The Brand Audit Series / Build Your Brand Foundation

Do you wonder if your branding is working for your business? If so, find out how to build a strong foundation for your visual identity by starting with a brand strategy and no longer question your branding. Includes a free brand strategy template download!

Do you know if your branding is working well for your business? What is it costing you if not? Enter the Brand Audit Series! This four part series will reveal to you how well your branding is working and ways you can improve it. Below are the topics we’ll cover over the next four weeks.

  1. Brand Foundation – What is a brand strategy?

  2. Your Logo - Is it working for your business? 

  3. The Rest – What do I need besides a logo? 

  4. Consistency – How well do you put it all together?

Bonus: If you sign-up for my email list, you’ll have the chance to receive a FREE half hour, one-on-one brand audit from me and you’ll receive the Brand Strategy Template that accompanies this post.

So let’s get started on this week’s topic: your brand foundation. I know we all want to dive into the fun stuff, like discussing your logo or determining what your color palette should be. However, if we tried to do that right now it would be pointless. We can’t know if we’re headed in the right direction without a compass to guide us.

Today is all about defining that compass by creating your brand strategy. We will use this to evaluate all aspects of your brand identity in the coming weeks.

To create your brand strategy we’ll target four different areas: your brand, your audience, your competitors, and your visual inspiration.

Your Brand

We’ll start by reviewing the most foundational areas of your business. The four areas discussed below will eventually guide the visuals of your brand. 

Mission

Taking the time to craft a strong mission statement is important because it’s what you will measure everything against. When writing it, consider why you started your business in the first place and what overall purpose it serves. To get you started, fill in the blanks of the statement below.

_____________________ (business name) helps _____________________ (your audience) _____________________ (what benefit do you provide), _____________________ (how do you provide this benefit).

Here’s an example for my own business:

Letterform Creative helps small business owners more confidently pursue their passion by providing high-quality branding and websites. 

Values

Next it’s important to define your values. These are another foundational part of your brand and oftentimes can be visually represented in your branding. Some examples of core values might be simplicity, passion, beauty, quality, sustainability, or diversity. What are yours?

Goals

What are you trying to achieve with your business? What are your short and long-term goals? It’s important that your goals are SMART, meaning specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. If you’re not familiar with this concept, here’s a helpful article that can guide you as you set your goals.  

Style

Let's talk about visual aspirations and inspirations for your brand. How do you want your brand to be perceived? Start by making a list of adjectives. Then go a little deeper, what do you want people to think of when they think of your brand? What do you hope they’ll say behind your brand’s back?

Your Audience

The next step is to define your target audience. You can’t speak to the right people if you don’t know who you’re talking to. The more specific you can get about your audience the better. The longer you’ve been in business the easier this will be. Think back on your past clients or customers who have been the best fit for your business. What were some common traits they shared? What made them such a good fit for your business?

If you’re just starting your business this part can be a little tricky, as you don’t have concrete examples to work with. If that’s the case, the best way to gather this information is to observe the audiences of other brands that target your ideal audience. What information can you learn by looking at the types of people following them on social media? What do you learn about their audience by looking at their website? Maybe the language they use clearly appeals to Millennials. Their color palette might signify a commitment to sustainability. Take notes. 

Some specific insights you’ll want to focus on are age, income, location, values, characteristics, hobbies, and style. What problems are they currently facing? What people or brands do they follow?

Your Competition

Some days I’d like to just close my eyes to the competition and pretend they don’t exist. Unfortunately that’s not going to help us stand out. So instead let’s name them and identify what makes you unique. I know sometimes it can be hard to see what you makes you different, especially in saturated markets. I’ve found that a good way to discover this, is to see what others have to say about your business because sometimes you’re too close to it to tell. 

Take a look at your client testimonials or customer reviews and see what specific things they mention. They’re bound to point out something that makes your business special. In my own client testimonials I’ve learned that I’m able to help my client’s feel more confident and that I offer a lot of strategic business advice along with their branding and website. These are both things that I could capitalize on to set me apart from the competition.

Your Visual Inspiration

Now the fun part! Let’s start defining your visual direction. Identify some other brands (ideally not in your own industry) that are examples of the visual aesthetic you wish to have for your brand. Create a Pinterest board and gather inspiration. More on that here if you’re interested. Make note of the typefaces, colors, patterns, illustrations, and photography that are being used. All these can help guide your overall brand identity.

Below are examples of mood boards I’ve created for clients. Notice how different the overall feeling of each is. They both have clearly defined styles and color palettes. This should be your goal with a mood board.

Mood Board 1

Style: modern, clean, fresh, simple, sophisticated

Mood_Board_1

Mood Board 2

Style: creative, fun, inspiring, retro

Mood_Board_2

Ok, I think I’ve given you enough homework for one week. Do your best to complete this before next week because next week we’re going to discuss your logo and it will be much easier to determine if it’s working if you have a solid brand strategy as your guide. Don’t forget to sign up for my email list, so you can receive some helpful downloads, like a free Brand Strategy Template!

Will I Ever Be Happy With My Branding?

Hey small business owner, are you constantly changing your logo and tweaking your color palette, never quite happy with your branding? You're not alone! Hear from a professional designer how you can finally be content with your brand identity! This post covers DIYed branding, professional branding, and even re-branidng. Click through to finally find contentment with your branding!

I recently saw a post on Instagram by a small business owner asking for honest feedback on her logo. She wanted to know how others deal with uneasiness about their branding. I thought this would be a great topic to address because I know it’s a common struggle among small business owners.   

DIYed Branding

Good Enough is Good Enough

If you haven’t hired a designer yet and you’ve done your own branding, the best advice I can give you is that good enough is good enough. Don’t stress over it! I know that’s unusual advice coming from a brand designer, but I’m only saying this in regards to DIYed branding, so hear me out. 

The truth is this is not your area of expertise. You shouldn’t have to become a professional designer in order to launch a business. It’s all too easy to get caught up in making your branding perfect, but this will only hold you back from doing the things you’re good at that can actually move your business forward.

The mindset you should have towards DIYed branding is that it’s temporary. This will free you up from obsessing over it. Ultimately, the goal should be to get professionally branded as soon as you are able. With that in mind, just stick with what you have or find a pre-made logo if you need to, and move on.

Professional Branding

When you hire a professional to do your branding I guarantee you will feel completely different about it than the branding you did yourself. There are multiple reasons that professional design will enable you to finally feel confident about your branding. 

It’s Strategic

The first reason is that professional branding is strategic. A good brand designer will create a brand identity that is so much more than just a pretty logo. She will help you dig deep into understanding what is essential to your brand and find ways to visually convey that to your target audience.

This will usually be done through an extensive questionnaire that you will answer. The designer will then take this information and distill it into a brand strategy. This document will guide the entire branding process and will ensure that all of the visual decisions are thoughtful and intentional. 

It’s Collaborative

The second reason you will finally be happy with your branding is because working with a professional designer is a collaborative process. You will have someone to bounce your ideas around with and someone to contribute their own. When you’re doing your own branding it’s far too easy to get tunnel vision. A professional designer can approach your branding with a fresh set of eyes.

The other benefit is that there is a clear completion to your branding. When you work with a designer there is usually a set timeframe with a set amount of revisions. Once you approve everything you will receive your final files and your branding will be complete. You can finally say goodbye to constant tweaks to your logo and changes to color palette. You will have a solid brand identity that you don’t need to fret over anymore. 

It’s a Good Fit

If you’ve chosen the right designer then you can rest assured that you will be happy with the end product. The right designer is one whose portfolio you love and who takes a genuine interest in your business. A good way to ensure it's the right fit is to hop on a consult call or meet up in person. This will allow you to get to know the designer and ask any questions you may have before committing to work together. 

It’s an Investment

Lastly, when you’ve invested a good chunk of money into something, you will take it much more seriously. It’s one thing to do your own branding. You may rush through the process because you’re eager to launch and you know you can always change things later. 

However, when you’ve made a financial investment in your branding you will take it much more seriously. You will review all the options from your designer thoroughly and provide thoughtful feedback. It will eliminate the temptation to re-brand all the time, which will give your business consistency and credibility. 

Re-Branding

On the flip side of all this, it is completely normal to rebrand or at least refresh your branding every couple of years even if you get professionally branded. Your business is going to naturally grow and evolve and this may require your branding to change with it. There’s no pressure to feel married to your branding forever.

I hope this advice is able to put your mind at ease about your branding. Your area of expertise is what needs your attention the most. Leave the branding to the professionals and if you’re not at that point yet, rest assured that good enough is good enough!  

Can you relate to any of this? What’s been your biggest branding struggle?

Branding Advice / How to Choose a Color Palette for Your Branding

As a small business owner, you already have enough to stress about and your color palette shouldn’t be one of them. Learn how to choose the right color Scheme for your brand identity. These helpful tips will provide Entrepreneurs the inspiration and guidance needed to choose a color palette in order to establish a  style guide. Once you have a palette chosen use it for your logo, website, patterns, layouts, and graphics for a cohesive look.

My blog posts have been a little less frequent as of late, but for good reason. I've been spending time writing guest posts, one of which was recently published by The Rising Tide Society. This is the second time I've had the opportunity to write for them (see the first here). 

This time around I'm talking about choosing a color palette for your branding. I outline how to use the following steps to define your brand's color palette:

  • Knowing your audience
  • Knowing your competition
  • Finding inspiration
  • The difference between hue, value, and saturation

As a small business owner, you already have enough to stress about and your color palette shouldn’t be one of them.

Read the full post to start planning your color palette >>

Branding Advice / How to Infuse Your Personality into Your Brand as a Solopreneur

Are you a solopreneur, small business owner, or entrepreneur? Here is some great advice on how to add some of your personality into your business. There are tips for adding your personality into your brand identity, your headshot, your copy, your about page, and your email newsletters. Click through for some actionable ideas you can easily implement in your small business right now!

Last week I talked about ways to identify if your brand should have your personality or a personality of its own. If you missed that post, read it here.

Now I want to discuss specific ways that you can infuse more of YOU into your brand as a solopreneur.

As a reserved and private person myself, I shied away from revealing too many personal things in the beginning. However, I’ve found that when I’ve shared a photo of myself or a personal story, those have been the pieces of content that receive the most interaction.

People want to interact with other people, not a faceless business.

You don’t have to be an over-sharer by any means, but sharing a little more of yourself will encourage people to interact with you. Once they create a personal connection with you, they are much more likely to hire you or purchase your products.  

Let’s talk about some easy ways to add more of who you are into your business.

Adding Your Personality into Your Visuals

Your Brand Identity

The visual part of your brand is the quickest way that potential clients get a taste your business, so it’s important that you let them see what makes you unique.

Your visual identity, which includes (at the very least) your logo, color palette, and fonts, all must work together to create a cohesive personality. There’s a lot that goes into creating a strong brand identity. Hiring a professional designer is one way to go about it, but certainly not the only option.

If you’re doing your own branding for now, my free Mini Branding Guide is a great way to get started. Grab a copy here, go through each section and take action.

Your Headshot

Another simple way to let viewers get to know you is by putting a photo of yourself on your website. The first step is to make sure you have a high-quality photo of yourself, ideally taken by a professional. Here are some tips for ensuring that your personality comes through in your headshot.

Wear an outfit that you feel comfortable in and that shows your style. Don’t wear a button up shirt if you’re a casual person. Of course you should look your best, but you should also look like you.

Choose a location that reflects something about you. If you’re really outdoorsy then take your photo outside, maybe at a beach or in the woods. If you’re a homebody, then curl up on your couch and take it there. Just make sure that the background and your surroundings are not too busy. You should be the main focus.

It’s important that you look natural in your photo. The point of this is for people to get to know you, so be yourself. Avoid posing too much. Pretend like that camera in your face is one of your closest friends. Sitting down over a cup of coffee with your photographer is a great way to help you feel more comfortable and natural in front of the camera. That’s how I got my candid headshot!

Once you have a professional-looking photo of yourself, put it on your website. It should go on your about page with your bio and ideally on your homepage too. I was resistant to putting my photo on my homepage initially, but a business mentor recommended I do it. I’m glad I listened because it’s a great way to build trust and likeability right out of the gate.

Take Action:

  • Download the free Mini Branding Guide + complete it.
  • Get a high-quality photo taken of yourself.
  • Put your photo on your about page, and even on your homepage if you’re feeling brave!

Adding Your Personality into Your Copy

Writing Exercises

The copy that you use on your website should make readers feel like they’re getting to know you. Here are some fun writing exercises that will help add more of you into your copy.

 Imagine your ideal client and choose a person that fits that profile, preferably a real person, and even better if you know them. If you can’t think of a specific person, then imagine as many specifics about this ideal client as you can: her personality, her business, her likes, her dislikes.

Now draft a personal letter or email to her, as if writing to a friend. You’re not pitching anything. Just write her a letter to catch up on life and ask about her business. 

Once you’ve completed the letter, review the overall tone of it. Is it personal and friendly? Professional and sophisticated? Does the tone match up with the personality of your business? If so, draft all future business communications as if writing to that individual.

Another fun way to give personality to your copy is to add the unique phrases that you already use in day to day conversation. Ask those who know you best if there are any phrases you say regularly that are particularly memorable. 

For example, I had a client who would start almost every email with “Hey sister!”. Because of that I used that phrase on the contact page of her website. It’s a small thing, but it brings out her personality right from the start. Do you have a certain way of starting or ending every email? If so, try using it somewhere on your website.

Your About Page

Your About page is obviously an excellent place for people to get to know you. It’s important to include some of your credentials, but I’ve found that people also want to know something fun and personal about you that’s not business related. I include this as a list after my bio, on my about page. You don’t have to have a whole list, but throw in at least one really unique and memorable thing about yourself.

Your Email List

If you have an email list this is the perfect opportunity to get a little more personal. It’s easier to be personal in an email than on a blog because it’s not out there for the entire world to see. It’s only going to people who have already expressed interest in your business and they’d probably appreciate getting to know you a little better.

Some of my favorite email lists that I’m subscribed to are sent out by solopreneurs. One in particular always shares a personal story about herself and then relates it to her business. Not only is it fun to get to know a little more about her, but it usually makes for a memorable metaphor.

Take Action:

  • Draft a letter to your ideal client, then practice writing a blog post to her.
  • Ask friends and family if you have any unique phrases, or review your past emails for things you say a lot.
  • Add these sayings and phrases somewhere on your website.
  • Re-read the copy on your website and see if it speaks to your ideal client (bonus if you have an ideal client review it for you and provide feedback!).
  • Update your about page to include something fun, funny, or unique about you.
  • Write a personal story, relate it to your business, and send it out to your email list.

Now it’s time to do the work. Copy and paste, or write down all of the “take action” bullets. Then start adding more of you into your business!