Tuesday, August 30, 2011

5 Steps on Branding Your Business

So you think you can brand, huh?

Well you can! Branding has been seen as the ugly cat in the room that no ones looks at but they know is there, so they put food and water out but never take time to play around with it. Or it's seen as that scary black hole in the business world that people fear what is at the bottom, so they never venture in.

What people don't tell you is how simple and easy branding can be! One of the main reasons why branding can be a little overwhelming is the amount of work it does take to narrow down your design and style. So here are 5 steps that I have put together, based on my own experience and expertise. These steps are just to give you some food for thought when thinking about how you should go about branding your business:

Okay, so you love pink, red and black...but light blue is awesome and lime green has been your BFF since high school. OMG, STOP! Let's slow your roll a little bit. Okay, maybe a lot. I know you are super-duper cool and have these fancy-shmancy ideas knocking around in your headpiece. However, the more you have can sometimes actually hurt the image that the public sees.

Think about your favorite restaurant or store...how many colors are in their logo? Most famous businesses have at most two, maybe three colors that they are remembered by. Not all of them but take McD's for example. What's the color of their logo? Um, yellow! That's right...just one stinkin' bright, eye-gouging yellow. But it works!

Here's my suggestion: write all your ideas down and start gathering inspirational photos that you have, from magazines and the web. Let things stew and then settle. Give yourself room to hate or love stuff and to make mistakes. It takes a while before you find your "look." Just don't rush the process and take your time to simplify!

This one basically is about pushing yourself into the public eye even if you think your image is not ready. You really want to start building up your name AND your look at the same time. It is good to wait on this step if you already have a no-fail branding blueprint dipped in solid gold. Good for you but down here in the real world we are all learning as we go.

Start your blog or facebook page now when you are inspired to. You don't want to postpone until you have everything perfect...then you may never do it! Just draw up a simple logo and banner for now, or purchase one from a very affordable awesome designer (*cough* me *cough*)
Just be cautious about too much over exposure, and stretching yourself too thin. How many times have you been bombarded by the same person saying "buy this, buy this" on twitter, facebook, in the Etsy forums and even in your mailbox! As you're sitting there wondering how in the heck did they get your address, the likable factor for the business to you just plummeted. One turned off customer can mean many, since word-of-mouth is the best marketing tool. The key: promote others and what you love first; yourself always second or third :) PS: I'm still learning this!

Easier said then done, eh? It's easy to feel like just because you crochet baby caps or make handmade watercolor cards that you have to have a certain "image" just like the rest of the people in your field. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen business owners who knit and almost every logo seems like a carbon copy! I understand, you use yarn...and I'm not bashing on that, trust me. You can use it but make it your own. The worst thing that can happen to your business brand is if someone confuses you with someone else!

Don't be afraid to be different...to be you! Hey, where would you think Michael Jackson would be in the entertainment world if he dressed liked everyone else, did his hair the same and even sang the same? I use him as an example because my dad is his number one fan...seriously. I used to do the choreography to Thriller in my sleep! His brand was about him. From how he dressed to how he sang, it was all about who he was. It stood out and he became a legend.

Remember step one? Simplify? You can still brand yourself in your own original way and be simple about it. Stick to the things you love, the colors that are your favorite, not the ones that you think are more appealing to other people. Of course you need to think about the aesthetics...it's a proven fact that fire-engine red speeds up people's heart rates (at least I think so). If you own an organic bath & body products business for the elderly, that may not be a good color! Respectfully be yourself and don't go with the crowds. You want to be seen! In the best light, of course.

Okay so you may not like the logo/banner that you have but for right now as you are in the branding process and getting connected, just use it on everything! Make sure there is a consistent image so when customers see your shop or facebook page, they can associate the image with who you are and what you offer. It's not just your logo that needs to be consistent, it's also the way you feature your products.

I'm guilty of this because I have two business outlets: my art and my design. It's just too much to have two separate websites and separate social network accounts. I shudder just having one! So I have tried to post my fine art prints with my design services. Disaster. You think they would go together but they didn't. Now I have one shop for my art and one for my graphic design. Then my blog acts like my official site with tabs and links to blend everything well. I'm still working on more of a flow but it's more consistent now.

You've heard the saying, "reach for the moon." I found a better one:
"Why reach for the moon when you can be among the stars!"
There is no limit to how big you can make your brand...the only person in your way is you! Think about it. The more time you spend on your branding and putting yourself in your business image, the greater it will become. Yes...you are that awesome!

Building a business takes time...so building an actual image to go with that business takes time as well. Don't sell yourself short!
As a Christian artist, I struggled with the idea of closing my shop to focus fully on my ministry or leaving my shop open, but any money would go straight towards the ministry. It wasn't until I sat down with my pastor and shared with him my intentions, that I realized I wasn't seeing the full potential.
He said (and I'm paraphrasing) "I wouldn't close any doors that have been opened. Use them as an opportunity to expand your ministry but also help your household income. We need money to survive and God knows that. You are reaching people while you are making a living. Use all your resources and go with it!"

WOW! I realized that if I shut down my Etsy shop, I would lose my connection with all of the great Christian crafters I've met and other non-Christian's who were grateful when I convo'd an encouraging Word from the Lord. Also, I wouldn't be helping my household with the finances like I wanted to and the Lord instructs us to take care of homes first, then the church...

The point is go with it and grow with it! It's okay to be confused, just keep on truckin' on! Keep that dream and vision alive and don't ever let it fade. If you make your business about sales and money, you won't last. Put your professional roots deeper than that, into some good old fashioned REAL soil! When the roots of your business run deep into your soul, the fruit of it will reflect the beautiful heart that you have inside!

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