How to build a “branding mindset?”

How to build a “branding mindset?”

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.

What does it take to DIY your branding?

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.

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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.

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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 below. 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.

The table is optimized for wider screens. Rotate your phone to landscape for a better reading experience.

Process and actions table

Process stepWhat you do (or produce/create)?Why you need this part?What does it take to accomplish?
Your “Why”Mission, VisionConnecting with your tribe, communicate the values of your businessRequires introspection and thinking, writing mission & vision statements 
Value PropositionDefine and polish your offering, find the unique value you provideDefining the transformation you offer, communicating the value of your offerRequires analyzing your products and services, writing down your value proposition
Your Target AudienceDefine you ideal customerTo find a fiercely loyal tribeIf you’ve been in business for a while, then it requires researching and analyzing the existing customers to define who you most want to serve and who most needs your services.

If you haven’t served customers yet, you still need to create an ideal customer avatar. In this case, it requires some research and introspection.

Writing down your ideal customer definition.
Brand PersonalityDefine the characteristics for describing your brand  To start forming the look & feel, use as a tool throughout the process to evaluate brand elementsRequires some researching your ideal customer, visualizing with mood boards, writing down description, and coming up with keywords.
Brand PositioningDefining your desired position in the marketplaceTo map a path to where you want to be in future, to understand where you are now, and to see if there are implications to your visual identityAnalyzing your competition, defining where your business is now and where you want it to be in future
Mood boardsStart clarifying your look & feelTo find inspiration for your visual identity, to start visualizing the brand attributesFinding inspiring imagery that reflects the attributes of your brand
Brand Tone of VoiceDefining the speaking and writing style for your businessTo define the tone of your marketing communications, ensure you’re connecting with your ideal customerAnalyzing your brand personality and your ideal customer, doing some introspection, and writing exercises
LogoLogo or a creative brief documentation to hire a designer To create a visual symbol that represents your businessUnderstanding your unique needs for the logo, buy a ready icon/symbol, combine the symbol with text or play with text only, hire an illustrator to create a custom symbol that you then combine with text, or hire a designer to do all of it for you 
Brand Color LibraryDefine the color palette for your brandTo create consistency in your branding, to emphasize your brand personality, to help recognizability and memorability of your brandAnalyze your brand personality, analyze your ideal customer, understand what color communicate, choosing the colors 
Brand FontsChoose fonts for your brandingTo create consistency in your branding, to emphasize your brand personalityAnalyze your brand personality, understand what different font styles communicate, choose 1-2 brand fonts
Brand Photography StylesDefine the style of your brand photosTo create consistency in your branding, to emphasize your brand personality, to help recognizability and memorability of your brandAnalyze your brand personality, define verbally and with examples how the photos for your brand should look like (a consistent style), 
Illustrations, Icons, Textures, Gradients, etc. Define the style of these elementsTo create consistency in your branding, to emphasize your brand personality, to help recognizability and memorability of your brandAnalyze your brand personality, find examples of the kind of design elements  and styles you want to use
NOTE: This step can be optional, not all brands use these elements, but if you do, then you should define these
Brand Identity SystemPull all the elements of your visual identity into one documentTo use as a reminder of yourself to stay consistent, to hand over to a designer with the creative brief documentation so they can follow your brand guidelinesPutting all of the elements of your visual identity into one document

What do you think? Does it seem doable? I think so. And if you agree with me and are interested in getting a head start with all the introspection and thought work, download my free Ultimate Brand Strategy Blueprint and start your branding process 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.

Why you need to learn branding, even if you’re going to hire someone to do it for you?

Why you need to learn branding, even if you’re going to hire someone to do it for you?

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.

Where and How to start branding?

Where and How to start branding?

“Where and how to start building a brand?” This is — hands down — the most common question I get from small business owners and solopreneurs.

But while many feel overwhelmed, this one is actually easy to answer, because you start with YOU. Your goal is to attract paying customers — a fiercely loyal tribe, if you will —  to you. And you do that by creating an authentic brand voice that starts with you, your values, your passion, and WHY are you in your industry. If you follow me, you know I talk about this quite a bit.

When you can attract an audience that shares the same values and same passion as you do, you’ve struck gold. So, look no further than inside yourself.

Start with yourself

Starting your branding with yourself may feel intimidating. “This was supposed to be about my business, not about me!” Right? But the thing is, for small businesses and solopreneurs, especially if you are a service provider, that there is little difference between you and your business. Your customers want to relate to a person, not to a corporation.

This is the very reason big corporations and huge brands like Nike hire celebrities to be the face of the business, the brand ambassador. Because they’ve become so huge that there is no human touch, no single person to relate to in the business. They hire someone their customers can relate to and look up to.

So, unless you can hire Colin Kaepernick to be your brand ambassador, I suggest you get comfortable about the idea of being your own brand ambassador. And it may require you shift your mindset from “I’m nobody interesting” to “I’m unique and amazing and people are lucky to get to work with me.”

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The second step is about formulating all that awesomeness and unique point of views to something you can directly use in your marketing and communications: your mission and your vision. The goal is to consistently reflect throughout your marketing and brand communications to communicate why you are in your industry and why anyone should care.

“Why anyone should care” sounds harsh, right? But it actually is a super critical question you need to ask yourself whenever you’re creating any communications (marketing, branding, informational, transactional, etc.) for your business.

This question implies that a) you are putting your customer in the center of your communication and your business and b) you’re only offering them information they need and care about, no fluff. If you can always answer this question, you know you’re bringing value.

Who are you serving?

Of course, you cannot put your customer in the center unless you know who they are. I am a huge proponent of human centered branding. And the humans in the center of your branding should be: your customer and you. We already covered why you are in the center. But what about your customer?

You simply cannot develop effective branding — or a business for that matter — if you don’t know your customers. What do they need? What do they like? What are their biggest pain points? What are they attracted to? Who do they look up to? What are their values? Where are they from? And why would they buy your products and/or services?

Different people will have different tastes and different needs. You will never be able to serve and attract everyone. Nor should you try. The more closely you can tailor your offering, branding, and marketing to a specific ideal customer, the more successful it will be.

Because when your customers come across any communication from your business they need to be able to feel that you are speaking directly to them. That your offering was made for them. That your tastes are similar. That you know how they are and what they need.

When your customer comes across your brand, they should feel like they’re bumping into their best friend.

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Brand Personality

Next you need to define your brand personality. Brand personality are the characteristics that describe your brand and inspire your look and feel. Sometimes in the branding industry we tease out your brand personality by asking questions like “if your brand was a car what car would it be and why?” Or “ if your brand was an animal what animal would it be and why?” The idea is to get you start attaching describing attributes to the brand image you want to build. 

Now, brand archetypes are a super popular tool for DIY branding today. Do I recommend them? I actually don’t. I don’t use brand archetypes in branding. And none of the branding agencies or design studios I worked in in the past 15+ yeas ever used archetypes.

The thing is, you are not an archetype. Your business is not an archetype. And there are much better processes out there to tease out the look and feel and the brand voice of your of branding than using a predefined archetype. 

It’s true that you can find commonalities between brands and characteristics they share. Creating archetypes is a common process in writing scripts and stories. But when it comes to branding, and especially DIY branding, I don’t recommend it.

I would rather have you focus on finding what is unique (and important for your customer) about you and your offering than trying to figure out which of the predefined cookie cutters you should use.

And only when you have your mission, vision and brand personality, you can move to creating the visual identity for your branding. That is the logo, the colors, the fonts, and so forth. 

This is because your mission, vision, and brand personality should direct your visual identity. They should be reflected in the colors and fonts you choose and in the logo you (or your designer) create.

Ok, so the things you need to figure out in the following order are:

  1. Why are you in business?
  2. What do you offer and why should anyone care?
  3. What makes you unique?
  4. Who is your offering for?
  5. How do you describe it? What are the defining characteristics?
  6. What does it look like?
  7. What does it sound and feel like?

Ready start building your brand?

In my free 7 step brand strategy framework, I walk you through all the steps mentioned above. The free PDF workbook you get is full of guiding questions for your to start forming a holistic understanding of what makes your brand unique and how you can tackle the entire branding process step-by-step — without the overwhelm or investing big bucks.

Download today and get started!

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.

Building a brand that converts in 7 steps

Building a brand that converts in 7 steps

Your brand strategy is a key element when it comes to building a brand that attracts raving fans. It outlines things like:

  • What is the valuable offering you make to your customers?
  • What makes you unique?
  • What are the core values your brand reflects?
  • What does your brand look and feel like?
  • What kind of tone of voice does your brand use?

If you’re in the process of building a brand, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.

There are a couple of very fundamental key ingredients when it comes to your brand strategy. One of these is you and the other is your customer. As a solopreneur service provider, your point of view, your process, and your values form a big part of your brand foundation. 

And your customer, of course, should be in the heart of your brand. Any communication, any marketing from your brand that your customer might come across with should give them an immediate “this is meant for me” feeling. So, in every turn, you should be asking: “does this resonate with my customer?” 

Defining the building blocks of your brand

What are these amazingly attractive brands made of then? What makes a brand so delicious that people don’t only buy from them, they become advocates?

Most people will associate a brand with its visual look and feel — or its logo. A marketer will tell you your brand is in the stories your business tells through marketing. And they’re not wrong. But a successful brand is much more than that.

In fact, the visual branding is just a representation of your brand personality and positioning. And the stories reflect what your brand stands for. But where does it all come from? The answerI already gave away in the beginning: it’s a magical combination of you, your offering, and your ideal customer. And throw a meaningful brand strategy framework into that mix, and you have yourself a recipe for success.

As the founder of your business, you actually have all the information you need to start building your winning brand strategy. You’re set to start working on it right now because your business was born from your heart and is a reflection of your vision and values. Let me walk you through some of the key concepts of my 7 step brand strategy framework..

Your “Why”

Every entrepreneur has a “why” — a reason they’re doing what they’re doing. Sometimes the reason is grand and inspirational. But it can as easily be down to earth and relatable. Only you will know what your “why” is. 

This is a core element in building a purposeful brand. Yes, you can build a brand without defining your “why.” But in order to have a truly authentic brand voice and reach the customers that will turn into your advocates, you need to find and surface your passion.

Your “why” is effective in creating you an attractive brand, because deep inside we all have a “why.” Each and everyone in your target audience will have something they are passionate about and inspired by. And when you find a group of people whose “why” is aligned with your “why,” you’ve found a group of fiercely loyal customers.

In my 7 step brand strategy framework, I help solopreneurs to find out why they are in business. I’ve put together a list of questions that will help you figure this out, if it’s not immediately clear.

Your Ideal Customer

Your ideal customer is in a key role in many aspects when it comes to your business. Your branding is no exception. Think of it this way: in order to know how you want to talk, you need to know who you are talking to.

When you’re defining your target audience, the key things to think about in addition to demographics are their behaviour, attitudes, and values. These will guide you to create  brand assets and content that attracts and interests your audience. Remember: while your brand should reflect your “why,” it should be communicating to your audience, not to you.

If you want to take your customer definition to the next level, you can find and define your niche audience. Your niche audience is a selective group of people who have very specific wants, needs and interests. It’s a super valuable to have as  niche audience is easier to target. They’re more engaged and more responsive to your messaging and offering. If you are successful in defining a niche audience and communicating with them, they might even feel as though you’re reading their minds. And you’re able to earn their trust because you seem to understand their wants, needs, and struggles.

If you want to find out what in your business attracts a niche audience, and who they might be, read more here and download my quick guide on defining your niche audience.

Brand Personality

Your brand’s personality are the characteristics you describe your brand with. It’s what starts to define the look and feel of your brand. Brand personality is sometimes described as if your brand was an actual person. For example, “easily approachable” or “friendly.”

It’s easy to come up with two or three adjectives to describe your brand personality. But just like with your target audience: the better you know your brand, the easier it is to communicate. And any communication from your business is a reflection of your brand — even the stuff you didn’t mean as brand related. 

Other questions for exploring your brand personality are:

  • If your brand was an animal, what animal would it be and why?
  • If your brand was a car, what kind of car would it be and why?
  • If your brand was a color, what color would it be and why?

If you really want to dive deep into your brand’s personality, you could build a brand personality grid. This is a nine square grid where each square has an image in it. In the center, you’ll place an image of a person. That will be your brand if it were a human being. It is not your ideal customer. It is your brand as a person.

And in the eight squares that circle your brand as a person, you’ll start collecting imagery that describes the life of this person. For example, if this person lived in a house, what would the house be like (find that house and put in one of the squares).

Defining your brand personality will also help you define the tone of voice your brand uses in its communications. Think of the brand personality grid and the personification of your brand: how would this person talk? What kind of things would they talk about? Where would they publish their message?

If you’re in the process of building a brand, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.

Unique Point of View

What makes your brand different? This might be immediately clear for you. Maybe your business fills a void and provides something that didn’t exist before. That would automatically give you a unique point of view.

Or maybe you are like most of the entrepreneurs out there: offering a product or service that competes with other similar products and services. In this super common situation, developing a unique point of view helps a lot.

Your unique point of view has to come from a place of authenticity. You shouldn’t try to be different just for the sake of being different. Don’t come up with artificial qualities to add to your brand for the sake of being unique. You will only end up looking disingenuous and fake.

“What if I have nothing unique” you might panic. Calm down my friend. Everyone has something that makes them unique. There is no other business owner exactly like you. You and your values — and your “why” — are what makes your brand unique.

If you feel like you could use a little help in figuring out what truly makes you and your offering unique, download my 7 step brand strategy framework. It has guiding questions for figuring out what makes you unique.

Customer Perception

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, said it best: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Your company’s brand is it’s reputation. And people definitely talk behind you back. You should treat your brand reputation as you treat your own: don’t do or say anything you wouldn’t want people to talk about in public. The word will always get out.  

This is painfully true when it comes to your customer experience. How do you treat your customers? Do you answer their emails quickly? Do return their direct messages or phone calls? When you do, how do you talk to them? Are you helpful, respectful, and friendly? One offhanded comment can turn away a customer.

You may remember the customer support scandals Comcast went through in 2014 when some of their customers recorded phone calls with Comcast support agent. Needless to say, these phone calls didn’t provide a good customer experience, and resulted in a viral storm for Comcast.

So, what can you do? Well for one, you should try and study your audience’s perception of your brand. How do your customers see your business? If there’s room for improvement, listen to your audience. What are they telling you to change?

You can’t fix serious issues in customer experience just by changing your brand. You need to fix the issues first. But you need to be aware that each and every customer interaction with your business will affect your brand — either positively or negatively.

Value Proposition

What is the value your brand offers? And how is it better than other brands in the marketplace? The value proposition can be both emotional and rational. Here we again list things that differentiate your brand from other brands. But unlike your unique point of view (which is the lens you reflect all your brand communication through) value proposition should list actual tangible benefits — either rational or emotional.

When you put together your value proposition, you should be genuine in what you promise. If you’ve defined your “why” and your unique point of view, know your audience, and studied the customer perception, putting together your value proposition should not be difficult.

As you’re drafting the brand benefits, make sure they are relevant to your audience, compelling, and believable. Don’t list more than a couple benefits as people typically have difficult time associating more than one or two benefits per brand.

If you’re in the process of building a brand, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.

Brand Positioning

How does your brand compare to the competition? What is your unique position in the marketplace? To define this you will need to know who your biggest competitors are and how they are positioned in the marketplace. 

Comparison table
If you have a complex product or service with lots of features and benefits, I like to build a comparison table to identify the table stakes and opportunity gaps. In the table, each column is an existing and desired benefit or feature and each row is your competitor. And of course, include your business to the matrix. Add a checkmark etc. to identify the benefits/features your competitors (and yourself) have. The columns (benefit/feature) that are full of checkmarks are your table stakes. The columns that have only one or two checkmarks (or are empty) are your opportunity gaps to differentiate and position yourself in the marketplace. 

Competitor matrix
Quicker and easier way to define your position in the marketplace is to build a simple four square competitor matrix. Draw x and y axes (like a big plus sign). Define qualities you’re measuring on the axes. For example, high touch vs low touch and ordinary vs luxury. Position all your competitors in the matrix based on their brand and products/services. Empty (or emptier) squares become 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 square in your matrix, you will need to have more unique differentiators to stand out. In the competitor matrix exercise, it is critically important that you choose the right qualities for the comparison. Otherwise you might end up with unattractive or inefficient positioning.

If you’re in the process of building a brand, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.


Having these key pieces of your brand strategy well-defined makes the rest of your branding — and the brand management — much easier, smoother, and way more successful. Having all the things above defined will give a firm ground for the other brand building activities. Especially when it comes to building your visual identity.

Have you ever hired a designer to work on your visual brand and been disappointed with the results because it looks nothing like you wanted? Or does not feel like your brand? Brand designers should work based on the things defined above. If your brand personality is not defined, or if the value your brand offers isn’t clear, the visual identity won’t meet your expectations. And will lack a cohesive, well-thought-out brand look and feel.

Ready to start the design work?

If you’ve got all the above things in order, and you’re ready to start building your visual identity, check out my FREE super simple DIY logo guide and share your work on Daily Creative Facebook page.

If you feel like you could still use some help with your brand strategy, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy 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.