From the beginning, the number one goal for my business has been to serve others and be intentional about what I'm putting my energy into. And the only way I can do that successfully is by truly getting to know who my ideal client is and listening to their challenges. Over the past several weeks, I've been doing one-on-one uninterrupted interviews with creative entrepreneurs and small business owners to dig deep, find out what makes them tick, what fills them up, and what challenges they are facing.
By far, the #1 challenge I've heard over and over again is the fear of their brand not representing who they truly are and not knowing how to fix it.
So, this is exactly what I want to tackle today. We are going to chat about some of the important do’s and don’ts of crafting your brand so you feel confident that it is a direct representation of who you are and the clients you serve!
Before we jump into the juicy stuff, let’s first talk about what having a brand that truly represents you, means for your audience and what it means for you. Because surprisingly, they are two different but equally important reasons.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU AS THE BUSINESS OWNER
When you are growing, breathing and living your business every single day, it literally becomes your baby. You need to be proud of it and you need to be confident when you talk about it. Because let's be real, when are we NOT talking about our businesses? Crafting a brand that is authentic helps relieve some of those fraudy feelings that creep up time and time again. It’s not going to completely eliminate them because I don’t think the best magician in the world could erase the fraudy feelings of entrepreneurship! When you put time and energy into being intentional and authentic with your brand, it shows your audience, clients, potential partners and collaborators that you have a clear direction, mission and values for your business.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOUR AUDIENCE
One of the most important goals to have for your business is to gain the trust of your audience. It’s said that it take anywhere from 5-7 interactions for people to actually remember your brand so you want to make sure that each of those interactions are put to good use! The more your audience trusts you, the more likely they are to purchase your product or services. Having an authentic brand means they will see a piece of you or hear your voice throughout their entire experience. From start to finish. For them, that creates a sense of security and peace of mind knowing that a brand has their best interest at heart. And if they have a great experience with your brand - this could turn into organic growth for your through word of mouth. I know if I’ve had a great experience with a brand or am in love with a genuine, authentic product that has great branding - I will literally tell everyone I know even if they don’t ask about it.
Let’s recap: For you, it means less fraudy feelings, confidence and being truly authentic. For your audience, it means trust, peace of mind and sharing your brand with their audience, friends and family!
au·then·tic - adjective; of undisputed origin; genuine.
Now that we’ve covered WHY it’s so important, let’s chat about the do’s and don’ts of creating a brand that truly represents you.
The 4 Do’s + 1 Don’t of Crafting an Authentic Brand
Do: Pick Your Style
What is your style? Is it neutral + classic, soft + romantic, rustic + adventurous, or cozy + approachable for example? It’s important to look at your personal style and surroundings to get a feel for what this might be. What colors do you gravitate towards, what clothing pieces do you generally reach for in your closet, what type of style do you like when it comes to decorating? These are all clues on what your style is and can give you some great ideas on how to incorporate it into your brand.
The most important tip for this is to listen to your gut. If it just doesn’t feel right, don’t use it. It doesn’t matter how much effort or time you’ve put into it or whether you wanted to put it out there months ago. It will do more damage that it will good by putting something out there doesn’t truly represent you or your style. Taking time to pick an overall aesthetic that truly represents you is an important first step in crafting an authentic brand.
Do: Use Your Voice
Using your actual voice is another really important piece of the puzzle that a lot of people struggle with. I always, always try to remind people that you don't have to “go find your voice”. You literally use it every single day. And you may be saying, “Steph it's NOT that easy!” But IT IS. I so promise you, it is!
This may sound silly but a great way to hear your voice is to record yourself or make note of the words you use consistently when having a conversation. Keeping track of word choices and phrases you use in person will make it easier for you to actively incorporate this language into your writing. On top of that, write exactly how you talk. This is slightly different from just using the words of phrases you use. If you are an animated talker and use your hands, incorporate a lot of exclamation points! If you are sassy and like to say “girl, please”, use it in your writing. If you’re sarcastic, write sarcastic. Some people might not agree with this method depending on your industry and what channels you’re communicating on but I personally am a huge advocate of this type of writing. If you write very formal and it sounds like a college essay - it will come off as cold and uninviting. You have to add some personality and flavor into your writing if you want it to truly represent who are you!
Do: Share Images with a Similar Aesthetic
Our culture has become completely reliant on visuals and in the days of “scrolling”, images are literally everything. It's awesome if you're a photographer because you have your own style and can take your own images BUT for all of us non-photographers out there, we need to be really intentional and strategic about the images we use to represent our brand.
Investing in a photographer to create original content can seem like a huge undertaking and just not possible at the moment but if you take anything from this post, you NEED images that represent your unique brand. Ask a photographer friend to barter services/products or at least invest in some headshots and a few lifestyle images. I like to call these your “hero images” that you use across all channels, platforms and on your website. If your audience sees these consistently, they will automatically start thinking of your brand when they see them come across their various screens.
If you absolutely can’t make the investment for a photographer or barter services, stock images are another great option. BUT you need to make sure they fit your style and aesthetic that we talked about above. Stock images can be relatively inexpensive and there are a wide range of images to choose from. Two of my favorite sites for stock images right now are Bloguettes and SC Stockshop!
The most important thing to take from this is to have a consistent look and feel to all of the images you post. Light and airy, moody and dark, colorful and bright, and monochromatic are just a few examples of image aesthetics!
Do: Incorporate Videos Into Your Strategy
Video is such an underutilized mechanism to connect with your audience! I'm looking myself in the mirror as I’m saying this too because I've been wanting to incorporate video into my business more but it can be so intimidating and scary! However, incorporating video will allow your audience to truly get a feel for who you are, your personality, your voice, and your quirks.
The important part is to not feel paralyzed by video. You just need to start somewhere! Post a couple of Instagram Stories a day with you actually in them, talking to your audience. This is a bit more casual and will help you warm up to the idea of being on screen.
As you get more comfortable with it, brainstorm fun ways to incorporate video into your larger content strategy. Quick YouTube tip videos, a brand video that lives on your homepage, or a thank you video that gets sent to new subscribers on your newsletter list. But again, don’t think you need to be a full scope videographer to accomplish this! You don't need to buy all the fancy equipment right away. You don't need a lighting kit, special video camera, tripod or backdrop to get started. Leverage what you have around the house, use your iPhone or laptop on a stack of books and position yourself in a location that represents your brand but doesn't take too much effort to set up. Key takeaway: JUST DO IT!
Don’t: Fall Into the Comparison Trap
This is something we ALL do from time to time and it's honestly really hard not too. But comparing yourself to others can make those fraudy feelings stick around or make you stray away from who you truly are. Everyone is unique, has their own story, their own experience, their own way of running a business. Don’t copy other people and do things just because they are doing it. Make sure it is authentic to you and only share, create and do things because you want to and not because it’s “trendy” or “everyone else is doing it”.
Don't let anyone else's journey make you feel like you are less than enough or the way you are doing it is wrong. That is the beauty of being a creative and an entrepreneur. You can literally design and create a business that works for you and allows you to do exactly what you want. Don't let anything make you lose sight of that. The only way you are going to craft a brand that truly represents you is if you stay true to your own beliefs, dreams, mission and values. No one’s story, journey, or business is better or worse than yours. It’s just different. And that my friend, is a beautiful thing!
There are so many things to think about when crafting and building your brand. It can feel overwhelming at times but just take it one step at a time. Remember that some of the most popular and largest brands out there took a LONG time to get where they are today and they definitely didn't start with a perfectly designed logo or a strategy that felt cohesive and consistent. Just keep moving forward and remember the do’s and don’ts above if you start feeling like your brand isn’t a true, authentic representation of you.
What are some of your biggest challenges, struggles or fears when it comes to crafting your brand?