What is a brand? And why you need one.

What is a brand? And why you need one.

In this video blog post, I go over what is a brand, how is it different from “branding,” and finally what is brand management. And of course, why you essentially want to get hands on in the process as early as possible.

You know the inevitable things that happen to all of us? …whether we’re prepared for it or not. Things like your kids getting older (didn’t I just yesterday lug the carseat home from the hospital??) or the Tax Day (how is it possible that April 15 comes sooner every year???)

There just are some things that are like force of nature​​. And while some of them are deeply entangled with our personal lives… some affect our businesses. (No worries, I’m not going to be talking about taxes  😂)

One of these “forces of nature” for our businesses​​ is the Birth of Your Brand. The thing is… you brand can have a life of it’s own. Yup. That’s right. 

Your brand is not waiting until your are ready to start building it. Instead, your brand begins to form the day your business starts to operate. 

​​This is because ​​a brand is like a reputation: it’s essentially what your customers say about your business behind your back. What do your customers say about you when you’re not in the room?

And just like your reputation​​, your brand is formed by the experience people have with your business. And people talk.. boy, do they talk these days. 

So, if you own a business of basically any kind, you’re ALREADY involved in the process of creating and managing a brand — whether you’re prepared to do it or not. And I’m guessing, since you’re reading this email, you’d rather be prepared.

To make sure you understand what brands are made of (so that you know what you’ve gotten into), I made a super quick video (13 min 49 s) on “What is a brand? And why you might want to build one…”

The video in a nutshell:​​

  • ​Essentially your brand is like your reputation — it’s what people say about your and your business when you’re not in the room.
  • Your brand is also an experience, it’s a sum of all the thing that make up your business and the experience your customer has with it.
  • Branding then is the process and effort you put into build a brand — it’s the strategy and visual manifestation you build around it.
  • And finally, brand management is your best effort to influence the impression your customers have about your business on an on going basis. ​​
What does it take to DIY your branding?

What does it take to DIY your branding?

The fact that you can actually DIY your branding and have successful and professional looking outcomes often comes as a surprise to most entrepreneurs. The part about doing the process yourself is not the surprise here: many business owners are forced to DIY their branding due to lack of budget or resources. The surprise is the success and professional looking outcome. 

The reason for this is that we are accustomed to thinking that especially the visual identity — the design part of the process — requires special expertise. And go back 10-15 years, the resources we have available online these days didn’t exist yet, or were mostly unknown. Today, there are so many design tools online and ready made design elements for sale (or available for free) that building a visual branding is more doable than ever before.

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Don’t let the process intimidate you

So, while I tell people that “yes, you can DIY your branding AND make it successful,” I understand that it can feel intimidating — just like learning anything new does. And I will admit that the branding process does take time, and sometimes you really  have to work to get everything just right. While the process is fairly simple, it’s not always easy. But just like any other big project, breaking your branding project into bite sized pieces will help you get through it. 

Also, no one says you have to do EVERYTHING yourself. Well, to be honest, no one says you have to do any of it yourself, if you don’t want to. Although, I do think it’s a good idea for all entrepreneurs to learn branding. In any case, I wanted to give you a quick idea of which parts of the branding process are easier to DIY and which ones might give you a bit more challenge.

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Most of it is “brain work”

Another relatively unknown aspect of the branding process is that it is actually more brain and thought work rather than crazy artistic creativity and designing a bunch of visual stuff. But because of the visual nature of one of the final outcomes, the visual identity, our first assumption about the branding process is that it is mostly about drawing logo sketches.

I would even go as far as to say that all the thought work and introspection that goes into the branding process is much more important than the visual identity part. Let me explain a bit further…

I like to divide the branding process in two major phases: the foundational strategy phase and the visual identity phase. Most people skip the strategy part almost entirely when they’re DIYing their branding. This is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to unsuccessful branding projects. The problem is that your visual identity is based on your brand strategy. If you skip the strategy phase, you don’t have all the right tools for making decisions during the design phase.

Furthermore, most people will find the visual identity work more challenging than the foundational strategy part. Yet, most people skip the strategy and jump directly to the hardest part without realizing that had they started with the strategy the rest of the branding would be much easier to tackle. Getting curious yet?

To show you what each step of the branding process takes to accomplish and why it’s important to do all of those steps, I created the handy table below. The last column will detail the actual actions it takes to accomplish that step in the process. And I promise that you will see that all of it is doable.



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

Process and actions table

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

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

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

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


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.

Five things you need to decide before building your website

Five things you need to decide before building your website

So, you have a great business idea, but the thought of putting a website together seems overwhelming. Where in the world do you start when you want to build a professional looking and beautiful website?

A quick google search on ‘how to build a website’ comes up with a million results telling you to purchase a domain name, get some hosting, and you’re good to go. In reality, it’s not as easy as that. But this doesn’t mean you can’t put together an amazing website that will have your viewers turn into paying customers.

To help you get started with your website, I’ve listed five things you need to consider and decide before you jump to building the actual site.

1. Purpose

What is the website for? And what is the priority behind it? Are you creating a blog, shopfront, membership space, or a course platform? Now, you can have all of these aspects on your website, but you need to have one as the main focus of the website.

You need to be efficient with your time when running a business. While you can have a blog, course platform, and shopfront all on the same site, a clear focus will help you prioritize your time and efforts. It will also help guide you on the technical side of setting up your website. And be super clear with your marketing and communications.

Many solopreuneurs who are just starting out are often looking to do one of the following:

Provide business information

  • Demonstrate their products and services, making them available to customers
  • Produce an “About” page that highlights their background and a little more information about them.
  • A contact page making it easier for potential customers to reach out to them

Sharing content

  • Content could be in the form of blog posts, videos or podcasts. This is a great way to build authority in your niche and engage customers and followers.

Marketing communications and funnels

  • A website can be very helpful in marketing your products and services. This can be done through using banners or sales pages on the website.
  • Marketing funnels are essential for capturing client details to send out emails regularly. One way to do this is through opt in pages that can be found on your website.

Online store

  • A website can be used to host your online store selling products and services, by having these available to purchase on the website.

Other aspects to consider

  • Online courses and membership areas can be added to your website to further provide services and offers to your users. These can be hosted on your website directly but are slightly more technical.

When starting out, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with how many different areas you can have on your website. Focusing on one thing will help you produce a better and more informative website that looks amazing — and is easy to navigate.

That being said, think about whether you need a website in the beginning at all. Perhaps your business model only requires a landing page for opt ins and a facebook group or social media page to build a community. This can be a great way to capture clients or customers without splashing out on developing a website.

2. Content strategy

The next thing to consider is what type of content you will be producing, and where it will go.

Will the main type of content be blog posts, podcasts or videos? Will these be produced on a weekly or bi-weekly basis? The key to a successful website that converts readers into paying, loyal customers is consistent content.

Again, deciding the type of content is important in helping you decide on the style of your website and helping you to determine which technical strategy to go with.

Perhaps your aim is to create a number of landing pages for opt ins connected to other content you are producing on social media. This could be created used platforms that are quick and easy to customize, such as Leadpages.

Note: Leadpages is a paid service. There are a variety of WordPress themes that enable you to make landing pages quickly.

Consider where you will place this content on your website. Often, the homepage can be used as the page where new content is posted to. However, there is also the option of having a complete separate area such as a “blog” or “podcast”. If this is the case, what might you have on the homepage? This could be a landing page with an opt-in freebie or perhaps an overview of what to expect on the website and from your services.

At this point, it’s also a good idea to think about your navigation. To make finding content easy on your site, the main navigation links should be descriptive and meaningful enough for the users to understand where they are navigating to.

Also, be careful not to create too many top level links on the navigation. While you might think that showing as much as possible is the easiest way for the user to find things, actually the opposite is true. With too many options to choose from, users can get confused and abandon your site.

Decision fatigue is a real thing.

3. Platform and technology

Now, we are moving into territory that can seem daunting, but it can be broken down into bitesize chunks. Before you’re building your website, you need to choose the technical platform you’ll be building your website on.  The main focus of the website and the content strategy discussed above will really help you make this decision.

To break it down, here are some platforms that you could use depending on what you’re goals are and what types of content you’re planning to publish:

WordPress

WordPress is an online software that is used by millions of websites. It allows you to develop your website on the back end, to upload content and develop multiple pages for the various areas you want to cover.

It can be used to make business websites to blogs to ecommerce to membership sites. There are two services available: wordpress.com and wordpress.org. The former is a free service that is used on your own web host to create a website in your preferred design while the latter is a paid for service, hosted on the WordPress platform with limited flexibility in design.

Squarespace

Squarespace is maybe the most intuitive website builder there is. The templates are beautiful and easy to use. At the same time, it’s not super easy to customize the code and there’s less integrations and plug-ins available then there are for WordPress.

Squarespace offers online shop, portfolio, basic web pages, and blogging templates, among others. It’s great for beginners because it’s so easy and quick to get started. However, it’s not the most affordable option there. And the price adds up quickly if you need to add more advanced e-store and business capabilities.

Wix

Wix is another website builder that uses modern and flexible designs. This is a great starting place, if you want to house simple content. Unlike WordPress, Wix does not allow building large and complex sites.

Shopify

Shopify is a web application that is designed to online shop owners to build and launch their own online stores. There are a range of templates offered that can be customized to meet your requirements. Shopify targets those who have no or limited web development skills.

Kajabi

Kajabi is a platform that offers a number of different services. Not only can you use it to host your website, it can be home to all your lead pages, list building and courses. This is, however, reflected in the pricing Kajabi has to offer.

Leadpages

Leadpages is often thought of as a wordpress plugin however the platform is not restricted to using just on wordpress. If your aim is to capture email addresses from your social media followers, simply having a lead page may suffice.

4. URL & Hosting

You may have come across the terms “Domain name” and “Web hosting”. The domain name is the name of your URL. For example, www.google.com would be the domain name. Having a domain name alone does not create a space on the world wide web for your website. Web hosting is needed to house all of the files that make up your website.

The domain name is the address of your house, and the hosting would be the actual house the address points to. 

All websites require web hosting. Some companies will host your website and provide a domain name, like shopify, however others may require you to purchase two separate services.

Common places to purchase domain names and hosting include GoDaddy and Bluehost.

5. Look and feel

Now comes the best part of creating the website: the design. Developing a brand for your business is important. While branding is more than just the look and feel of your business, ensuring you have a color palette and selected fonts to maintain a consistent look is important.

Other things to consider include a logo that represents your brand and photography that depicts your services, products, and of course yourself.

That being said, remember your branding can be adapted and evolved as you grow and develop your business. Nothing is set in stone. When you’re starting out, it is better to start somewhere than have no website.  To get started establish some rules about colors and fonts you will be using:

  • Are you using light, regular, bold, extra bold or italic font?
  • Will your headings have a different font to the main text?
  • What 2-3 colors will you use in addition to black, white and gray?

The most important thing is to have something set in place so you can start developing a community and relationship with your customers. Whichever path you take, like mentioned above, is not set in stone and you can always change your style or the technical methods you choose.


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.

How to build a brand when you don’t know who your ideal customer is?

How to build a brand when you don’t know who your ideal customer is?

You know how in the beginning of your business, for marketing purposes and for anything else, you develop an ideal customer avatar (ICA)? This is a critical process for being able to build a successful business model and offering. And it happens in the very beginning of your business when knowing your ideal customer is the most challenging. After you’ve worked with your customer for a while, the ICA becomes crystal clear. But in the beginning, it can still be a bit unclear. Yet, in the very beginning, you already have to start making important decisions regarding your business — such as creating your branding.

Along comes a starter brand. What is a starter brand and why do you need one? A starter brand is a brand specifically created for a solopreneur service provider who doesn’t have intimate understanding who their ideal customer is. But more about this later. Let’s get back to the ICA…

Quite often entrepreneurs develop a clear understanding of their ideal customer after having worked with them for 1 to 3 years. Recently, I interviewed female entrepreneurs — all service providers —  about their branding process and brand development. All of them explained to me, in one form or another, that working with customers during these first years of their business has been critical for really getting to know who their ideal customer is.

Some of them even lamented having developed a particular style of branding in the beginning. Only to now, a couple years later, having to change their branding significantly as they have come to know their true ideal customer. That’s a big investment of either time or money — or both — that they have to make again.

In reality, it’s a really good thing to know your ideal customer intimately. So, at the end of the day, these women are lucky to have the experience and understanding, because now they can build the branding that truly attracts their ideal customer.

But how do you prevent from having to build your branding twice within such a short period of time? Even a new solopreneur — a business just starting out — needs branding to look professional. And if you haven’t worked with customers yet, and haven’t been able to gain that knowledge, what can you do?

I often recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting out — especially if they are solopreneur service providers — to create a starter brand. A starter brand is a professional looking branding that is less specific than a mature brand. A starter brand will make your business look clean and nice. And you can still have some personality attributes associated with it. But it’s not so specific, it’s not so focused that it prevents you from changing your ICA during those 1-3 first years of your business.

NOTE: I want to emphasize that I am not against niching down with your ICA — or your offering. In fact, as they say riches are in niches. So, you definitely have to find your niche. And you definitely have to find your ICA. But when it comes to branding you can’t keep changing it constantly. Your branding has to stay consistent.

And when it comes to your branding, you need to understand that your branding is not your logo. It’s not your color library. It’s not the font you choose for your website. Yes, all these things are part of your visual branding, but those things alone don’t make your branding.

Your brand is an experience. It’s a sum of all the things you do and say in the context of your business. It’s all the communication your business puts out there. It’s the experience your customers get when they interact with you, or when they call your customer service. It’s the Facebook Live you do once a week. It’s the newsletter you sent every now and then. Your brand is an experience and you’re in the center of it. Your logo, colors, fonts, and other visual elements are an important part of your brand, but still just one part.

So, I recommend that new entrepreneurs build a starter brand. It’s much easier to achieve. And you can even do it yourself. And like said before, you can already associate some personality characteristics to it. Like, is your ideal customer a woman of a certain age in a certain industry? Just don’t make it so specific that you’re gonna be stuck on creating it for weeks or months, and it’s preventing you from moving forward.

Just create a starter brand, and keep moving forward. During the first years of your business you will get clarity over who your ideal customer is. And when you do that, you are ready to create an amazing mature branding. Until then you can get away with your own personality and looking professional.

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.