Getting Started With Your Brand Identity

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Crafting a well rounded brand identity.

Do you have a brand or a brand identity for your business and services?

Many businesses when developing a brand starts with visual pieces like logo, colors, and fonts based on what appeals to them. However, the visual brand is a piece of your brand and not the identity itself.

A brand is made up of three parts: brand, branding and brand identity. Your brand is how people perceive your business. Branding is the action taken to build the image. Brand identity is the culmination of how your brand looks, feels, and speaks to customers.

A brand identity is the hardest part for some businesses to get right because it requires research, deep thinking and knowing potential customer needs on many levels.

So where do you start?

1. Research and Discovery

To create a profitable brand, you need to know your customers, competition and end goals. Some people get stuck because they are new to the business and can't quite figure out where to begin. While others get stuck because they are trying to emulate a successful brand mentor and can't make those details fit into what they are trying to achieve.

Whichever stage you are in this is the most labor-intensive and cumbersome stage. But it's critical to build the foundation on which your brand will stand for years to come. It's a gathering stage because you're trying to understand the customer, know the competition and determine what your brand truly stands for.

Research is the part where you gather details, inspirations and tons of ideas (some perfect for you and some not) to put together a cohesive vibe and feel that helps you attract people to what you have to offer.

Market Research

There are lots of ways to find the information including watching social media channels, surveying audiences, competitive analysis, assessments and more.

The best place to start is where your potential audience may be. By hanging out with those you are trying to attract you'll find out if they do need your offer, what are some of their biggest problems, who they love (and don't) and what may have worked in the past?

Don't be afraid to float your idea in some social groups or look on sites like Quora or Answer The Public for questions asked of services you love to offer. This will give you a better idea of the use of words to describe problems, frustrations in finding solutions and who is recommended to provide help.

Recon can even be done by attending workshops or participating in challenges so you can get a feel for how people learn and interact with their peers and colleagues.

Social media is always a great place to get organic data and details since people seem to open up in their communities. But don't sit back and be a fly on the wall, participate by giving information and answers and asking for feedback on specific ideas and thoughts.

Competitive Analysis

Some people skip over this step because they don't know where to begin or where to find the other players.

The idea of a competitive analysis is to see how others in your industry are presenting themselves, how they are talking to their audiences, and what are their strengths and weaknesses. The key is to find what differentiates you from others.

You'll want to visit their websites and social accounts, look at places they hang out and events they attend. By acting like their ideal client, you will be able to identify the gaps or missing pieces and how you can fill those.

The key is to not look at them to steal their brand or business but gather inspiration on how you can use your uniqueness to be different yet still fill a need or problem.

Persona and Target Market

Your persona is the finer details of a target market or customers. You need to know who you are talking to attract and keep their attention. Many times we focus on collecting demographic data instead of their problems and how they get their information.

It's about perception so you need to focus on what's important including words used, where they get their information, how they consume that information and what type of customer they really can be.

The idea of research and data gathering is to listen to the needs of potential clients so you can focus on how to address what your brand wants to say.

2. Define Your Brand Strategy

Your brand strategy is a detailed plan that outlines what you are trying to accomplish and how you will get there. Your brand identity is a tool to help keep your brand consistent and execute your brand strategy.

Before you design your website, create your content or create the assets you need to get crystal clear on your strategy.

To set yourself up for success you need to define the essential parts of your brand including core values, brand stories, value proposition, positioning, and message so that your visual design can reflect who you are and what you stand for.

You should now have an idea of who you are talking to, what is important to them and how everything will fit into your offers and goals.

Brand Objectives and Goals

Brand goals are more than revenue-based objectives because you also need to have an idea of the image you want your brand to portray.

If you can't commit to what you want out of your business and brand how will your customers and clients be able to get behind it too? You want your brand to be authentic and have a perceived quality that feels right to you, so you are relatable and reliable.

Keep in mind that goals are targets for your business while objectives are what brings you closer to the goals and not the actual value of the goal.

Your goal may be to create $250K of income with a 60% profit margin so that you can easily pay your monthly bills and do a little traveling or pay down some debt. The objectives to support that could be creating a new product or working with brand ambassadors.

Brand Values and Benefits

Your brand values encompass both what is important to you as a business owner and the emotional benefits people will get from working with you. Mostly these are the impressions you want to make with your words, vibe, and purpose.

If you're truly stuck here or having a hard time nailing down the details, start with a brand assessment or archetype. My favorite tool is 16 Personalities Types which is based on Briggs Myers and Carl Jung. These tests help you discover your natural talents and core values.

The assessments and tests also give you a framework for traits you may possess that will relate well to others. They also provide a good starting point for outlining benefits that will help you engage well with others.

My clients start by picking five words that reflect their brand and work from there. You can determine if your brand will the practical or stylish, energetic or laid back, casual or corporate.

Brand benefits are key pieces that will keep your customer or clients coming back for more. It's critical that you deliver what you promise and stand behind your brand without sending mixed messages or changing your brand with every new trend.

3. Execute The Details

The devil's in the details, and the same goes with your brand. To be consistent, you need to pull your plan together.

Your core message should remain the same, but how you deliver, it will vary for each audience.

Message Strategy

Now that you have who you're trying to attract, goals for your business and a brand position, it's time to translate that into your message because your audience will have different needs.

The easiest way is to start with your positioning statement or the central theme of your brand and marketing. Your positioning statement is a short sentence that states a benefit, addresses the problem and be believable.

Here's an easy template:

[Your Brand] provides [your target] with [benefits] by [solutions].

Visual Strategy

The visible part of your brand is a part of your brand, but not your total brand. Meaning that they are ways for someone to remember and recognize your business visually.

Your visual brand needs to be cohesive and memorable so that on glance whether someone is on your website, social channels or watching a presentation, will know precisely what they are looking at.

Some of the things to consider when creating your visual brand:

  • Getting the logo right, find a designer who is more about the end product than the number of revisions and iterations.
  • Create a consistent color palette by choosing a few colors that reflect the vibe of your brand.
  • Choose fonts that match the personality and be sure they have web-ready versions.
  • Select your images to reflect your message and audience.
  • Plan a photo shoot with a photographer who gets your brand and can help bring it to life.

Your visual brand needs to reflect the audience as much as yourself, so keep that in mind when creating and choosing the visual pieces.

Content Strategy

The content strategy of your brand is an essential element that many people forget to plan or make part of their overall identity.

Your content strategy is not an option for you to remain competitive. Your visitors and potential customers need to know you are authentic, relatable and engaging. Your content (written, video, images, and audio) are what can make or break the sale for you.

Start with your story. Everyone has a story, and people love a great story because it allows us to connect with you emotionally and we remember details and concepts more through stories.

Think about the details of your business – how did you get started, why are you in business, what was the turning point that got you here.

According to Neil Patel, “Simple stories are better. Science says so, and experience affirms it. While we may love the complexity of a Harry Potter plot, we can’t import that same complex model into the brand story. We need simplicity. Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”

Content not only helps the audience know like and trust you, but it helps with your SEO efforts so that the search engines return the content you have to offer in their results.

Varying your content to the needs of the audience will help you to connect with different types of people so be sure to add your content personalities to your identity. Some of us are great with video while others have the gift for gab by way of a podcast and we are all capable of written content.

By defining which content you create with ease and working that into your overall plan, you will find it easier to create for the needs of your visitors and audience.

What's Next?

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Are you defining your ideal client to be your ideal client?

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Are you defining your ideal client to be your ideal client?

Do you have one person that you are talking to on your website? You know who I’m talking about, the “Ideal Client”. No? Are you defining your perfect client to be your favorite client? Read on to see how I finally made this happen.

Years ago I attended a seminar by Beth Caldwell of Pittsburgh Professional Women titled “Million Dollar Marketing Makeover”, which included exercises to find your ideal client and target market. That was 2009 (at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey)!

Before I walked into the seminar, I thought I knew my ideal client. However, after completing the exercise and sharing information with the group, I realized that I did not have a defined target market and, therefore, had a weak marketing plan. I DID know that I had to give them a name and personalize them, though.

Fast forward a few years and that elusive ideal client was still not defined and pinpointed. I was on a call with Suzanne Evans of Hell Yeah Marketing who said it takes working with 100 clients to find your true ideal client. And it hit me. I was trying to find who I liked to work with the best outside of who I was actually working with.

So I did what I do best and removed myself from the box. You know, the one we put ourselves into by listening to ALL of the experts and everyone else.

You see, Beth showed me the questions to ask, and Suzanne showed me the places to look, so I had a pretty good layout of the groundwork. Now it was time to apply it to MY people.

We all know there are clients we hate working with, sometimes because they are not a good fit and other times because they suck the life right out of you. On the flip side, there are clients we wish we could clone and use that mold in each and every inquiry!

That’s where we start – our love/hate list.

Action One: Look at who you’ve worked with

Now before you say, ‘ooh I’m just starting out I don’t have a list,’ look at people you’ve worked within your job, your volunteer hours, your kid’s school, your neighbor. You need to look at who irritates the crap out of you and who you could hang with for hours.

Check, that list completed! Now it was time to move onto asking the defining questions. So I pulled out that handy list of where they worked, vacationed, what they read and their favorite color.

And it hit me; I don’t care about this. What the hell does their vacation have to do with their website? I was applying the B2C questions to my B2B audience. Basically, I was looking for love in all the wrong places.

Now it was time to redefine the questions.

Action Two: What qualities do I want an ideal client to have

I’ve worked with people on limited budgets and no budgets. I’ve worked with moms, dads, grandmas, single ladies, married men. They vacation and they don’t, they spend their time on the beach, at the tee-ball game, and on porchville.

That information did not help me with what mattered to my ideal client. What I wanted to know was, would they respect my boundaries? Do they understand that being a business owner means you don’t need to work 24/7? Are they open to new ideas and ways of doing things?

[bctt tweet=”Instead of asking the questions about things that are important to your people, start with things that are important to YOU.” username=”leedrozak”] I know we’re talking about meeting their needs, but if you don’t meet yours first, you’ll grow to hate them. Trust me on this one.

Doing those two, small steps, sure cleared a lot of people from my list! But it also opened the door for so much more This allowed me the chance to look in all the right places to find new connections and people who would be the bomb.

It was time to build new relationships.

Action Three: Go where your people are and continue to refine.

It’s not enough to have the outline of your ideal client and what qualities they should possess. You need to know if you will really like them! Because people in the virtual world look great on the outside but how are they on the inside?

This is the step where you look to answer the other set of questions.  What are their needs and am I the one to fill them?

This action step does take you doing the work and can take some time. You need to learn about them, like finding out what irritates them, keeps them up at night, makes them rant or rave. [bctt tweet=”Refining your ideal client profile means you need to know if they have the problems for your solutions.” username=”leedrozak”]

But here’s the great part… as you’re refining, you’re also getting the words they use, the phrases they connect with and the frustrations they have. Which in turn, allows you to talk directly to them.

Now you have the three (sometimes) simple actions to take in defining your ideal client. So what do you do with that?

You use that to write your copy, create your images, and refine your website. Because here it comes, wait for it…YOUR WEBSITE IS NOT ABOUT YOU OR YOUR BUSINESS. It’s about your ideal client and THEIR needs and wants! You need to know how to talk to them and hit on what makes life a little easier in the long run, by looking through the lens on their side.

You also need to stay sane and the fine line between your ideal client is what qualities you want in your partnerships and what problem solutions you bring to the table.

Stop defining your ideal client by what they buy; if your stuff is that good they will invest in it! Or, where they vacation because they might have just been forced there by the family. Start looking at qualities that are important like problems that need to be solved or outcomes they are trying to achieve.

Does this change the way you look at your ideal client? 

Are you defining your ideal client to be your ideal client?

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Be Real With Your Message and Marketing

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be real with your marketing message.

I was on the phone with my coach discussing why I cannot seem to get my messaging and marketing down pat. Having been stuck for a long time, I just couldn't figure out how to get to point B.

Then she said something that made me stop. She told me to get it out there, and maybe my obstacles will be your inspiration. Put it out for everyone to see and tell them how I am feeling. Don’t be apologetic; be who I am.

Low and behold, the light bulb went off between our conversation, a blog post she recently wrote, and what I know to be right for me. I have a story. We all have stories, but most times, we don’t share them. I reasoned that if I start to share my stories with you, then I have to open up the curtain. Not that I have a problem with that personally, but in my business – are you kidding me?

My being real in your message ad marketing posse at Message to Money event.

Thinking back to a conference I attended recently, I kept getting the same feedback from the ladies who I knew virtually but was meeting in real life for the first time. I was surprised by the many times I was told how different I seemed online as opposed to off. Online I'm so reserved and practiced where offline I am kicked back relaxed.

Are you being real?

I'll start by sharing a few crucial pieces of me, so you get the big picture.

  • I am a recovering perfectionist. No one does it as well as I do, right?
  • I accept people for who they are, warts and all. I don’t care if you are CEO of a Fortune 500 or custodian of that same company.
  • I find the fun in everything. If there is none, then I create some (within reason, of course).
  • I am ADD. Some call me bossy, driven, or as Gram used to say, “full of piss and vinegar.”
  • I hate texting and instant message. I like to have a conversation. I think you get so much more from talking than typing.
  • I'm a digital tech geek, but love being offline to get some sanity back.

So the fact that I know who I am and that I'm comfortable in my skin has me wondering: why am I so freaking stuck? It is because I continue to listen to what other “experts” say I should be doing and talking about instead of following my heart and doing what part of me is?

Why is being myself online so damn hard? Why am I so afraid to show you just who I am? I often wonder if I'm afraid it will narrow down my client base or maybe put me into a box as far as the services I offer. But isn't that the whole idea? To work with people who get you and hold similar values. And let the rest do somewhere else.

Now that you know the truth I'll share where I go from here.

  • I am still a recovering perfectionist but will continue to get the help I need in the areas that I need them. Go, team!
  • I'll continue to welcome everyone into my circle, although I do have some boundaries when it comes to specific topics.
  • I'll keep a light tone to my content, message, and what I share. Not always, but most times.
  • I'll accept my ADD, and as I figure out how to rein it in, I'll share with you so you too can make it your superpower.
  • I'll embrace speech-to-text so that I can get my stories out and find new ways to put words to paper. I will also embrace video, not because it's the hot thing to do, but because it is another way not to have to type.
  • I'll continue to learn about new technologies and changes to existing applications, so you don't have to.

It's all about sharing the stories. I think by peeling back the layers of stuffiness that I've built into my online persona you'll see that I struggle just like you. Maybe my “holy crap, what was I thinking?!” moments will help you to find your clarity too.

I'm not sure what happens after this, but I do know that I'm going to just do it. Just be. Do what works best for me and enjoy the ride.

Are you stuck like me trying to be a business persona – one who doesn't jive with who you really are? Let's talk about it in the comments below.

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