you build around it.
And finally, brand management is your best effort to influence the impression your customers have about your business on an on going basis.
In this quick video (10:49) video, I’m going to talk a little bit about personal branding and especially when it comes to product based businesses. I’ll explain quickly what personal branding is, why it’s important, and I’ll also go through the most critical steps of building a personal brand.
Personal branding for makers, designers, and other product based businesses.
Essentially personal branding is branding yourself — or building a brand around yourself. An important part of personal branding is developing and maintaining a reputation and an impression of you as a crucial part of your business.
This is critical, because of what we already know about reputations in general: it’s essentially impacted by what other people say about you behind your back. Think of it this way: what would you want your customers to say about you when you’re not in the room? Why do we want a personal brand?
Why do you need a personal brand?
For three simple reasons: you lead more, you win more, and you earn more. Your customers have to “know, like, and trust” you before they buy from you. And a strong personal brand builds credibility, authority, and trust, so you’re more likely to attract more business.
Having a strong personal brand also helps you connect with your customers. This plays heavily into the “know and like” factor. When you share your story with your customers, those who can relate to it, will feel immediate connection to you and, as a result, to your business. And having a polished brand will of course help you feel confident and makes it easier to show up to your customers.
And finally, having a well thought out personal brand will make you “marketable” in a sense that in the branding process you’ll create different kind of brand assets — some visual and some copy. All this is something you need for marketing. So, in the process you’re making your business and yourself easier to sell and market.
How do you start building a personal brand?
1. Tell your story
For one, we focus on telling your story: your expertise and your experience, your values, and what makes you different and stand out. If you’re a service provider, this is what you’ve likely already been doing. This is nothing new to you.
But if you sell products this might be a bit more foreign to you. You may have gotten used to talking mostly about your products instead of yourself. But everyone has a story to tell, and especially if the products you sell are designed or made by you, you are likely going to have a very interesting story.
In any case, I highly recommend you build a personal brand, because people best relate to other people. And building your authority and telling your story, as it relates to the story of your products, is a very powerful way to connect with your customers.
2. Have your headshots taken
A part of the process is also building the visual brand. There are many visual assets that goes into this part, for example your logo and colors, and so on.
But, hands down, the most powerful visual branding element you can have are photos of yourself. You can’t build a personal brand without fully “showing up.” Your customer needs to know who’s talking to them, they need to know the face of the brand.
Photography is a very powerful tool for telling your story. In addition to using photos of yourself, you can also occasionally include photos of your significant other or your kids or dogs and so on — anything that helps you tell your story as it relates to your brand.
3. Share your wisdom
Your personal is also about building authority, so that your potential customers can begin to see you as an expert. When they trust you’re an expert in whatever it is that you’re selling, they’re more likely to listen to you and buy from you.
One of the best ways to build authority is to share your knowledge on the topic of your expertise. This might happen through a blog, a podcast, or a YouTube video show. Again, for a service provider this may come more naturally, because they’re often more used to discussing themselves and their expertise.
But for those who sell products — handmade or otherwise — creating content around these products might feel more challenging. But it doesn’t have to be so.
Essentially, you just need to figure out “what do your customers have to understand and believe in order to realize they need your product?” Let me give you a concrete example of this.
Many years ago, I worked in the marketing department of a bed company. They sell rather expensive beds that are individually tailored for each sleeper’s body. And they did — still do actually — almost exclusively content marketing.
But they were not talking about the beds. Instead, they talk about the importance of sleep. There’s a lot of science and research around sleep and how important it is to us. So, they have positioned themselves as experts in all things sleep.
And when their customers understand how critical it is to get a good night’s sleep, they are more willing to invest into the bed they sleep in — and therefore are more likely to buy their bed. It can be as simple as that.
So, what do your customers need to understand in order to realize they need your product? Answer that question, and you got it.
4. Curate your image
Through your personal brand, you have the opportunity and duty to curate your image. Only share things that are relevant to your brand and your business.
There’s definitely the case of oversharing. And for different brands it looks different. It all depends who your ideal customer is and what they would consider oversharing.
If you’re unsure, ask yourself “why would anyone care?” If you can answer that, and you know why your ideal customer would care about your hemorrhoids, then by all means: share away. That might just be the connection your customer needed.
To ask questions about building a personal brand — or anything else branding and design related, 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.
Designing and building a website is a fascinating project of business and marketing strategy, design smarts, and tech challenges. There’s many moving pieces, and if you’re going to do all of it yourself, you get to wear many hats in the process.
Do I think you can do it yourself? Yes, I absolutely do. Do I think you should do it yourself? Well, it depends on you. With the technology, platforms, and templated solutions we have available today, I think you should at least consider designing and building your website yourself. Unless, of course, you have extra $5k, then you should hire me to do it 😀
In any case, this video will walk you through the decisions you need to make before you build your website — the same decisions that in a very concrete way will affect the success of your website. Check it out and let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
The purpose and business goals of your website, and how they might affect what kind of website you build and the kind of platform solution you might need.
Your products and services, and how they might affect the features on your website, or even the platform your end up using.
The content you’re going to put on your website, and how it affects your platform choice and related technology.
Different platforms you can use to build a website for yourself, and what are each of the platforms suitable for.
Where to get hosting?
How to come up with an URL for your website, and what to do if someone already has the URL you would want to use.
How does your branding affect your website?
How to design your the pages on your website?
And who is going to build your website…
Further resources for building your website:
If you need support in the process, join my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs This video is also available in the group in addition to branding and design support and awesome people. Welcome!
And if your website is already under way, but you’re not sure how to move forward or how to improve your current website, sign up for my free website design audit. Right now, I’m conducting free web design audits in my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs.
Join the group and post: 🙋#designaudit [ -and add your website URL- ]. I’ll be selecting a few brave volunteers for a website review. 👉 You’ll submit your website for a design review. And I’ll take a look at it and give you my honest, professional opinion (free of charge) on anything you should change or revise.
Check out this video (22 min 50 sec) to learn what are the most common design related mistakes I most often bump into with small business websites. And of course, if you’re still on the fence whether you need a website or not, learn why having website is beneficial for your business.
Do you really need a website to run a successful business? You can definitely do business without a website. But if you’re going to grow and scale, you’re going to need a website at some point… Let’s take a look at why more in detail…
6 Big reasons your business needs a website
1 – Your business needs a “home” in the digital world.
You may have a physical office or a brick and mortar storefront somewhere. But your business needs home in the online world. An extension of your brand, if you will. And I call it a “home” for a very specific reason: it’s more permanent than your social media presence and you make the rules in your home, right?
2 – Trends, rules, and even laws with social media change periodically.
You have no say in that. Imagine you have a thriving Facebook business page today and most your business comes via that page. And now imagine that Facebook decides to shut down that feature on their platform. All the customers who were contacting you through that page are lost to you if that was the only touch point you had with them. So, your business needs home online where only you can close the shop if it comes to that
3 – A well-crafted, professional-looking website increases your credibility, authority, and influence.
This is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the world as the pro you are. You can tell your origin story and you have full power over where it appears and how it looks like. Whether you want to use video, images, or simply words or an audio recording to tell your story — it’s all up to you. With social media platforms, they give the same template for everyone.
4 – Your website is your calling card.
It’s a place where people can come find more information on your products and services. So, you only need to learn an elevator pitch and then handover your URL – website address that is – and this is where people can find more information about you and your business.
Have you ever been excited about a business and then tried to google them only to find out they don’t have a website? I have, and it’s always disappointing.
5 – Your website also works as additional info supporting your marketing and promotions.
Now, you can do a lot of promotion and marketing simply via social media, and it can be very successful. But if I then want to know more about the business who’s Facebook ad I just saw only to find out they don’t have a website… well, it gives a little shady feeling. Who am I giving my money to?
So, if you use ads and market to cold audiences, I would strongly recommend you build a strong website to support it. Now, if you only market to warm audiences who already know, like, and trust you, it’s less of an issue, because like said they already “know, like, and trust” you, and they don’t feel like they have to check your background or credentials.
6 – It reinforces your brand image
…if you align your website with your brand strategy and visual identity, of course. Websites today are very visual, and give you a tremendous opportunity to build and strengthen your brand story. You can emphasize your brand tone of voice and messaging by having all the text aligned with your brand strategy. And of course, your visual branding will be at the heart of it all with colors, font choices, photography, and of course you logo at the top.
9 Most common mistakes I see on small business websites
For more details on what these mistakes are and how to avoid them, watch the video above.
Primary logo is illegible
Multiple completely different versions of the logo
Inconsistent use of color & fonts
Too many fonts and colors
Font size is too small
The font (style and design) is difficult to read
Photos are poorly lit or pixelated
Hero area — tbe “hero” person is cut off on responsive states
Weird or inconsistent use of margins
For more details on what these mistakes are and how to avoid them, watch the video above.
In this quick Holiday spirited video (13 min 53 s), I’ll explain the dos and dont’s of Holiday theming your marketing and branding. How do you “dress up” your brand for the holidays? Do you just add a Santa hat on your logo for Christmas? What can you add to your brand to celebrate this special time of the year? Let’s take a peek, shall we. (I’m using Christmas here but same advice works for any holiday).
Who is this video for?
This video is great for anyone who does seasonal marketing campaigns and wants to know what are the best practices when it comes to the holiday theming your marketing and brand assets.
What’s in the video?
00:36 — Is it advisable to change your brand elements? You should treat Holiday theming as a campaign that has a clear start and end, and should not change the core elements of your brand like the logo or fonts.
01:40 — You can add campaign elements to support your campaign design. As a campaign, your holiday theming can bring in temporary design elements like an additional font or a color that will only be used in the context of this campaign and will not be used after the campaign ends.
Note! Any campaign elements you add should always support your brand strategy and compliment your visual identity.
02:56 — Campaigns are typically short lived and can change from year to year. Next year’s holiday theming might be very different from this year’s. And it’s ok as long as your campaign elements work in alignment with your brand guidelines.
07:44 — Holiday theming with photography. Ideas for getting Christmas photos done early for your social media accounts. Stage a corner of your house with Christmas decoration and snap photos of yourself in season’s fashion. Or go to a stock photo service and find seasonal stock photography that works for your brand. (Examples: Depositphotos and Unsplash)
09:32 — Example 1 of Daily Creative website on how just changing one photo and one color you can create Holiday spirit on your website.
12:15 — Example 2 of Daily Creative website on how just changing one photo and one color you can create Holiday spirit on your website.
12:49 — What do you do if you sell physical productsand have special seasonal products? Highlight your seasonal products during the campaign and give them a special focus on your website (and on other marketing, as well).
That’s my few tips for Holiday theming your brand. As always, if you have any questions drop a comment below. Happy Branding!
Imagine how it would feel to have your brand finally reflect the vision you have in your head. A vision that will take you and your business to the next level. That’s what we’re going to start working on right now.
Not only will upgraded branding boost your confidence like only the most amazing branding can, but it will attract your ideal customers to you and inspire visibility that you haven’t experienced before. Because let’s face it: you’re going to want to flaunt this polished up baby of yours on every platform possible.
And when you reach masses with your newly found confidence, and attract raving fans to your brand, you get to share your gifts with more people than ever before. And you’ll be helping more people to have better lives. Now, that’s something to aspire for!
By upgrading your brand strategy, you’re realizing the potential of your business. When you align your brand strategy with your business strategy and vision, anything is possible. With a brand that attracts a tribe of fiercely loyal customers and advocates, you’ll have the freedom to say no to clients you don’t feel 100% aligned with and only focus on serving those that light up your spirit.
What is the dream future for you and your business? What does your business need to become in order for you to achieve your dream future? How does your business compare to the competition in the marketplace currently? How will your business compare to the competition in the marketplace in your dream future scenario?
#2 – Transformation
What level of transformation are you willing to make in order to meet that dream future? Is your business currently almost there? Or does it feel like a complete transformation is needed?
#3 – Execution
Will you hire a consultant or agency to do the work for you? Or will you DIY some or all of the work? Both options (or a combination) are doable depending on your budget. In any case, I always recommend you learn enough branding to be able to direct the process and manage your consultant/designer.
Decision 1: Positioning your business for your dream future
When you’re trying to get to a destination, it’s almost impossible to know which way to go before you know where you’re starting from. Same goes with branding. In order to define what level of upgrade your brand needs, we first need to see where you’re at right now. And then we map the road to where you want to end up in.
To both analyze your competition and to identify your ultimate future positioning, I have the best tool for you: Competitor Matrix. This is a quick and visual tool that helps you not only identify your current and future positions in the marketplace, but also any market opportunities and the biggest competitors you should be paying the most attention to. Let’s see how it works.
First list qualifications and factors in your business and industry that you want to use to compare your business to your customers. For example, price could be one. The quality of service might be another one. There might be some industry specific ones as well. For example, if you’re in the restaurant business whether or not the restaurant is family friendly could be one factor. You will choose two qualifications/factors and then you’ll map out how much of that factor/qualifier you and your competitors have. This is done on a visual map.
Draw x and y axes (like a big plus sign). Add the qualities you want to measure on each end of the axes. One end will be “high” and the other end will be “low.” For example, high touch vs low touch. If the qualifiers you choose have clear opposites, you don’t need high vs low (for example, ordinary vs luxury).
Position your competitors on the matrix based on their brand and products/services with gray circles or dots. Then position your current brand with a different colored circle. And finally add where you want your brand to be in the future (your dream future scenario) with a star.
Now look at the grid. You should have a collection of little markings across your map. Start analyzing. The goal is to identify so called opportunity gaps and your closest competitors.
An opportunity gap is an area in your industry and your marketplace where a clear opportunity for business lies due to less competition or entirely untapped markets. So, pay close attention to the emptier areas on the map since those are your potential opportunity gaps. These gaps become the potential positioning opportunities for your brand, as they are less saturated with your competitors’ offerings.
If you choose to position yourself in a more saturated area in your matrix, you will need to be prepared to work a bit more to stand out. Since there’s already a lot of competition in that area, you will have find a unique angle for your branding to stand out.
The competitors that are closest to you on the map, are likely your biggest competitors. These are the businesses you want to keep your eye on to make sure you’re emphasizing your unique selling points in your marketing and communications.
I’d also like to point out that, it is critically important to choose the right qualifiers/factors for comparing against on the matrix. Otherwise you might end up with an unattractive or inefficient positioning. Dive into your existing brand or offering to weigh different factors. What are the things that you find important in your business and offering? What are your competitive advantages? What are these now and what would you want them to be in future?
This question has two sides. On the one hand, it measures the transformation your brand has to go through in order to meet the new position you’ve plotted out. On the other hand, it measures the transformation you as the business owner has to go through to take your business there.
For many small business owners, especially service providers and creatives, your business brand is your personal brand. When you sell your services or products you’ve made yourself, it’s almost like you’re selling a piece of yourself. This means you will not only prepare your business for the new branding, you have to prepare yourself, as well.
Depending on the degree of the transformation, the amount of work can vary. When it comes to the strategy part, you still need to go through the same steps. But depending on the outcome of the strategy, the amount of design changes and revisions will vary.
The rule of thumb is: the bigger the distance on the map between your starting point and your goal state is, the larger the degree of the transformation you’ll likely need to achieve the goal. In other words, if your position changes drastically, your branding will have to change drastically, as well.
It is completely normal to feel a slight push back at this point because change can be intimidating. But change is also good. If your business is not where you want it to be right now, if you’re not feeling confident about your brand, it’s time to upgrade your branding.
All brand upgrades start with thorough strategy work. That will dictate what parts need changing and how. When you consider your newly defined dream future, your ultimate goal state, you’re going to need to ask yourself how different is your brand strategy in your dream future compared to today.
The biggest brand transformation is called rebranding. This implies you are open to changing any and all elements necessary within your branding to meet the goal state. You will literally redo the branding. The degree of the rebranding is determined by the brand strategy. The bigger the changes are to the current strategy, the bigger the changes to the visual identity will likely be.
You might also choose not to do a full rebrand. A more subtle update is often called a “facelift.” Maybe you’re not too far from your ideal state, but you’ve noticed that to fully get there, you need to update some part parts of your brand strategy. And that means updating your visual identity, as well.
The third critical decision you have to make is: who will do your branding? Are you going to hire a consultant? An agency? Or maybe you want to do parts or everything yourself. These are all options you need to consider. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of each of the approach.
Hiring a branding agency
Pros: You get a team of people with special expertise working on your branding and making sure all steps of the process are executed with the highest skill level.
Cons: Can be expensive — need bigger budget. Depending on the agency (and budget), you may have less influence on the outcome and the turnaround time. And you may not have full transparency to the process.
Hiring a consultant / freelancer
Pros: Cheaper than hiring an agency. Typically still get to work with an expert. May have easier access to this person and more 1-1 time.
Cons: While cheaper than agency, can still cost a pretty penny. Finding a skillful person who fits on your budget and has time on their calendar might be difficult. You might have to hire more than one consultant as the skill sets can be limited to one specialty. If you end up with a difficult person, the process can be quite painful.
Doing most or all of the work yourself
Pros: You have full control over the outcome. As the founder, you already have most of the information you need for the brand strategy. You can move forward as fast or slow as you choose. You’ll feel deeply connected to your brand. You get to learn lots of new things that will benefit your business in the long run.
Cons: Learning new things can take some time and effort. Before you’ve mastered new skills, you may feel self-conscious about what you’re creating. Without proper guidance or step-by-step instructions, you might not be able to create something you’re happy with.
Hybrid approach: doing parts yourself, hiring some parts out
Pros: You have full control and gain additional clarity over the parts you create. You ‘ll learn new things about the areas you’re focusing on.
Cons: You’d still have to invest in hiring someone to do the parts you don’t want to do – budget required. You’d still need guidance for the parts you’re creating. Hiring parts out would affect your timeline as well.
What does it take to DIY your branding?
The fact that you can actually DIY your branding and have successful and professional looking outcomes often comes as a surprise to most entrepreneurs. The part about doing the process yourself is not the surprise here: many business owners are forced to DIY their branding due to lack of budget or resources. The surprise is the success and professional looking outcome.
The reason for this is that we are accustomed to thinking that especially the visual identity — the design part of the process — requires special expertise. And go back 10-15 years, the resources we have available online these days didn’t exist yet, or were mostly unknown. Today, there are so many design tools online and ready-made design elements for sale (or available for free) that building a visual branding is more doable than ever before.
Don’t let the process intimidate you
So, while I tell people that “yes, you can DIY your branding AND make it successful,” I understand that it can feel intimidating — just like learning anything new does. And I will admit that the branding process does take time, and sometimes you really have to work to get everything just right. While the process is fairly simple, it’s not always easy. But just like any other big project, breaking your branding project into bite sized pieces will help you get through it.
Also, no one says you have to do EVERYTHING yourself. Well, to be honest, no one says you have to do any of it yourself, if you don’t want to. Although, I do think it’s a good idea for all entrepreneurs to learn branding. In any case, I wanted to give you a quick idea of which parts of the branding process are easier to DIY and which ones might give you a bit more challenge.
Most of it is “brain work”
Another relatively unknown aspect of the branding process is that it is actually more brain and thought work rather than crazy artistic creativity and designing a bunch of visual stuff. But because of the visual nature of one of the final outcomes, the visual identity, our first assumption about the branding process is that it is mostly about drawing logo sketches.
I would even go as far as to say that all the thought work and introspection that goes into the branding process is much more important than the visual identity part. Let me explain a bit further…
I like to divide the branding process in two major phases: the foundational strategy phase and the visual identity phase. Most people skip the strategy part almost entirely when they’re DIYing their branding. This is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to unsuccessful branding projects. The problem is that your visual identity is based on your brand strategy. If you skip the strategy phase, you don’t have all the right tools for making decisions during the design phase.
Furthermore, most people will find the visual identity work more challenging than the foundational strategy part. Yet, most people skip the strategy and jump directly to the hardest part without realizing that had they started with the strategy the rest of the branding would be much easier to tackle. Getting curious yet?
To show you what each step of the branding process takes to accomplish and why it’s important to do all of those steps, I created the handy table in the starter kit handout. The last column will detail the actual actions it takes to accomplish that step in the process. And I promise that you will see that all of it is doable.
To ask questions about this starter kit or anything else branding and design related, 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.
In this quick Design Hack video (15min 09s), I’ll show you how you can use a table of content template to create a beautiful and styled PDF step-by-step guides or “listicles.”
Who is this video perfect for?
Whether you need this is or not would depend on the type of marketing you do. This is most useful for people who create marketing pdfs for a variety of reasons. One use would be to grow your email list. You create a step-by-step guide for something (or any piece of very useful content) and to get that people give you their email address and join your mailing list.
If you wanted to do something like this, it could be for example “Create your first crystal grid in 5 easy steps” (or however many steps you need…). People would opt in to your email list and in exchange you send them this pdf. If they love it and think it was useful, they stay on your list and you send them valuable content every week. When you’re ready to sell something, they’re already on your list and eagerly waiting for your emails.
The official definition of listicle is “In journalism and blogging, a listicle is a short-form of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure, but is fleshed out with sufficient copy to be published as an article.” So, basically any piece of content that is comprised of a list of things. In marketing, numbered lists are popular because people want to know exactly how many steps it takes to achieve something, hence the numbers.
Additionally, the concept of using a layout template for something else than what is was intended for can be extremely helpful for choosing a design template of any kind. When looking for a design template to you, it’s rather likely that you won’t find something that perfectly matches your need. So, you need to get creative and think outside the box. In other words, assess what are the common denominators between your content and the templates that are available regardless of what their intended use is.
The challenge is that most people will search Canva (or Pinterest for inspiration etc.) by using the search criteria and words describe the layout they need to create (search for list layout instead of table of contents). The aim here is to have people think and see things differently. Look at different layout and think “where all I can use this.” I LOVE creative problem solving.
What’s in the video?
01:10 —What type of marketing content are the tips in this video for? Anything that has a numbered list. There are very popular “listicle” style articles on specific steps someone has to take, for example “5 steps to permanent weight loss,” or similar. I’ve heard 3, 5, and 7 are the most effective amounts of steps or points in your list. But since content is King, if your method needs 4 steps to be effective, then use 4.
02:27 — Tip: use a table of content template instead of generic document template or a list template. These layouts will already have numbers associated with text blurbs and the design is often more interesting than on a generic document or list template. Search Canva with “table of content” and “content” to surface these layout templates.
04:08 — Example 01: From a classy table of content to more fun and lively step-by-step guide. First, add an image to each step instead of having just one large image. Second, playful composition with circle cropped images.
Tip: When using design templates, whenever you can find a template that is already aligned with your brand personality, the easier time you will have customising that template with your brand styles.
06:34 — Example 02: From a calming travel magazine to a fun and colorful step-by-step guide. See how changing colors, fonts, and the image will change the entire look and feel of this layout.
08:53 — Example 03: From Cold and cool layout to feminine and emotional look and feel. See how by changing colors, fonts, imagery, and by adding few color squares you can change the look and feel dramatically.
12:35 — Tip: Before you pick a template, think about what kind of content you have. Then think about what kind of layout would have this type of content. For example, table of content has number and text and step-by-step guide has numbers and text.
13: 47 — Tip: How to visualise your signature process…
Check out this quick video lesson (~16min 40s) and get ready to map your brand’s long term vision and short term goals, as well as the next steps you need to take. It’s a “feeding two birds with one scone” kind of a video teaching you how to start building brand awareness before you’re ready to sell anything AND it walking you through one of my favorite project planning tool: OGST.
Calling OGST a “project planning tool” doesn’t do justice to what you can accomplish with it… you can pretty much map your entire life with it if you want to. OGST stands for Objective, Goals, Strategies, and Tactics.
Today I’m going to talk about how to build a brand before you have a product or service ready. A lot of brand strategy is about offering, and about how you frame certain things based on your offering. And how do you bring that into your branding-
So, it might be confusing to be building a brand if you don’t have an offering ready to be sold yet. Maybe you have a loose idea about what your business will be about, but you just haven’t figured out the exact product or service yet.
Here’s a question Jen brought to me: “My question is about branding if one does not yet have an offering of products or digital courses for sale but might expand to do this in the future. Could you discuss the concept of personal branding such as creating a personal website, as a professional calling card, that also shows one’s work such as articles and information.“
So, Jen is saying that she doesn’t have an offering or product yet. Eventually, Jen wants to make and sell a digital course, but right now she feels like she still has to learn more about making courses, and of course she still has to build that course before she can sell it. How can Jen start building a brand and framing her messaging before she has anything to sell?
You can definitely create your brand with or without a detailed offering. It is 100% doable, probably even advisable. Because the moment you’re ready to sell something, if you haven’t been building your presence, if you haven’t been building your brand before, you’re going to have a rude awakening… because there’s no audience. There’s no one listening, because you weren’t building awareness around yourself and your business ahead of time.
Even if you knew that “for a year I can’t sell anything yet” start building your brand today. There’s no better time than today. Actually, yesterday would have been better than today. There are so many things you can still talk about. You can talk about what brought you here to this point in your life. What inspired you to start your blog/podcast/brand? Why is this topic (the one you’re building your business around) important to you? Why is this topic important to your customers?
To help you figure out more clearly what you can talk about when building a brand before you have a product or service to sell, I want to share a tool with you that I like to use. It’s one of my favorite tools. And it helps me break things to clear actionable steps. But it also in this case really well illustrates which parts of your business you can start talking about right now. And which parts you want to save for when you have your offering fully figured out.
This tool is called OGST. Which is an acronym for Objective, Goals, Strategy, and Tactics. They taught us this method when I was getting my master’s degree. And if I remember correctly, this is based on some kind of military strategizing framework.
With OGST, you always start with your objective, which is this one large objective. And anything you do, any action you take, will have to move the needle towards this one objective. I’ve created an example objective: enabling more active and happier retirement (for women). And then all of the goals, strategies, and tactics — each and every one of those — have to support this one objective. If it doesn’t support this objective, you’re not going to do it.
This is a great tool for you if you have the infamous shiny object syndrome, which basically means that you have a squirrel brain and you keep spiraling towards the next shiny object. And you have a hard time staying on course. Write this objective on a piece of paper, and tape it on the wall. And every time you want to buy a new course, or you want to start doing a new thing instead of finishing what you’ve started, read the objective and ask “does this whatever thing I want to do, is it going to take me towards this objective?” If not, then it’s a distraction. If you can clearly say that, yes, it will actually take me towards this objective. Wonderful than it’s something you can do.
Okay, so we have an objective. Our objective for this example is: enabling more active and happier retirement for women. And for that objective, I’ve invented four goals:
Empower senior women to lose weight
Inspire to make a bucket list
Inspire to make new friends
Empower elderly women to fight depression
How did I come up with these goals? Well, one way is to combine your passion towards a particular audience with your special expertise. Maybe I’m passionate about improving lives for senior or elderly women. And I also happen to be a health coach or a nutritionist or something like that. That would tie those two strings together nicely: the target audience that I’m really passionate about and my special expertise.
All of these goals should be based on research in some way. For instance, maybe I have found out that the senior women who are obese or carry extra weight tend to be less active, which then feeds into being unhappy. Maybe I’ve worked with retired women and noticed that being overweight equals less activity and general unhappiness. And that has given me the insight that I need to empower these ladies to lose some weight.
For goal two, maybe I’ve seen research stating that the retirees who have some sort of bucket list are more active. And that has led me to believe that I should inspire these people to make a bucket list. Goal three and goal four could go a little bit hand-in-hand. For goal three, maybe you interviewed or you just hung out with a lot of retired women. And you noticed that the retirees who have more friends tend to be happier. And this gave you the idea that you need to somehow inspire these ladies to make new friends.
And for goal four, maybe you’ve bumped into some research that the rates of depression among the elderly are on the rise. In order to enable them to have a happier retirement, you need to empower them to fight depression.
Let’s recap. Some of the ways you can come up with these goals are:
You have special expertise that perfectly matches this objective or supports the objective.
You have seen research on your topic that helps you figure out your goals.
You know your target audience, you’ve hung out with them, you’ve interviewed them, and through those insights you’ve figured out things that you need to do (or they need to do) that supports your objective.
These will eventually become your goals. And remember, your objective is that large umbrella. And everything under it has to support that one big goal, your mission, your big objective. Below that you have your goals. And since goals can quickly become bigger targets, we’re going to break them apart a little. So, let’s take a look at the next layer: strategy.
Each goal goal can have more than one strategy, but for the sake of simplicity I’m using just one for each. Our goal one was to empower elderly women to lose weight (because we knew that obese elderly are less active and unhappy). This is where we come to the part where we start to talk about a very specific offering. Strategy for goal one could be — and these are just examples that I’ve pulled out of my hat — an online course to teach weight loss methods (or one specific method). And when we talk about empowering, online course teaching something works well.
Goal two: inspire to make a bucket list. Maybe your desired way to make that happen would be to create an inspirational blog with some instructions on how to draft a bucket list and how to start tackling your bucket list items. Ideally the strategies all support each other and create a nice whole.
Goal three: inspire to make new friends, because you had found out that elderly who have more friends are more active and happier. So, a strategy here could be to create a podcast where you interviewed seniors who have made new friends and they’re tackling their bucket lists together — you know, something to keep it all together in the area of friendships and bucket lists.
Podcasts also fall very nicely into the “know, like, trust” process. They know you, since they listened to you. They start liking you, and then bit by bit, they start to trust you. And eventually they’ll buy from you.
And then goal four: empower to fight depression. Just like the goal one, when we talk about empowering someone, it’s more concrete. It’s about teaching, showing someone how to do something. So, maybe here our strategy here is to write an ebook about the power of meditation. Again, maybe you have a professional background in the topic. Maybe you know that meditation can help fight depression. So you’re going to like bring all that together.
Tactics are the concrete steps you take for each goal. For instance, goal one was “empowering to lose weight” and the strategy was to do an online course for that. So, the tactics could be: outline your course, record the videos, edit the videos, create handouts, and so on.
You can break the tactics into as small and detailed steps as you want to. Or you can keep them in a bigger buckets. It really depends on how you like to operate. Let’s say that to inspire people to make a bucket list, you create inspirational blog. So, maybe the tactics are: starting a blog, creating content for it, connecting with other blogs to guest blog for getting visibility for your blog, and so forth.
Goal three is “inspire to make new friends.” And the strategy for that is to create a podcast. The tactics for that would be: starting a podcast, finding the podcast guests, start batching episodes, and then of course connect with other podcasts to be interviewed in other podcasts for visibility.
And goal four: “empower to fight depression.” For that, you wanted to write an ebook about the power of meditation. So the tactics for that could be: outlining your ebook, creating guided meditations, writing your book, and then publish and sell. Maybe you self-publish this book and sell on your own website — or put it on Amazon, whatever.
This method gives you the big picture of where you want to go. But it also allows you to start breaking this big picture apart into smaller pieces. Maybe you’re not ready to go after your goal number one yet, because you know that building an online course is a really big thing. So, maybe you choose to start with the goal two — the one about inspiring ladies to make a bucket list. So, you’ll create an inspirational blog and you’ll start infusing all these aforementioned themes into that blog.
To help you understand what you can discuss in your messaging before you have anything to sell, I drew a line to show that anything below the line is more concrete, it’s about your offering. Anything above the line is something that you can talk about regardless of whether you’re ready to sell or not.
So, in this example scenario, if you’re not ready to sell anything yet, you can still talk about weight loss and how weight loss is important for staying active in your older years. You can talk about how great it is to have a bucket list, and how great it feels to check things off from your bucket list. And how a bucket list encourages you to be more active. You could even talk about different kinds of bucket lists, and what it means when you’re a retired person doing this. You can also talk about making new friends as an older person. How easy or difficult it is, and different ways to do that. And you can of course talk about depression and elderly. And what are the little things that we can all do to fight depression.
So this is an example of growing your brand awareness before you’re ready to launch your paid services or products. You can use anything above the line to build brand awareness that eventually will make selling the things below the line much easier.
Some of the things you’re going to need for growing your brand awareness is social media presence, your website — or whichever way you want to deliver your message. Are you going to do a blog or a podcast? Or maybe you’re going to start networking in live events in person? But somehow you need to start, as a part of building your personal brand, stepping out of the shadow, so to speak, and put yourself out there and start talking about these things. (And when I say “start talking about these things,” you can of course write, as well (blog/social media/etc.)
With this tool you can plan ahead a little bit. Let’s say that you’re not ready to sell anything today. But a year from now, in October 2020, you want to be ready to sell your services/products. With the help of this tool, you can make that commitment. And you can make a content calendar for the next 12 months, if you know exactly where you want to be in the next 12 months.
For example, let’s say that the thing that you want to sell is an online course. In that case, a bit before you’re getting ready to launch your online course, about three months before, you’re going to start tailoring your content to support the launch. You can start talking more about topics that are around your course so that you’re preparing people for your launch. So, it definitely is a good idea to start early.
I know this is a lot of information in a short period of time. If you have any questions about the OGST (objective, goals, strategies, and tactics) framework, post those in the comments. And you know, you can use this for anything. You could plan a vacation with this. What is the objective of the vacation? And what are the goals within that objective, and strategies and tactics? You could use this for anything.
And actually it’d be super cool to hear if you end up using this, what do you use it for? I’ve used it for branding and business strategy related things, but also for mapping out smaller projects. Typically work related is what I’ve used it for. It is one of my favorite tools.
I often talk about focusing on your customer when you’re building your brand. That is a solid advice and applies really to almost anything that your business does. One part of the branding process is to define your ideal customer with enough detail that you can bring them to life in your mind whenever you need a reminder of who it is your serving and who’s the target of your marketing efforts.
What doesn’t get talked about as much is the different mindsets of that customer — your ideal customer. Before they become your actual customer, they are a prospect; someone potentially considering to buy your services or products. Sometimes you catch their attention before they even know they need your product.
In marketing, they talk about “cold audience” and “warm audience.” Someone who hasn’t “warmed up” to your brand yet, someone coming into contact with your content or an ad for the first time, is considered cold audience. Warm audience on the other hand, is the people who are agreeable to your messaging, they love your content, they are interested in your products and services, and they like and trust you and your business.
Needless to say that warm audiences are easier to sell and market your products to because they are already eagerly looking forward to hearing from you. So, one strategy for your business should be trying to convert as much cold audience into warm audience as possible. Your marketing efforts, your valuable content, and you showing up to serve your customers are all important parts of your “warming up” your audience. But also your branding plays a big role. Maybe bigger than you’re aware of. Let’s take a look at this a bit closer.
First impressions are huge in branding and marketing. And it only takes about 10 seconds for your potential customers to form an opinion about your business. This means that you have 10 seconds to quickly convince them that yes, you’re business and product are interesting and important and they should keep listening to you, reading your blog or email, stay on your website, stay with you ad… or whatever the first touch point you have with them.
That split second decisions they are about to make for either staying with your and your marketing or leaving, is part of a micro conversion. What is a micro conversion? Traditionally in marketing, micro conversions are small-ish actions your customer takes towards your bigger conversion goal. Let’s say your conversion goal is to sell your coaching program. In that case, and in a traditional sense, a micro conversion could be someone subscribing to your email list.
They didn’t buy from you yet… But do you remember the cold and warm audience stuff above? They just took a step towards becoming part of your warm audience. This means in the future, it’s going to be much easier to sell and market to them.
So, that’s a traditional explanation of micro conversions. But when it comes to branding, I like to take it a bit further… Before that prospective customer has subscribed to your email or freebie a lot has to have happened. Most of it subconscious.
So, I mentioned it takes about 10 seconds to your potential customers to form an opinion about your business and brand. In reality, it takes only 2 seconds to lose that customer because on average they’ll spend less than 2 seconds with your marketing if they don’t immediately feel drawn to it. Facebook reports that depending on the device, people spend on average 1.7-2.5 seconds with Facebook ads. Logically, after that ~2 seconds, they either click on your ad …or keep scrolling.
These numbers are similar to what I saw reported on people spending time with magazine ads about 15 years ago when I was working on designing and creating ads for printed media. At the time, 1.7 seconds was reported as the average time people spend with printed ads (large, full page magazine and newspaper ads). So, I think we can conclude that roughly 2 seconds is the time you need to convince someone to keep reading your ad copy or watching your ad video.
So, let’s assume you use Facebook ads to attract customers. First, you have ten seconds to convince your potential customer that they should stay with your ad. Then, on top of that 2 seconds, you have another 8 seconds to give them a great first impression and convince them that your business or your offering is worth getting to know better, that you have something valuable they need or want.
Another critical thing to understand is that people make decisions almost entirely based on their feelings. Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman states in his book How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market (2003) that 95% of customers’ decision making happens subconsciously and based on emotions. According to Zaltman, tapping into customer’s emotions can result into major boost in sales.
Essentially, our decision-making is subconscious and driven by emotions. Customer make judgements in a fraction of a second about whether they should stay with your ad or not, and it’s almost entirely based on a gut feeling they get in that time. So, we need to capitalize on that first two seconds. Before anything else can happen, we need a tiny micro conversion (nano conversion?) where our prospective customer decides to give us the next 8 seconds — and more.
Thank goodness for branding! There’s A LOT we can do. First of all, using the right color can increase the likelihood that your ideal customer will stop scrolling and read your message by 40%. So, we need to urgently figure out what is the right color for your customer, what color do they feel drawn to.
Color also helps people to remember things associated with the color they saw, e.g. Starbucks and green. And since your prospective customer needs on average 5-7 impressions on your branding before they remember and associate it with your business and offering, you need all the help you can get. (And you need to stay consistent… think about what happens if each time of those 5-7 impressions your brand looks and feels different. How do you think that might affect the process?)
Secondly, our brain processes visual information, like colors, shapes, and images, 60 000 times faster than words. Talk about making the most of that 2 to 10 seconds you have for making a great first impression! So, we need to make sure that your marketing communication uses visual cues to reinforce the message. And that the visuals that you use are the ones that speak to your ideal customer.
Thirdly, we know that colors and imagery can evoke (sometimes strong) feelings. And we just learned that 95% of our decision making is subconscious and emotionally driven. You get where I’m going with this…? We should urgently make sure your business uses the kind of visual identity that gets your potential customers to first stop scrolling, then feel positive reinforcement and that this is definitely meant for them, and finally feel an emotional connection to your brand.
Think of successful branding as a signage system that guides the right people to you giving them little hints along the way showing which way to go. And confirming that they’re going in the right direction: to you and your offering. When built right, this signage system guides only the right people to you: your ideal customers. And rest will follow someone else’s signs.
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.
If you’re a small business owner and you’re building your brand, you may bump into mindset challenges. How to keep moving forward without feeling stuck? How to stay motivated in the process? What to focus on throughout the branding process? And how to feel confident you’re moving in the right direction?
All the above are questions I get from solopreneurs I work with. When you’re working on something that is as close to your heart as your business is, making branding decisions may feel daunting if you’re afraid of making a mistake or taking a step in the wrong direction.
Your brand is an experience
Many entrepreneurs feel that stakes are high when it comes to their branding. And you can’t blame them. We often associate branding as the face of our business, the visible frontend that represents who you are and what you do.
In a way, that is true. A big part of the branding is visual and visible, and defines the look and feel of your business. But I’d like to challenge you to think about your brand differently. What if, instead of thinking about your brand as the face of your business, you’d start thinking about it as the heart of your business?
The visual identity is only one aspect of your brand. At the end of the day, your brand is so much more than just the visual part. Your brand is an experience your customers get when they interact with your business — and you. This means each and every interaction they have with you and your business forms a part of the brand.
It’s the way you answer customer questions, the way you send their invoices, the way they interact with your products, the way your website looks and functions, the way your digital services work (or don’t work), how quickly you answer customer emails, how you handle customer feedback, what people say about your and your business behind your back, and yes, how your visual identity looks and feels like. All these are parts of the experience that is your brand.
This info should be reassuring. While it’s many more touch points you need to manage, it also takes the pressure off of any individual element to form your branding alone. A classic example of this is your logo. Many business owners are very nervous about their logo, and want it to be just right. But your logo is not your brand. Yes, you want it to look professional and represent your brand personality, and all that good stuff. But you shouldn’t put the burden of shaping your entire brand on any one individual element, like your logo. It’s not realistic and it won’t be successful.
Focus on your customers
Another significant mindset shift when it comes to your brand should happen early on: you need to focus on your customers throughout the branding process. To me, this is maybe the single most important aspect of your branding — well, of your entire business really, if you ask me.
This is maybe the most common misunderstanding that I’ve witnessed in the branding process. And it goes for big corporations and small one person shops. People want the branding to be attractive to themselves. They want to pick something that’s pleasing to them, not to their customers. But at the end of the day, who are you trying to appeal to with your branding: your ideal customer or yourself? Who needs to click on your Facebook ad? Who should opt in to your email list? Who needs to buy your products and services? Let me give you a hint: it’s not you.
Our businesses are so dear to us that it’s near impossible task to stay objective and remember who the look and feel are for. But let me ask you this: if you knew for certain that there was a specific look and feel that attracts paying customers to you, would you use it? Or would you use something else that you like, but doesn’t bring you more business?
Anyone that I’ve ever asked this question answered that they’d of course choose the look and feel that brings them more business. And that makes sense 100%: you didn’t start a business to sell things to yourself.
But what if you don’t know what the specific look and feel is? To me, that is a symptom of you not knowing who your customers are. Quite often this is the case in the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey. If you’ve just started your business, and you’re building what I call a “starter brand,” you might not know your customer by experience yet. That’s ok, you can still build a brand and keep moving forward. But you’re going to have to do some research and make some assumptions. Typically within a year or two, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of who your customers are. And you can refine your branding then.
So, how do you focus on your customers during your branding process? For one, you have to have a good definition of your ideal customer, who they are and what they think, feel, and struggle with. It can be based on assumption that you then validate later on. But you need to draft one.
Secondly, you need to build a link between your ideal customer and your brand personality. In the branding process I teach, we do an exercise where you imagine your brand as a person. And the best friend of that person is your ideal customer. What kind of person would be best friends with your ideal customer?
Thirdly, you need to ask yourself “What would my ideal customer think about this?” when you’re making decisions on your brand strategy and visual identity. When you’re having a hard time choosing between options or elements for your branding, think about your ideal customer. Which one would they choose? Which one would they feel more drawn to?
Keeping the momentum
As discussed above, your brand is a sum of many elements. Any individual element shouldn’t get such a heavy weighting that it’s keeping you stuck if you can’t figure it out. Especially, if you’re in the very early stages of your business, it really is better to keep moving forward than try to perfect something.
Branding process — when you do it right — has many steps that build on top of each other. When you start from the beginning and move forward one step at a time, the process won’t feel overwhelming. And you’ll gain more and more clarity as you keep moving forward. The biggest problem with being stuck is that, well… you’re stuck. When you feel extra stuck and no inspiration will get you moving, I recommend you just make a hypothesis and keep moving forward. With momentum, you’ll gain clarity and new ideas, and you’ll find the solution eventually. If you follow my branding process, the likelihood that your hypothesis is at least 80% in the right is high.
If you’re further along with your business journey, you probably know your customers well. And you have a good idea what resonates with them. You might be thinking that it’s time to rebrand now that you know your business and customers better. It’s likely that you won’t get stuck as easily, since you have more clarity. But in case you do, you want to have a good roadmap to your ideal rebranded state. Breaking things into bite-sized steps will help make a project that feels overwhelming more doable.
Another benefit of being a bit further along with your business journey is having access to your real customers, actual customers who paid money for your products and services. Now, you can survey them, interview them, to find out what they think and feel, what their biggest pain points and needs are, and what kinds of things appeal to them. You have access to a wealth of information that will help you make decisions and keep moving in the right direction.
Adopt the branding mindset
Branding mindset is about understanding the connections between brand strategy and the elements that build your brand. It’s about putting your customer in the center of the process, and understanding that you’re not really building your brand for yourself but for someone else.
Understanding that brand strategy is business strategy will help you get motivated to finally get your branding in order. Many of the steps in the brand strategy process are also critical steps with a successful business strategy. It’s important to stop thinking about branding as “a necessary evil” that you just have to get out of the way. And start seeing how integral it is for running your business successfully.
Branding mindset is also about keeping your mind and eyes open. Learn from serving your customers and course correct when the need be. Your branding will require management and smaller (or bigger) updates and upgrades over the years to stay fresh. Accepting early on that your brand will require both quick sprints and an on-going marathon to stay consistent and with-it will help you prepare for the bigger and smaller projects that come along the way.
And let’s face it, your brand doesn’t wait for you to start building it. It’s already forming as we speak. With the words of Jezz Bezos of Amazon: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” And branding and brand management is your attempt at influencing that conversation.
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.