Updated: Mar 12
You can develop your own brand and here are four basic steps to get you started.
Of course you can. Anyone can do anything themselves these days. The internet is a DIYers dream. I wasn’t sure I could start my own business, but here I am. With the help of some handy DIY articles about setting up a business I was off to the races - after a quick meeting with my accountant, of course (I’m not super mathematically inclined but I can tell you what the Golden Ratio is...that’s sorta math).
I got to thinking about the standard suggestions that I give my clients when they ask me about the monumental task of branding their business. That thought then turned into the idea for a tutorial that I could share with my readers. So here I am, sitting on my porch with my husband's cheap tablet and a Moscow mule in hand. The perfect setting for a conversation about business branding practices, no?
Pull Together Your Assets: Brand Auditing
The first step to developing your own brand is to corral all of your assets. You might be wondering what is a “brand asset”. Consider it in the same way you think of monetary assets. It is something useful, or valuable. They are things you can use as leverage to increase your businesses through correct implementation.
The quickest way to accomplish this is to do a “brand audit”. I’m sure you’re confused.
“How can I do a brand audit when I don’t even have a brand?” you might ask. Well, in all likelihood, if you’ve been doing business for any amount of time and have been promoting yourself, you already have the young, tender starts of a brand. You just need to water, weed, and tend what you already have. Soon you’ll be able to harvest the fruits of that labor!
Pull together samples of everything you’ve created to promote your business. I mean EVERYTHING. This includes ads, give away pens, business cards, a sample of your invoices, flyers, brochures, rack cards, along with print outs of your social media profiles, posts, and ads. These are the "actions" you've taken with your brand and are part of your overall marketing strategy or plan.
Lay all of this out on your desk. Or a table. Or the floor. It just depends on how many pieces you have. Now look at everything together. Look for the "visuals" that you're repeating. Do you notice any consistent patterns? How about any inconsistencies? Is your logo on everything? Are you using your logo colors? Do you have a tagline and is it being used consistently?
All of these things that I’ve asked you to look for are parts of your brand. They each play a roll in the way your brand looks and is perceived by potential customers. Be sure to identify the holes in the marketing you’ve done thus far. They are sinking your brand and we need to plug them to salvage this vessel.
Make a list of where you can improve and pin it next to your computer. This list is an important step and this list will eventually turn into your “brand guide” - more on that in another post.
Now that you’ve taken stock of your current brand situation, it’s time to brainstorm some new additions. Go take a look at some of your favorite companies. Do a cursory brand audit on them and take note of what you like. Also note WHY you like it.
The goal here is not to copy other companies, but to identify the solutions they have implemented to solve their creative problems. You should always try and implement these solutions in a way that is original and can separate your business from the herd. Why would you try and look like someone else when you’re much better as yourself?
Look through graphics sites like iStockphoto, Adobe Images, and VectorStock and pick out some photos and graphics that really appeal to you. Stock photography and stock vectors are great when you don’t have the budget to hire a professional to create custom files for you.
Most of these sites are pretty straightforward, but I always encourage my clients to familiarize themselves with the licenses that come with the graphics they are purchasing. Particularly pay attention if you are trying to use files from a free-use site such as Vecteezy or Pexel. Most of these sites allow creatives to utilize their files in personal-use situations and require you to credit the original author. You can do this by following the websites requirements for attribution. Most will have links that give you content and directions that should be used with the image.
Here is an example of a vector file from Vecteezy.
It states that it's a free use graphic, as long as attribution is given. Here is the attribution: Artwork by Vecteezy.com . Since I am using it online, the link needs to go directly to that download page.
Identify additional patterns, graphics, colors, photography styles, and fonts that can be used as supplements to your logo. These pieces are the base on which all future ads, photographs, social posts, and other collateral will be developed.
Implement Your Brand
One of my most favorite, and important, pieces of information is this - always make sure that each item the public sees on behalf of your business positively reflects your business. Don’t think that anything is 1. “not important” or 2. “no one will see this” so why worry?
Anything that has your business name on it is important because you’re likely paying for it.
If you think no one will see it then why are you paying for it? Also, someone will most definitely see it. ALWAYS assume someone will see the item with your name on it. Make sure it’s branded and shows you off in the best light.
Brand implementation, when done correctly, can make all the difference between you and your competitors.
Read more about the best way to implement your brand at this post: The Step-by-step Journey To Establishing Your Brand.
Tweak and Improve
Once you’ve decided on the best way to implement your brand. Give it a go! Wait for a designated time and then revisit your plan. This could be six months or upto two years- branding is serious business and takes serious time and money. Don’t be afraid to implement and wait.
Companies with million dollar marketing budgets will conduct “market surveys” where an agency conducts phone calls and focus groups to see how a designated market feels about their products. You can do a mini version of this by asking your customers to complete an email survey at the end of your projects or after they’ve completed a purchase. Take a look at Survey Monkey. They have a free version that allows you to ask up to 10 questions in a survey and it’s really simple to set up your account.
The best part about these surveys is the data you capture that can help influence your marketing messages. Think along the lines of “94 percent of our customers are satisfied with the services completed by our company”. These types of statistics can be invaluable in instilling buyer confidence.
Change things up as you need to as long as it makes sense for your brand moving forward.
Another thing you can look for is how your brand is performing and how easy it is to implement. What's working? What’s Not working? Make the tweaks and change as needed. Sometimes you might have an idea in your head at the start of an implementation and it doesn’t pan out as you begin to put your plan into action. That’s alright! Change things up as you need to as long as it makes sense for your brand moving forward.
A brand is a living element of your business. You need to make sure that it’s healthy and that all parts are working together in the correct way. Otherwise you’ll need to visit a brand doctor, like myself, to help resuscitate it.
I’ll close this article out with a bit of a challenge to you as a business owner. I challenge you to complete the tasks listed above and then focus on implementing your brand for 30 straight days. Each day you should think of a new way to utilize your brand. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how easy it can be once you get in the habit of putting your brand first.