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!

Branding Advice / How Professional Copywriting Can Enhance Your Brand

For today's blog post I brought in professional copywriter, Melanie Kernodle of CopyRefresh, to show us how professional copywriting can enhance the overall brand experience of your business.

You might have invested in professional branding for your small business, but are you still writing all of your copy yourself? Find out how a professional copywriter can take your business to the next level. Whether you need help with copywriting for your advertising, website, marketing, or blog a professional can ensure that your brand voice aligns with your brand identity. This article outlines all of the ways that a professional copywriter can help your company to build a stronger presence before  your ideal client. The design of your logo is important, but don't think that your branding stops there. It's carried over into the copy you use. Click through for creative  tips, ideas, inspiration, and examples of how professional copywriting can help to build your personal brand!

Building a business takes a lot of strategic action. You can’t just open your doors and hope for potential clients to come flooding in.

An essential part of growing your business is building your brand. I’m sure you’ve heard that by now, everyone and their mom seems to be talking about the importance of your brand.

But it’s true! Having a strong brand is the backbone of your business. It needs to resonate with your audience, appeal to them and make them like you. Even more than that, it needs to make them feel really good about buying from you.

Messaging is an essential part of your brand. It’s how you’re communicating your brand’s values, mission, and purpose with your audience. If your messaging is off, chances are you aren’t connecting with your audience like you should be. And you definitely aren’t seeing the sales that you want.

Hiring a professional copywriter can help you get over those messaging hurdles and create copy that actually resonates with your audience. Having a strong visual brand is a fantastic start (my girl Megan can help you out with that!) but if you don’t have strong copy to back it up then it’s no good.

Before I give you all the juicy details, let’s talk about what copywriting is. It’s essentially writing text for advertising or marketing purposes. The written result is called copy, and it’s basically any form of text that you use to communicate with your audience. This could be text via your website, emails, social media, etc.

I’m so glad that Megan allowed me to pop in here with you today and share these top 4 ways a professional copywriter can enhance your brand. I believe copy and visuals go together like white on rice, so let’s get into it.

Get Clear on Your Messaging

All great messaging comes down to one thing, clarity. If you’re message is vague or wishy-washy, it’s not enhancing your brand. Heck, it could even be taking away from it.

A professional copywriter can help you define and refine your brand message. Even if you have the best brand design and prettiest logo on the block, your marketing will fall flat if you don’t have a clear message.

As a copywriter, one of the things I enjoy most when working with clients is helping them to really get clear on their message. Many people often have too broad of a message and try to appeal to the masses.

That’s a huge mistake. As the saying goes, if you appeal to everyone you’re appealing to no one. The more specific and clear you get with your brand message the more impact and authority you will create in your business.

Making Your Personality Shine

Your copy should help show off your stellar personality to your ideal clients. Boring copy with no personality isn’t going to help you build a brand that your audience loves.

Most of the content that your audience is interacting with is the copy and language that you are using, so you have to make sure that your personality is coming through in that copy.

What makes your business successful and unique is you. If your audience feels like they know you, and hopefully like and trust you, they will be more willing to support you and buy into whatever you’re selling.

Be true and authentic to who you are and what your business is all about. If your copy doesn’t feel authentic to your brand, change it. A good copywriter will help you to find the bits of your personality that make you stand out and bring more of that out in your copy.

Speak Your Clients Language

The best copywriting makes your audience feel like you plucked the words right out of their brain. It even makes them feel a little creeped out by how in touch with them you are (in a good way.) That’s because you’re speaking their language.

The words that you use in your copy are not by accident. You need to be able to know what kind of language and phrases your audience is using and then integrate that into your messaging.

Having a professional copywriter to help you out with this can be so beneficial. First off, it gives you a new perspective for your writing. Instead of you just trying to pull ideas out of your head, you have an expert who can wrangle those thoughts to create meaningful and impactful copy.

Second, a professional copywriter knows how to turn a phrase to make it stick in your audience’s mind. It gives you that extra leverage in your marketing to be able to turn passive readers into adoring fans and paying customers.

Build the Know, Like, and Trust Factor

People buy from people that they know, like and trust. And if they can’t say that about your business, they aren’t going to buy from you. It’s as simple as that.

It’s not about how qualified you are or if you have the right credentials. If they feel like they know who you are, like you and trust you they will be way more open to purchasing something from you.

If your copywriting isn’t creating emotions or connections with your readers, you need to do something different. Your copy is a direct conversation with every potential customer. It needs to build a relationship with your audience every chance it gets.

A great copywriter will know this and be able to help you build up that factor. 

With strategic and authentic copy, they can help take your brand from just a pretty face, to something that people will love and trust.

And want to invest their money in.

Conclusion

A strong brand is what make any business successful. That starts with having consistent visuals and solid design. But it also relies on copywriting and your brand message.

A professional copywriter will help enhance your brand in so many ways. It can take your stale, shaky copy to the next level and improve how your audience perceives you.

Some people think that copywriting isn’t worth the money. And depending on your stage in business, it may not be. It’s a big investment but if you’re serious about having a high-end brand you need high-end copy.

Remember, branding isn’t just about the visuals. It’s also about the words. What you say matters. So make it count.


Melanie Kernodle / CopyRefresh

Melanie Kernodle is the Copywriter and Content Strategist at CopyRefresh. She is passionate about helping female entrepreneurs write stand-out copy and content for their websites, sales pages, blogs, etc. so they can stop wasting time and focus on doing what they love. When she’s not writing, you can find her chowing down on some tacos or reading a personal development book. Join her free email course to help you write better copy here, or find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Branding Advice / 4 Easy Ways to Tell if Your Pre-Made or DIY Logo Isn’t Cutting It

Did you buy a pre-made logo or design your own for your small business? Here are four simple guidelines to determine if your company has outgrown your DIY'ed logo and whether or not It's time to invest in professional branding design.  Before and after examples show the impact that clean, modern typography can have on a logo. Click through to this blog post that includes helpful visual examples that will give you Creative inspiration and ideas for the growth of your brand!

There’s nothing wrong with using a pre-made logo, or even making one yourself, in the early stages of your business. With a tight budget, those are sometime the only options.

However, pre-made and DIY logos can only get you so far. Eventually your business will outgrow them. When that happens it’s time to start saving up, so that you can invest in a professionally-designed logo as soon as possible.

So how do you know when you’re at that point? Well, luckily there are a few tell-tale signs that will make it very obvious when you’re ready to upgrade your logo.

1. You See Your Logo (or Similar Logos) Being Used a Lot

The first sign is that you see a lot of other businesses with the same pre-made logo, or very similar logos to yours. This is particularly bad if these other businesses are within your own industry. Not only will your business blend into the crowd, but a potential client could mistake a competitor for you, and you’d lose out on that business.

Even if these other businesses using the same pre-made logo are in different industries, it's still a bad sign. Although, this may be slightly better than the above scenario, it really just means that your logo is too generic.

If you’re seeing your logo or a similar variation of it all over the place, then it’s time to invest in a logo that is a more unique to your industry and completely customized for your business.

You can see how the before logo below is rather generic. It could easily get lost in the crowd and it looks like many other logos out there.

The after version really reflects the style of Jessie Bennett Photography as a business. It is unique, and complimented by the rest of the branding, and her beautiful photography, it creates a very memorable impression.

4 Easy Ways To Tell If Your Pre-Made Or DIY Logo Isn’t Cutting It Anymore

2. It Doesn’t Reflect the Personality of Your Business

Another way to know that it’s time to upgrade your logo is when it’s not reflecting the personality of your business. Maybe it never reflected your business well, or maybe your business has evolved. Either way,  it no longer aligns with the overall style and mood of your business.

One good way to test this, is to jot down a list of adjectives that describe the way you want your business to be perceived. Then ask some friends, or better yet, your ideal client, what words come to mind when they see your logo.

You could ask this question in a Facebook group where your ideal client might hang out. See if their responses are similar to the list you made. If not, then you know it’s time for a new logo.

Below is a great example of this. The logo on the left was what The Butterfly Cake Factory was using before they hired me, but it did not match the personality of their business. They wanted to be perceived as classic yet trendy, modern, innovative, elegant, and passionate.

With their new logo, I used clean lines to keep it modern. The delicateness and overall simplicity of the logo lend an air of elegance to it.  Their new logo is a much better representation of their business and will attract the higher-end clients they’ve been focusing on.

4 Easy Ways To Tell If Your Pre-Made Or DIY Logo Isn’t Cutting It Anymore

3. It Doesn’t Attract Your Ideal Client

If you’re logo isn’t reflecting your company accurately, it’s probably not attracting your ideal client either. This could be because your ideal client has changed as your business has grown, or maybe you’re just starting out and you’ve never been able to attract your ideal client.

This one is a little trickier because there could be a variety of reasons why you’re not attracting your ideal client. However, your logo could definitely be a major culprit and it’s a good place to start if you want to attract a different kind of audience.

The benefit of hiring a professional designer is that they can walk you through the branding process, which will give you a better understanding of how you should be representing your business in all areas.

For example, one of the questions on my branding questionnaire is “How do you want your company to be perceived in the marketplace?” This question helps my clients to think about the way their business is currently being perceived and how they want to shift that.

Their answer to this impacts every part of their business, not only their logo, but the tone of voice they use in marketing materials, what they post on social media, the customer service they provide, and the list goes on. It will form the solid foundation on which they build the future of their business.

The example below shows the original logo for Your Milk Shoppe, and the logo I designed on the right. Their ideal client is an overwhelmed mother, in need of a helping hand. They want to instantly make her feel calm, welcomed, and supported. It’s easy to make the a good first impression with your ideal client when you have the right logo.

4 Easy Ways To Tell If Your Pre-Made Or DIY Logo Isn’t Cutting It Anymore

4. You’re Embarrassed by It

This is such a simple and obvious one, but I couldn’t leave it out because this alone is reason enough to invest in a new logo!

You have worked so hard to build your business and you should be proud of it! You should invest in marketing and tell everyone you can about your business. If your logo is holding you back from doing that, then it’s absolutely time to save up for a custom logo that you can be proud of.

It’s amazing what custom branding can do for your confidence. Here's what one of my clients says that branding did for her:

“Professional branding for my business has impacted not only my business, but me personally as a business owner…branding my business...has been without a doubt, the best business decision I have made not only for business and the bottom line, but for myself. To look at my brand and be proud of the work I do and love how I am represented in the marketplace has been life changing.”

Are you ready for that same kind of confidence in your business?

If so, shoot me a message and we can talk about how to get you there! I promise, IT IS possible for you to love your logo and be proud to show off your business.

Branding Advice / Do These 7 Things Before Hiring a Designer For Your Branding

If you're considering taking the leap from doing your branding yourself to hiring a professional designer for your brand identity, you must read this blog post! IT is full of inspiration and ideas to help prepare you for working with a creative designer for your branding and website. Hiring a professional designer doesn't just mean you're logo will look great, it will truly benefit your entire business and give you the personal confidence you need!

Investing in professional branding is a big and exciting decision to make. Aside from saving up the money to hire a designer, there are other things you can do to prepare yourself for the branding experience. 

The information outlined below will be important for your designer to know as part of the branding process. Most likely your designer will ask you for this info in a questionnaire or intake form.

The more in-depth answers you can provide, the better it will be for your branding. This valuable material makes the difference between branding that is just pretty, and branding that meaningfully speaks to your ideal audience, and accurately represents your business.

Whether you’re going to take the plunge soon or it’s still a ways down the road, the following tips will ensure that you’re prepared to hire a designer when the time comes. The more time and thought you give each of these, the better. So why not get started now?

1. Nail down your mission + vision statements

Although writing a mission and vision statement can be time-consuming and tedious, these are so important if you want your branding to really reflect the heart of your business. If you’re not quite sure about the difference between the two and need help drafting yours, this article is helpful.

To show you how your mission and vision statement might affect your branding, here is the mission statement of one of my former clients, Your Milk Shoppe:

“We will eliminate the stress of your day to day life by acting as a full service management team of your parenting experience.”

To visually communicate this, we used a soft blue as the main color for the brand. This particular shade of blue is very calming and reflects their desire to eliminate stress from their clients’ lives.

The hand-painted, watercolor elements used throughout the brand create a personal, welcoming feel which is important for a company that is catering to new moms who are overwhelmed by the parenting experience.

Hiring a Brand Designer

2. Establish the core values of your business

Your core values are important in the same way that your mission and vision statements are important. They are part of the foundation of your business and give meaning to what you do.

Some examples of core values might be integrity, creativity, quality, customer service, or authenticity. Many of these types of attributes can be reflected in your branding. Once again, this is what will make your branding unique and meaningful.

For example, one of the core values of Mari Wuellner Coaching is fun. We communicated this attribute through the vibrant pink in her color palette and the use of playful patterns.

Hiring A Brand Designer

3. Identify your ideal client

This is such an important one because your branding needs to attract the right people or else it’s pointless. Some things you will want to consider are their age, gender, income, location, and job. Dig as deep as you can.

If you know or can find people who match your ideal client talk to them to gather further insight. What other companies do these people like? This one is really helpful for understanding the kind of branding they’re attracted to.

4. Define how you’d like to be perceived in the marketplace

Although it’s okay to have an idea of the visual elements you would like to see in your branding, it’s better to communicate to your designer how you want your business to be perceived.

For example, rather than saying that you’d like your logo to have hand-lettering and floral elements, your branding will benefit more by telling your designer that you’d like your branding to reflect your company’s welcoming, personal nature, while appealing to your primarily female clientele.

There are many ways that those traits can be visually portrayed. By being more general, rather than requesting specific elements, your designer will be able to explore all of the possibilities and find the best way to communicate the heart of your business to your audience.

For example, when I first started designing the logo for The Butterfly Cake Factory, my client was interested in using a geometric butterfly in her logo because she wanted her business to be perceived as modern. I completely understood where she was coming from, but saw that there might be another solution that worked better.

Luckily, she was completely open to my ideas. When she saw the option below she knew that it represented their elegant cakes and would appeal to the high-end brides that they were hoping to attract.

Hiring A Brand Designer

5. Establish short and long term goals

Knowing where you’d like to see your business go is important to communicate to your designer because your branding can aid in reaching those goals if done correctly.

For example, if you’re a birth photographer who wants to transition into brand photography in the next year, it’s important that your branding appeal more to small business owners, rather than moms-to-be.

Maybe you’re a wedding planner who has been working primarily with brides on a budget, and you’ve decided that you want to start attracting higher-end clients. If that’s the case you’re branding needs to have a high-end, luxury feel to it. 

6. Identify your competitors

Knowing your competitors is important because it enables you to set your business apart from others in your industry. If all of your competitors have similar branding, then you’ll be able to stand out from the crowd by having branding that is truly unique.

Within certain industries it’s common to see certain trends because it speaks to the target market. For example, within the wedding industry it’s common to see soft color palettes, the use of florals, and watercolor elements because this appeals to a lot of brides. However, there are other ways to appeal to that audience without looking like everyone else.

For example, the submark below that I designed for Made Weddings, uses a soft blush color that is common in the wedding industry. However, the hand-drawn elements of the submark give it a lot of unique personality, and appeal to an audience that appreciates hand-made items, like those sold by Made Weddings.

Hiring A Brand Designer

7. Know what makes your business unique

Building off the last guideline, it’s easy to set yourself apart from competitors when you know what makes your business unique. Identify what you offer the market that others do not.

Do you custom-make each order, whereas your competitors only offer pre-made options? Do you send a hand-written note with every product you sell? Do you make the experience incredibly smooth and fun for clients?

These special touches that set your business apart, can and should be reflected in your branding, which is why it’s important to communicate them to your designer.

Give a lot of time and thought to each one of these and you’re designer will be so impressed by how prepared you are to begin the branding process. If you’re not quite ready to hire a professional, then use this information to guide you as you do your own branding. My mini branding guide will help you take this information and put it into a visual identity. Sign up to receive it here!  

Mood Board / Soft + Sweet

Mood Soft + Sweet / Letterform Creative

Doesn't this board just make you kind of swoon and want to start wedding planning? Personally I didn't really like wedding planning. It was so much work, but this board is so lovely it kind of makes me forget all of the wedding stress.

It's for the branding and website I recently did for a curated, hand-made wedding market. You can see bits and pieces of the branding in my portfolio, but I'll be sharing more on the blog soon!