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.
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.
“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 voicethat 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.”
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.
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:
Why are you in business?
What do you offer and why should anyone care?
What makes you unique?
Who is your offering for?
How do you describe it? What are the defining characteristics?
What does it look like?
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.
Regardless of the type of business you have, you’re going to need a logo. Why, you may ask. After all, I do bring up so often that your logo is not your brand. It ay not be your brand, but it is a critical part of it.
Why do you need a logo? Well, I’m glad you asked. One reason is simply to prevent confusion in the marketplace. Your logo is your signature so to speak. It helps people remember and recognize your business.
But a good logo is much more than that. A great logo supports your brand strategy by visually hinting to your product, service, overall offering, the transformation your customers go through, or the mission or vision for your business.
A lot of that can be accomplished by selecting visual styles that support your brand look and feel, or using a symbol or graphic to add more meaning. In this blog post, I walk you through the exact steps it takes to create a successful logo. And of course, you can find the same information as a three part video series in my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs.
Designing a logo
Designing a logo can feel like a time consuming, expensive, or stressful project. Most of us fear that the logo is something our customers judge our company by. So many of the most successful companies in the world have amazing and unique logos, making it slightly more daunting when you feel your designs are just not up to scratch.
But there’s no need to feel discouraged. Your logo is not your entire brand, so you can take some of the pressure off from your logo design project. That said, while an awesome logo alone won’t bring you new business, an unprofessional looking one might cost you some. That’s why you most definitely want to create a professional and designed looking logo for your business.
a logo is not just about selecting a graphic and writing the name of your
business next to it. There are some key steps that can make the design process
much more easier — simply because it can help you clarify what look and feel
you are going for. Keeping your logo aligned with all the other brand elements
is important in order to create a business a consistent and memorable business
Let’s dive right in.
How to pick a name for your business?
Ideally, your business name should be descriptive
enough to convey eitherthe service you provide, the outcome
your customers will get, or the transformation your customers will achieve. At least an element of these
should be demonstrated in the business name.
Sometimes, the business name can be a little abstract. Let’s take Apple as an example. It doesn’t exactly say what the company does, right? Apple’s name choice is widely believed to be a metaphor for knowledge. To make that connection, you need to know something about Isaac Newton and the Bible.
In their very first logo, Apple had Isaac Newton leaning on an apple tree. According to the story, an apple fell on Newton’s head, and he discovered the concept of gravity. In the Bible, Adam and Eve take a bite from a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. That fruit is often depicted in art as being an apple.
As long as there is a connection with the name candidate and your business idea, the service, the outcome of the service, or the transformation then it can still work as a name for your business.
Should you use your own name for your business?
Keep in mind, if you decide to include your own name as a part of the business name, it could limit your scalability later. For example, in 10 years, if you want to sell your business, it can be more challenging to do so — especially if the brand equity has accumulated around your personal brand.
This being said, a business branding that is built around the founder and their persona can take off much easier. Why? People love to know the face behind a company, and it can create an instant know, like, and trust factor.
Having yourbrand personality, positioning, and audience defined makes it easier to determine the look and feel of the logo. Let’s break this up into steps:
These are the characteristics you describe your brand with. Think happy and energetic versus calm and mindful.
How do you want your brand to be positioned in the marketplace. Is your brand a luxury type of brand with a sleek and high end finish? Or perhaps it is more of an everyday brand? The answers to these questions will ultimately affect the look and feel.
Your ideal audience will have a significant impact on the general style of anything you’ll create for your brand. What attracts a 25 year old woman who’s interested in fashion will necessarily appeal to male executives over 50. Have your audience defined early on.
These three elements
will have an impact on what kind of typeface and colors you use in your logo.
If you are going to use an icon, graphic or illustration, the personality,
positioning, and audience will influence that, as well.
Let’s go back to the Apple logo again. The style of the graphic they use is clean and simple. Imagine they used an apple that was drawn with watercolors. Would that convey a different look and feel? Of course.
Should you include a symbol in your logo?
you need to decide whether you want to use an icon, graphic, or illustration in
your logo. This decision will affect the rest of the process.
you are starting out, you don’t necessarily need to use a graphic element —
also called a logomark. Many people think they need one, but actually many
successful logos out there don’t have a logomarks. For example, Marie Forleo has an amazing business,
but doesn’t have a graphic in her logo — and never had.
Logomarks can make a nice visual element to the brand. If done right, it communicates immediately what your brand personality is like, and can highlight what your services are, too. However, adding a logomark (a graphic, an icon, or an illustration) adds to the challenge quite ab bit. The next two parts of this logo design post will focus on creating a logo with and without a logomark. So, whatever you’ll choose, you’ll have guidance.
Let’s face it, the easier route to take when designing your logo is to choose NOT to have a graphic. Including a symbol or a graphic element (also known as a logomark) add a layer of challenge that designing a text only logo doesn’t have.
Don’t get me wrong, you still need to put quite a bit thought into it to make it reflect you brand personality correctly. So, what are the important factors you need to remember in a designing a text only logo?
Pick the right font
Did you know there are different font styles? Yes! When designing your text based logo, you need to understand that different fonts are perceived differently. As a general rule, lightweight fonts that are thinner are considered more feminine. Italics would seem more feminine, though this isn’t always the case. Masculine fonts tend to be bold and more heavyweight. And it’s always dependent on how you use the typefaces, as well.
In addition to different styles like bold or italic, there are also different font classifications. Let’s look at this a bit further.
A serif font is a font that has smaller strokes attached to larger strokes. The smaller strokes are referred to as serifs.
These fonts are considered more formal, mature, and traditional. And as you can imagine, there is a sense of class and heritage that comes with the more traditional style and outlook. Certain serif fonts are also considered more feminine than the sans-serif font types.
A sans-serif font does not include the small strokes. Common examples are Helvetica and Arial. These are fonts that appear to be more modern, clean, and straightforward. Though, this is highly dependent on the individual font in questions, as some sans-serif fonts can also have a retro vibe to them.
Slab serif fonts
These are fonts that have block-like serifs: slabs. The slabs can be rounded or sharp. Slab serif fonts can look either friendly and easily approachable (rounded slab) or impactful and innovative (sharp slab). Examples of this font include Archer, Rockwell and Memphis.
These fonts tend to resemble handwritten and calligraphic lettering styles. They can appear formal and elegant, but can also have the versatility of appearing informal and playful. Examples include Alex brush and Allura.
Modern fonts are a variation of serif or sans-serif fonts. The defining feature of modern fonts is combining thin hairlines with thicker lines. The name “modern” is misleading as some of the fonts classified as modern are a couple hundred years old.
“Decorative” is a catch-all name describing all fonts that have more decorative — even illustrative qualities. These fonts are often playful and fun-looking. At first, they may seem like a fun idea for a logo. But I’d advise you to consider the use of these fonts carefully as their legibility is often compromised in smaller sizes. And what today looks fun, tomorrow might just look goofy. In other words, they don’t necessarily stand time too well.
How to combine fonts?
You don’t need to limit yourself to one single font. You can combine two fonts to create the appearance you are after. Be mindful, however, how the two typefaces pair together. There are lots of resources available that will help you choose a pairing that has already been tested together. Simply search Pinterest with “font pairing” and you’ll get lot’s of results! This saves you the time and effort of finding a pair that works for you.
When combining fonts there are two good reminders: 1. Not every font will look good together and 2. Your logo needs to match you brand personality. And the font you choose has a big impact on this.
Where to find typefaces?
My favorite resources for finding typefaces include:
DaFont is also an online resource for free fonts. There are some good fonts available there, but there are many unprofessional looking fonts, as well. Google fonts are better vetted and have a good variety of suitable options to choose from.
Visual ideas for your logo
So, you have chosen your fonts and decided to go with a text based logo. What different visual ideas are there to include in your logotype?
Script font mimicking your signature — if you want to use your actual signature in our logo, you will need to fin a way to convert your script into a vector shape.
Monogram — this combines one or more letters in a larger logo element. It can be very simple yet powerful in creating visual interest. One letter could be highlighted in a different color.
Using simple shapes — combining simple graphic shapes like lines or rules, squares, rectangles or circles can be used around your logo or part of it. This can put emphasis on certain aspects of the logo.
Now, its important to highlight that you’re probably going to have to explore and create multiple versions before you find something you like. Don’t be discouraged as ultimately you want the best logo that speaks to your audience.
How to design a logo with a symbol?
This type of logo can feel slightly overwhelming to DIY, because you need to think about a font and an image. And a logo with a symbol is more work than a text only logo. However, with the process outlined here, you will find it is condensed down into bitesize steps.
Selecting an icon or symbol
One of the most important thing with this type of logo is that the icon or symbol you choose represents your brand and the offering you have accurately. That’s why it’s critical to define the right metaphor in the beginning of this process.
What does that mean? A successful metaphor represents your offering or the transformation you bring to your customer. For example, a delivery service may use a delivery truck in their logo. Sometimes the metaphor can also refer directly to your business name. Think about the Puma logo, what does it have on it? A puma.
Your metaphor could be more abstract that these. For example, the Nike swoosh doesn’t directly depict the product of service they deliver. A logo symbol can be literal, but it doesn’t have to be. Though, there must always be a connection to your business — whether it be the name, offering, transformation, or even the mission.
Finding the right metaphor
Struggling with finding a metaphor? Try this mind mapping exercise to help you come up with the right metaphor for the logo:
Come up with 2-3 keywords that describe your brand’s mission, offering (your product/service), or the transformation you bring to your customers. Some things to keep in mind
If you are focusing on your mission, you need to think about what change your business is creating in the world or people’s lives. You can literally think of this as “I’m on a mission to….”
When thinking about your offering, you are going to have to think about your service and product. What value does it bring people? What does it allow them to do that they could not do before?
Choose 2-3 keywords that describe your brand personality. Your brand personality is the characteristics you’d describe your brand with. For example, energetic, joyful, creative. In total, you will have anywhere between 4-6 words that will describe your brand offering or mission, as well as your brand personality.
Next, take a large plain paper and write the name of your business in the middle. Draw out 4-6 branches, representing your keywords. Write down whatever comes to mind about each of the branches. Let your creativity run free for 20-30 minutes, and write down anything that comes to mind: items, animals, objects, adjectives.
After completing the steps above, take a break from the work and come back to it the next day. Can you come up with any more ideas? If you are not in a hurry to create your logo, come back to it regularly for a week. The more time you spend on it, the more ideas you are likely to come up with.
Finding the icon or symbol
Now with your metaphor selected, you can search for different stock services for your icons. I personally like to use The Noun Project, but there are others. Finding the right icon doesn’t have to be pricy, but there may be some investment.
If you want a custom symbol, you can draw one yourself if you know how to use Adobe illustrator or any other vector graphics software. You could also hire a designed to draw this icon for you. You could even bring a pencil sketch of your own design to a freelance designer, and they could work on it from there.
Hiring a junior talent could help you do this on a budget, but you probably will want to give them the metaphor for your logo symbol, any sketches you’ve drawn, and the brand personality keywords you developed. Remember to give the designer instructions on the colors you want them to use to stay in line with your brand.
Once you have your logomark, either from the stock icon service or from a designed, you need to combine it with your business name. Of course, if you hired a designer they could do this for you, too.
As a general rule of thumb, you need a landscape and portrait version of your logo. Landscape is perfect for your website header, document headers and footers. The portrait version will look great on social media, business cards and postcards. By creating both types, you can use your logo on a variety of different projects.
Depending on the icon graphic you have, you might need different versions for various sizes. Some details may become illegible or look unclear in smaller sized documents. Experiment by reducing the size of your logo to 0.5 inches – is it still legible? If no, you may need to tweak something.
You will need a smaller sized logo on your website header, especially for mobile versions of the website. This is important as website traffic from mobile devices has increased exponentially in recent years. More than 50% of ALL web traffic in the world today comes from mobile devices.
And the number increases, if you use Facebook advertising to drive traffic to your website as most people use Facebook on the mobile app. Imagine all these people visiting your site and not being able to read what your logo says!
Finally, let’s just quickly talk about the different file types there are and where you might need them. This is dependent on the use you have for the logo.
.eps file: This is a vector format that can be resized and scaled without compromising the quality of the logo file. You will need this format if your logo will be printed on a physical object like books, t-shirts, or business cards.
PNG file: This type of file allows for your image to have a transparent background. If you are a digital business with a website or social media presence and most or all of your communications and products are digital, you can probably get away with just having your logo as a PNG file.
JPG file: In some web formats or emails, this file size could be preferred as it is smaller compared to the PNG. JPG files are, however, not transparent like PNG or EPS.
The last thing I just want to highlight to you is that if you decide to work with a designer at any point of the logo design process, make sure you get them to transfer the copyright over to you. This is important to ensure you have the copyright to use your logo whichever way you please. And can make any amount of changes and updates to it in future.
Stop procrastinating with your logo design by getting started with these three steps. Each one is pivotal in helping you to create a logo you are happy with and supports your brand message. It’s ok if each step takes a bit of time. By taking time, care and attention in each step you are much more likely to come up with a brand look and feel that you can see going the long haul.
And remember: your logo is not your brand. It’s simply a part of the story. Experiment and see what you come up with!
As they say, riches are in the niches. Practically speaking, this means that when you have a clearly defined niche audience (also known as you ideal customer avatar), you can tailor and focus your branding, marketing, and messaging to attract that specific audience. The efficiency of your communication will increase multi-fold.
In the beginning of our business journey, we feel compelled to leave our target audience definition very broad. This is because we either think that it’s better not to be too specific as that might scare some potential customers off. Or we genuinely believe our services or products can benefit most everyone.
However, for creating successful branding, we need to define our target audience — also known as ideal customer avatar. This simply because different people are drawn to different things. If you want to attract 50+ male executives as your customers, your brand can’t look like it’s the latest makeup fad for high school girls.
When we add marketing and selling our services to the equation, we need to take even deeper dive into our target audience. We need a niche audience. This is what Issuu Blog writes about the concept of niche audience:
This specific audience is a selective group of people who have specific wants, needs and interests. Small but mighty, niche audiences hold great value for brands and their success. Niche audiences are so valuable because they are often more engaged, active and responsive users. As well, due to their specific likes/dislikes this makes it very easy for marketers to target content to them, instead of worrying about a large crowd with varying interests.
So, 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.
Finding a niche audience gets easier the longer you’ve been running your business. This is because you will learn more about your customers, hear more about their needs and pain points, and gain insights on how to serve certain audience groups better.
But how do you define your niche audience in the very beginning, maybe even before you’ve made your first sale? What do you have in your business that might attract a niche audience?
There’s a lot that goes into defining the niche audience. You will have the basic demographics ranging from age and gender to cultural background and other generic qualifiers. These alone don’t create a niche audience.
You will also want to define the interests and hobbies, family relations, professional background, level of education, and other relevant things about your niche audience.
But even if you define all the above, you don’t yet have a good starting point for your niche audience. Because the most important things to define are:
What they struggle with (pain points)
What they desire (wants)
What they’re trying to achieve (needs)
And then your service or product should solve for those.
Since you have a business — or you’re in the process of building one — you’ll already have at least a some idea of what kind of problems your offering will solve. So, let’s start from there.
Traditionally thinking, there’s a customer problem and your product or service is the solution. But we want to stretch that further. There’s a famous metaphor in the marketing and branding world about selling drills. It goes something like this: people who are buying drills don’t actually want the drill, they want a hole in their wall. And according to this conventional wisdom, we should not be selling our customers the drill, we should be selling them the hole.
This makes sense 100% to a degree. But I would take it further. The person does not want the hole either. What they want is a painting on the wall, or a shelf mounted, or anything else why they’d be drilling that hole. If they could get all of it done without making a hole, they probably would.
So, you probably shouldn’t be selling the drill. But you shouldn’t be selling the hole alone either. What you need to add to the equation is the end game: the transformation.
When you’re defining a niche audience, a good place to start is to look into your offering (product or a service), the solution it creates, and the transformation your customer goes through. And try to define each of those carefully by thinking: what in your business is so special about those that they would attract the attention and loyalty of a selective group.
And then you add the implied customer qualities of each of those layers (offering, solution, transformation) into one special group, which will become the starting point for your niche audience. Let me take my drill example further to explain a bit more.
Step 1: Niche with your offering
YOUR OFFERING: A drill manufacturer has a drill that has a super special motor function that is used to drill a very specific kind of wall material NICHE FACTOR: old homes from the 1930’s have this special wall material
Step 2: Niche with your solution
YOUR SOLUTION: You can make a neat hole with this drill on the special wall material, but handling the drill is challenging NICHE FACTOR: Need lots of experience or special training in using this type of drill
Step 3: Niche with customer transformation
CUSTOMER TRANSFORMATION: To mount kitchen cabinets and remodel kitchen of an old 1930s home with the special wall material NICHE FACTOR: Focusing on kitchen shelving over say paintings, etc.
NICHE AUDIENCE:Professional remodelers who specialize on houses from the 1930’s
As you may have noticed, some factors of the niching down come from the product and the problem it solves. But others come from the personal preference of the drill manufacturer — like focusing on kitchen shelving.
The drill may have special functionality that is perfect for the 1930s old wall materials, but the selection to focus on mounting kitchen shelving is subjective. Or it could be due to market research that indicates there’s more demand for kitchen remodeling in these houses, and therefore it makes sense to take that angle. In any case, you will need to look other factors than just your offering, solution, and transformation to get a successful niche audience. But this will give you a good starting point.
How many times have I heard someone without an art or design degree say: “I’m not creative, I couldn’t do x, y, z?” …probably countless of times.
It seems to be a common misconception that creativity is reserved for the so called “creative professionals” such as art directors, copywriters, designers, or fine artists.
After doing creative work daily for over 15 years, I can assure you that creativity is a process just like any other with the goal to get stuff done.
During my years as designer, I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the brightest and most creative minds in the user experience industry in San Francisco.
Nervously, I would check their backgrounds on LinkedIn and saw that they had been designers at Nasa, Adobe, and Apple; the Director of Product Design at Facebook; Lecturer at Stanford. Authors, founders, awardees — you name it, they accomplished it.
While nervous, I was also excited, because working with these amazing people I would get to witness their magic. Surely, they had some special creativity — a secret if you will — that made them such good creatives. And if I was lucky, some of it would rub on me.
Each of these design superstars indeed had their own special talent. One was an inspiring leader, another amazing visionary. But when it came to creativity, there were no shortcuts to be found: it was mostly pure hard work and finding inspiration when it was lost.
There was no cutting corners, just getting your hands dirty and getting stuff done.
Time after time, I found that success was a result of a proven process, working hard, and an ability to eloquently justify the design decisions to designers and non-designers alike.
First, I was underwhelmed and slightly disappointed because I had been expecting something magical. And when I realized it wasn’t “magic,” when I saw it was something that can be achieved by working towards it, I felt flustered.
Soon, however, I started to realize that this was a good thing. No, it was a great thing. Because it meant that I can work towards becoming more creative in my process, as well. And I can help others get there, too.
Understanding that creativity is not some special innate quality only reserved for a small design elite has helped me improve my own design process. And it has given me more confidence that anyone can find creativity in their daily work.
And even on days when I don’t feel particularly great about my design work, I won’t get discouraged, because I’ve seen over and over again that creative results will emerge from the process.
Now, when I hear people make the “I’m not creative” comment I tell them “Sure you are, everyone is, you just need to work at it.” Below you can find a list of things I find helpful when I need to find that creative spark.
How to move forward when you don’t feel creative:
Don’t wait for an inspiration. Get to work, start your process. While a part of your process might be finding lost inspiration, don’t let it drag for too long.
Find and look at beautiful and professional designs. When you see something great, try and analyze why it works, why is it great. The idea is not to steal other people’s work, but to learn from it and get ideas.
Get out all ideas, even the bad ones. It’s good to get it on paper and out of your system. Sketch out all iterations. If it’s in your head, get it out on paper. Others can’t see inside your head.
Don’t be afraid of bad or silly ideas. They might be bad or silly just in your mind. Someone else might think they’re actually great ideas.
Talk with other people, share your ideas and your work. Ask for feedback and listen. It is ok to show and discuss unfinished work and ideas. Your goal is to produce good work — and others can help.
Just get to work. Don’t wait or postpone, get something out on paper right now.
34 Tips for nurturing daily creativity:
Take a walk, step outside
Get enough sleep
Draw when you take notes
Doodle while you listen
Draw for fun
Carry a small notebook and be ready to write down any ideas
Keep a note book on your nightstand
Dictate ideas to your phone
Clean your house
Clean your desk
Read or browse art books
Read a design magazine
Start a Pinterest board called “inspiration” and pin inspiring images
Brainstorm ideas using post it notes
Draw mind maps that explain your ideas
Ask yourself “in a world without limitations, how would this problem be solved”
Wear something unexpected or let your child pick your clothes
Or instead wear the same thing every day for a week
Learn new art form or craft
Paint with finger paints
Sculpt with play dough
Do an active listening exercise with 2 friends where you tell them your challenge (5 min) and then they discuss with each other for 15 minutes about potential solutions and then present their best ideas (10 min) for you
Create a visual mood board for your idea or project
Visit a museum
Sketch a storyboard to visualize your idea
Play in the sandbox
Spend time with animals
Try to explain your creative challenge to a 5 year old
Ask yourself “in a world where I had unlimited confidence, how would I solve this problem”
Take a nap
Disconnect from your phone and computer
Create a matrix of solutions: 4×3 grid where each column represents a potential solution and each row a different way of doing it
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.
Do you unconditionally love your brand? And also feel comfortable showing it: your brand and your love for it? And I don’t mean, are you comfortable speaking in front of camera or on a Facebook live. I mean, do you get lit up just by talking about your business, your mission, and the value you bring to people?
I really really hope you do. Because you are the most important ambassador of your business. When you’re representing your brand, it better be pure authentic love fest. Because people can smell insincerity miles away.
If you’re embarrassed by your branding (visuals, messaging, etc.) you should fix that ASAP. I understand it feel overwhelming just to think about the project. But it’s much easier than you think. The part that can be a bit of a challenge is the brand strategy.
By “challenge” I don’t mean that it’s super difficult to nail down or anything. In fact, you as the soulpreneur service provider have all the information you need for brand strategy. You just need to know what to surface.
The process is very thoughtful and deep. It focuses on your reasons for being an entrepreneur, your passions and values in life, and — of course — how you want to serve people. So, if you’re not clear on those, the entire branding process may feel uncomfortable — or even intimidating.
The intimidation often comes from the misunderstanding people have that there must be some “correct answers” when drafting brand strategy. And that it is so thoroughly specialized field and dominated by experts, that an average Jane possibly can’t have anything intelligent to add to their own brand strategy.
I assure you: it’s the opposite. Yes, there’s some thought work you need to do, and maybe some research into your competitors and your ideal customer. But for a business founder and a soulpreneur like you, many of the brand strategy exercises are interesting, eye-opening, and thought-provoking. They offer an opportunity for deepening you bond with your business and brand.
So, as long as you do this ground work well and have the brand strategy nailed down, all the pieces will fall in place easily. And you can fall in LOVE with your brand again. And have your customers do the same thing.
How to build a brand both you and your ideal customer love?
Step 1: Get clear on who you are, what you represent, and why you’re in business.
Step 2: Get clear on who you want to serve, who is your ideal customer. Define the demographics, but most importantly their needs, pain points, desires, and beliefs.
Step 3: Define the personality of your brand. How would you describe your brand if it was an actual human being? How does that person talk? What do they look like? And so on…
Step 4: Discover the aesthetic preferences of your ideal customer. What do they like? Pink and floral patterns? Or conservative gray and pinstripes?
Step 5:Build a brand story that reflects who you are, what your mission is, how you’re unique, and how you bring value to your customers. Wrap that story in a visual identity that represents all the above and reflects your brand personality.
As always, let me know if you have any questions, or if I missed something in this post. ️❤️
One of the reasons we create visual guidelines (logo, colors, fonts, etc.) is to ensure that any marketing and visual communication we put out there is always aligned to our brand. We want everything to be consistent. If you have well-crafted brand guidelines and a design system, you’re in a good place. And this may not be a concern for you. But if you’re still trying to figure out your branding, you might struggle a bit trying to keep the cohesive and consistent look and feel.
You know, your brand doesn’t wait for you to build it. It starts building itself the moment you start representing your business and interacting with people. And there are few tips you want to be aware of in order to avoid inconsistency and misleading branding.
Before you have a stellar design system for your brand, you can still affect your brand look and feel — big time. If you know me, you know that I encourage people to keep moving forward whether they have a fully fleshed out branding or not.
Your brand is not your logo
Number one thing I want people to understand is: your brand is not one single thing but an experience. This includes your customers’ interactions with you. This includes the impression they get when they come across your marketing. This includes the vibe you give out in your Facebook lives or Instagram stories. This includes what people talk about your business. And yes, this also includes your logo, colors, fonts, and how well those are used together. Your brand is the experience your customers get when they come across with anything related to your business.
This might sound overwhelming, but it’s actually good news. One of the most common complaint I get from solopreneurs who are just starting is: I can’t move forward with my plans because I don’t have a logo. And by this they typically mean a professionally designed logo. But the good news is: your logo is just one small piece of your branding.
Yes, you will need to have a logo. But no, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive investment. Have you ever heard anyone say “I bought this service or product because the. company had such a great logo. I don’t know anything else about them, but the logo sure was great?”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a designer, I love nothing more than beautifully designed business identity. But I would never want someone to feel stuck because one piece of their branding is not perfect. If this gets you excited and ready to move forward with your logo design, I have a quick logo creation guide that you can use to design something for yourself. You can get it here. And I’ve created a check list to help you decide whether your logo is ready to be published.
Brand personality & keywords
The second thing I’d like people without fully fleshed brand guidelines and design system to do is to define 1-3 brand personality keywords to help them make decisions related to their branding.
You brand personality is all the adjectives and characteristics you want people to associate with your branding. For some people, this is super clear and they immediately have a couple of characteristics in their mind. For others, it’s tough to grasp this concept. So, let me help you figure this one out because I have a fun exercise for my clients to help them figure out the brand personality.
What often helps with brand personality is to try to imagine who your brand was if they were a person. A living and breathing person. And then you start describing this person. Are they a man or a woman? How old are they? Where do they live? In what kind of house? What kind of music do they listen to? What kind of clothes do they wear? What is their personal style? How are they as a person (social, introverted, deep, cheerful, etc.)? Are they married? Do they have kids? Do they have pets? If they do, what kind of pets? Who do they hang out with? And who is their best friend? So, you build an image in your head about what kind of person your brand would be if they were a person.
You might think that “how many descriptions of people you need to create” because maybe you’re just done describing you ideal customer avatar (your target audience). But you should not mix your brand personality with the personality of your ideal customer. They are not the same. Your brand as a person should be your ideal customer’s best friend or someone they admire and aspire to be. Let me explain a bit further.
If your ideal customer is a shy introvert who you want to coach to make their dreams come true, it wouldn’t help if your brand as a person was also shy and introverted. Now, would it? So, one more time, your brand as a person should be your ideal customer’s best friend or someone they admire and aspire to be. They should be someone your ideal customer feels drawn to, someone they can relate to or look up to.
It often helps to understand how this will affect your branding to first visualize that person. Find imagery of a person you imagine your brand would be as a person. Find images of the house they’d live in and the clothes they are wearing. Are you building an image of a person who wears colorful dresses and flower reefs or a serious business man who always wears the best-fitting expensive tailored suits?
When you have a good idea how your brand would be if it were a person, list 1-3 keywords or adjectives that describe that person. The more specific these words are, the better guidance you’ll get for your branding. For example, if your keyword is simply “happy,” it is too broad to bring up a certain look and feel. And you’d be better off trying to either define more accurately what you mean by happy. Or at least, add two more specific keywords to go with it.
But let’s say your keywords are cheerful, easily approachable, and light-hearted. That will already give you an idea what kind of language, imagery, or colors you’d associate with those keywords.
When you have your keywords down, start using them with everything you do in regards your branding until you have a fully fleshed design system for your brand. And in many ways, after that, too.
When you’re choosing what photos to use on your website or on your Instagram feed, you’d ask yourself “are these photos cheerful, easily approachable, and light-hearted” (or insert whatever keywords you’d be using). And same you’d ask for your messaging and tone of voice, how you’d present yourself during a live performance, what kind of colors you’d choose for your color library, etc.
Is it necessary to always include all your keywords? Not always, but the more you include all of them the more consistent your branding will be.
Color has a big impact
After you’ve nailed down your personality keywords, you can use them to help you define your initial color library. What colors communicate and represent the keywords you’ve chosen? You can use a photo to help you further refine your color library. I’ve collected some examples of color libraries built with the help of a single image here.
Colors have a strong impact on our experiences and memory of things. So, one powerful trick to keep the brand feeling consistent is to always use the brand colors consistently. Colors also help to catch attention and communicate your brand personality.
Branding can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. And you don’t have to wait until you have everything figured out. Many entrepreneurs will create a “starter brand” which is less specific because they are still figuring out who their customer is and what their offering will be. This starter brand doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy, but it does have to be professional to evoke trust.
And many will end up re-branding few years into their business journey when all the details are clear. Once you have those amazing brand guidelines and design system established, you’ll start using those components and instructions to always have 100% consistent look and feel. But until then follow the advice in this post to make sure your brand won’t be all over the place.
Do you outsource design tasks and find that often the end result looks nothing like what you were expecting? This is a super common friction point between designers and their clients. If this happened to you, maybe you hired an unexperienced designer — or just one without the right skills. There’s also a good chance you didn’t communicate your expectations clearly enough.
Every successful design project starts with good communication between the client and the designer. No matter how good the designer is, they can’t read your mind and they don’t know your products, services, or audience as well as you do. Well, what all things does the designer need to know? And how do you communicate everything in the best possible way?
The answer to your question is: a design brief. This is a piece of documentation that you should hand to the designer in the very beginning of the project. It outlines the goals and expectations for the design deliverable — the outcome.
Sometimes the client and the designer work together to get the design brief just right. Basically this means, you draft a brief for the designer. And they return it with questions and comments.
If you produce a design brief that both parties feel good about, your project is up for a much smoother ride. Below you can find a listing of things that are good to have in an effective design brief.
Start the brief by listing important high level details on you business:
Contact person (if someone else than you) and best ways to contact
What does your business do
A brief explanation of what your business does
Goal of this project
What is your project about?
What are you trying to achieve, what is the ideal outcome?
When is this project due?
How many revisions you’re expecting
Sometimes the designer dictates this based on the amount you’re paying them. General rule of thumb is: more revisions mean more expensive price tag.
What is the design deliverable (the outcome)
What are you expecting the designer to deliver for you?
Is it an ebook, a website, a flyer, a business card, etc.
This can be one item or multiple. List everything you are expecting to be designed during this project.
Scope of the design work (be as specific as possible)
Quantity of each item
E.g. How many pages on the ebook or website? How many different versions of the business card?
What is the content (text, images, etc.)
Be as specific as possible (how many words, how many images, etc.)
Spell out if the designer has any flexibility with the content or if you’re expecting them to use your content exactly as is.
Typically designers shouldn’t touch the content. But in some cases you may want to give some flexibility, if you want to make sure the content fits on x amount of pages, etc. Or if you know the designer also has editing experience and you trust them.
Are you expecting to see design exploration?
If you want the designer to show you 2-3 different versions to choose from, spell it clearly out here.
Sometimes the designer dictates this based on the amount you’re paying them. General rule of thumb is: more exploration means more expensive price tag.
What are your expectations? How do you want the designer to work?
Does the designer have free hands to do whatever they want? Or follow your direction tightly?
Are you expecting something creative and unexpected? Or rather follow traditional styles and thinking?
What are the non-negotiables?
If you already know that you have strict rules or limitations you want the designer to follow, spell them out clearly here.
E.g. Never use red color. Or only use the imagery you provide. Or your audience is old people and you don’t want any font below size 14 pts used. Anything that is non-negotiable for you.
If you have a brand guidelines documentation separately, you can give them access to that. And you don’t need this section. However, if you don’t have your brand guidelines documented anywhere, then include a section for it here. You want to keep this section rather brief. You’re including it so the designer understands the look and feel you want to convey. And to make sure they are creating designs that comply with your brand.
Tagline or slogan if you have one
Description of your audience
Needs and desires
What makes your business offering unique
What is the unique value your brand offers to your customers?
Keywords (3-4 keywords that describe the personality of your brand)
Description of the personality
What are the defining characteristics of your brand?
Visual guidelines (You should have at least a one sheet document that includes the visual identity guidelines)
Additional logo lock ups or versions if you have any
Design elements (icons, illustrations, graphics, etc.)
Working with designers is not difficult as long as you have good lines of communication with them. With a solid design brief, you can get a good start for any design project. You know what they say: well planned if half done.
Have you had difficulties working with designers? Tell your story below in the comments.