If you're a small business owner, you’re no stranger to this word. For such a small word, it carries a heavy weight of importance. Having a solid brand is vital for your business, and it’s certainly worth the time, energy, and thought you put into creating it.
However, even though “brand” is such a buzz word, I wonder how many business owners truly understand what their brand is? Or better yet, how to create a brand that is effective and attractive to clients? Just to make sure we're all on the same page about what a brand is, Seth Godin puts it best in this quote:
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another.”
With Seth’s definition in mind, I want to give you some insight on how you can begin building a compelling and successful brand for your business, or strengthen your existing brand.
1 | Clear Mission & Vision
Imagine that building a brand is similar to building a house: both things absolutely require a clearcut plan before anything starts get constructed. If you were building a house, imagine the chaos that would ensue if you didn’t have your blueprint ready to go. How would the contractors, electricians, plumbers, painters, brick-layers, and landscapers know what to do and when to do it? It’s the same as when you build a brand.
In order to have any kind of longevity and integrity, your brand needs to have a clear plan in place to act as a solid foundation for all the other elements to build off of.
Outlining your mission and vision doesn’t need to be time-consuming or complicated. To keep the process simple, ask yourself 5 basic questions: why, who, what, where, and how. By knowing the answers to all these questions, you’ll build simple but effective blueprint that clearly shows the purpose and intent behind your business, who your ideal audience is, what products or services your business can offer them, where you’ll find and connect with your niche, and how you can make all these pieces work together.
Need more help with this? Read “5 Questions Every Creativepreneur Should Ask Themselves” for more info!
2 | Distinguishing Characteristic
Part of building a compelling brand means discovering what makes your business unique: is it the process behind your services, the experience you offer clients, your personal story? Whatever is it, that’s what you need to infuse into every possible aspect of your business. Yes, you absolutely need professional level skills, but more often than not people won’t hire on talent and aesthetic alone. The field of creative professions is a huge pool full of talented individuals. The key to getting hired is finding what sets you apart from everyone else.
A prime example of someone who does this well is Jenna Kutcher. In case you haven’t heard of her, Jenna is a wedding photographer from Wisconsin who has built a brilliant brand by honing in on what sets her apart from tons of other photographers—and it’s not just her personal aesthetic and style. She is incredibly personable and relatable, and her unapologetic authenticity draws people to her. Everything she posts on Instagram and sends out in her newsletters reaffirms and strengthens this distinct characteristic. By being so relatable as a person, that makes people want to hire her. The other reason why she’s so sought after for her photography? She creates an amazing experience for her clients that includes a deep and lasting relationship. These are the things she showcases and promotes, and they are the things that lend to her success.
So what makes you unique? Or how can you start setting yourself apart from others in your industry? Once you discover your distinct characteristic, incorporate into your social media, your website, your client on-boarding process, etc. Make it clear that you’re doing awesome and different things that people don't want to miss out on!
3 | Quality Design
After you have a clear mission and vision you’re working off of, the next step in creating a compelling brand is to have high-quality design elements to give it a distinctive look. Having a thoughtfully crafted brand identity is like putting a face with a name. Have you ever met someone you’ve only communicated with via phone or email, then you finally meet them in person, and you suddenly feel like you know them so much better? Yes? Well, that’s what it’s like to have branded visuals for your business. Your customers, readers, peers, etc. will be able to put a “face” to your business by the branded visuals you’ve created (or hired a designer to create). They’ll automatically associate those visuals–your logo, color palette, style of icons/photography/illustrations–with the qualities and characteristics of your brand, whether that’s your reliable and helpful tips, sense of humor, superior knowledge in a certain area, awesome customer service, etc.
4 | Consistency
You can have the best intentions, the best portfolio, the best blog, the best whatever, but being inconsistent with how you handle, promote, and add on to your brand could easily become your downfall. If you have a clear mission, stay consistent with sharing that message. If you have something unique that sets you apart from your competitors, stick with that and promote the heck out it. If you have beautiful visuals, continue to use them. Consistency is a huge component in building a compelling brand because it’s what creates momentum.
When you stay with the same message and the same visuals are paired with it, people will start to recognize it. People who get restless and revamp their whole business or brand identity every six months are only hurting themselves. You’re not giving your audience a chance to learn who you are, what you’re about, and how to recognize your content. At my old 9-5 job, one of my coworkers always told advertisers, “about the time you’re getting tired of your ad campaign is right about the time that people start to notice and act on it.” The same goes for your brand. Build it solid from the start, and then stay consistent.
A fantastic example of a successful and consistent brand is the one that has been built by Joanna and Chip Gaines from HGTV’s Fixer Upper. (Anyone else want to be just like Joanna when they grow up?) This couple has built a brilliant brand and business by staying consistent and keeping things within their wheelhouse. Fixer Upper gave their brand a start by showcasing their mission (fixing up the worst houses in the best neighborhoods), their style (hello, shiplap!), and the way they interact with their clients (hard-working, trustworthy, and always delivering quality work). Everything they’ve added to their business, whether it’s a furniture line, a curated line of paint colors, a garden shop, retail, etc., is completely in-keeping with their skills, their style, their reputation, and what they’re passionate about.
Want to learn more about why consistency should be a top priority for your business? Read “Is This One Thing Hurting Your Business?” for more insight.
5 | Honesty
Being honest about your skills and what you’re capable of delivering to your clients is obvious, but what I really mean by “honesty” is being real with yourself. If you want to build a brand that is compelling, trusted, and admired, you need to build the business you want to build, not the business you think you should build because that’s what everyone else is doing.
Don’t spend your time creating something you’re not proud of or passionate about. The whole purpose of starting your own business is to break the mold, do what works for you, and pursue the things you love!
If you don’t like the way your industry does something, then change it. A great example of someone who embraced this idea is Lauren Hooker from Elle & Co. She didn’t like having to juggle several clients at once, so she did something different: she started working with one client at a time over a two-week time period. Instead of just going with the standard of the design industry, she was honest with herself and realized that something needed to change. And you know what? This became one of her distinct characteristics that has helped make her so successful!
Whether you’re just starting to build your brand, or you're tired of your brand being too vanilla, I hope you’ll be able to put these 5 things into practice and build a compelling brand you’re proud of! If you have any questions about anything addressed in this post, or about branding in general, leave a comment in the section below or feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!