Building a meaningful, cohesive brand requires a lot of decision making… and despite what our egos may sometimes tell us, we can’t be always be right. No matter how many articles you read or brains you pick, you’ll still be left with situations that vary from business to business. That being said, there are some general rules of thumb that will help you make the right choices for YOUR brand and avoid all-too-common mistakes along the way.
Let’s dig in.
Disclaimer: When I tell you this, you’ll probably feel like I’m pulling a Goldie Locks on you – but this is real talk.
Don’t aim too narrow… but don’t aim too wide.
Be meticulous. Find your sweet spot. Blindly casting the largest net possible will NOT be the best use of your time and resources. Basically what I’m saying is: if you try to attract everyone, you won’t really attract anyone. To make the biggest impact and build a strong following, you’ll need to focus your energy on your best products or services and your perfect market. There’s a balance that’s juuuust right for you. Take the time to seek it out.
When you’re figuring out who your ideal audience is, don’t limit yourself to an overly restrictive set of rules. It’s important to be exclusionary, but you’re looking for a happy medium here. For example, when I first started out my entrepreneurial journey, my very first blog post was about being a successful military wife… and while there are certainly other military spouses out there who enjoy my brand, there was no reason to be so specific. I was creating content that wouldn’t speak to or resonate with the majority of my potential clients.
The same advice goes for your products and services.* You don’t have to do it all or have it all. Not every successful entrepreneur is a jack-of-all-trades the way not every store is a Walmart. Sometimes it’s great to go to one store for everything on your list… but if you wanted the best quality sofa, would you really go shopping somewhere that also sells car tires?
*Though, I’d argue that it’s better to offer just one really amazing thing than a bunch of random, less-than-stellar things. Just sayin’.
Use your wallet… wisely.
It’s tempting, especially when you’re first starting out, to do everything yourself. Most entrepreneurs building a brand are bootstrapping to do so and seize any opportunity to save cash or cut corners. And hey, I get that. I’ve been to that church.
My advice? If there are things you just so happen to be great at, like coding websites or copywriting, knock yourself out! But don’t be so stingy with your cash that you sacrifice the quality of your brand. There are loads of resources out there to pair you with the help you need, for nearly any budget. Don’t be afraid to ask (or pay) for help.
That being said, don’t go too buck wild! Your brand is an investment, yes – but you need to invest carefully. Think about the future. What’s on your plate right now? What has to happen first, before anything else? What can wait until later? Always ask questions, but don’t talk yourself out of every investment. Keep an eye out for potential. Know where your priorities lie. Again, you’re looking for that happy medium.
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Give yourself the job you deserve – and rock it!
Chances are, you didn’t throw caution to the wind and decide to build your own brand because you were daydreaming about financial struggle. We all want to be compensated well for our work, and there’s nothing wrong with asking for what you’re worth. But, how?
One thing I wholeheartedly believe is that there’s power in your job title. Hear me out… Let’s say you recently ditched your corporate gig and decided to make money from home. What should you do? You’re organized, professional, educated, experienced, timely… Hey! You should be a virtual assistant!
… Or should you? Absolutely zero offense to the VAs out there; you run the world and I appreciate you. But consider this: if you were the one in charge of hiring, which applicant would sound more professional and experienced – the Virtual Assistant or the Online Business Manager? You see how the difference between “assistant” and “manager” seems so stark, even though, in this example, the roles could be virtually the same? With just a few short words, you can set yourself up to bring home the bacon or, well… the turkey bacon, I guess.
But on that note, it isn’t all about the money. Your job title speaks to your level of expertise and skill. It helps people to understand how you can serve them. You probably wouldn’t expect the same level of work from a Copywriter that you would a Content Director. I could have been another Brand Strategist in a sea of online branding pros, but I found my spark and incorporated it into my job title: Psychology-Driven Brand Strategist. It’s what I love, it’s what sets me apart, and it adds credibility to boot. So, by all means give yourself the job you really feel passionate about and know you’ll kick butt at – and don’t forget your worth!
As the glorious Marie Forleo says, “Start before you’re ready.”
Here’s the thing about perfectionism: it’s an iterative process, and that’s what makes it pointless. You’ll work on things over and over again, and wait for every detail to be picture perfect before you’re confident in sharing. But if you’re anything like me, that day just keeps getting further and further away as you continuously redefine perfection. So why not iterate in public? Why not let your audience help you shape what perfect means for your brand?
Every single thing your visitors do or don’t do on your site is data. How long do they stay on your site? How many pages do they view? What calls-to-action do they click on? Which blogs do they read? Which services or products are most popular? Are they buying? Where do they drop off? Do they ever come back? How many times?
By taking the time to HEAR your clients and customers, you’re getting free insider advice about what you can be doing to create a better experience. It could be from the mouth of Google Analytics or feedback from someone who cares about your brand enough to contact you. Either way, that’s SUCH VALUABLE INFO, guys! Don’t miss out on it because you’re never ready to be seen. Show up, listen, and adapt accordingly!
Set up systems to GROW your business on autopilot.
There just aren’t enough hours in the day to run the show all alone. Luckily, there are a whole bunch of awesome systems out there (many of which are totally FREE) that can help you stay running, even as you sleep! I’ve done a blog post on this before, recommending some of my personal favorites, but there are plenty of options out there to streamline tons of different tasks.
I could go on about systems for hours (seriously, don’t get me started). But here’s a quick breakdown of the types of things you can automate to save your time and sanity…
Set up various email automations to create a great experience for your customers or clients. These can serve all kinds of purposes: to welcome and indoctrinate new subscribers, sell goods or services, make important announcements, iteratively rollout information, etc. There are lots of different email services to choose from, from free to enterprise-level paid.
You can also use social media scheduling tools to create and post on your various social media channels at any chosen date or time. This way, you can sit down and put together a batch of social posts for weeks at a time rather than manually posting throughout the day. For smaller companies or those with a limited number of networks, you can probably find a free scheduler to meet your needs, while larger companies may need a paid account.
Autoresponders are also a great way to assure your clients and customers that their message has been received and set expectations for when you will be getting back to them. These can be used in emails, on social media, website chat windows, and more! This gives your audience some peace of mind that you’ll be taking care of their question or comment ASAP!
For new clients, you may consider implementing an intake form of sorts to get those starter questions out of the way. With a customized form, you can ask whatever info you’ll need online and get the results sent straight to your inbox! This is great because it cuts down on your phone time and allows you to better prepare for your initial conversation by knowing what to expect and how you can help.
It’s also a great idea to have a calendar-integrated appointment scheduler for phone calls, Skype sessions, or face-to-face meetups with clients. It’s WAY too easy to get your schedule mixed up when you’re entering all of your appointments manually. But with an online scheduling tool, your clients can choose from any available time block, input their contact info, and automatically update ALL of your calendars (blocking off the allotted time). Wouldn’t it be nice to never double book yourself again?!
In addition to being a total timesaver, automations make you look like a total pro and can help sell your services or products for you while you’re off doing other things. That’s right! They can save you money and make you money. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! So…
Drum roll please…
As your added bonus today, I’ve put together the resource list of ALL resource lists. Seriously though, I’m very proud ???? I’ve consolidated the top tools that all entrepreneurs should know about and utilize. Click on the image below to get instant access!
As you can see, while this isn’t exactly an “action plan” for you to run with, there are several helpful tips that apply to every online entrepreneur to assist you in building your best brand. But at the end of the day, it’s all about working smart, knowing your audience, and spending your time and money in moderation. (Some say “Everything in moderation” but I disagree, mainly because of ice cream, which makes me forget the meaning of moderation altogether.)
There won’t be a pop quiz or anything, but let’s recap!
Your best brand is out there, waiting for you to reach it. Here’s what we’ve learned will help you get there:
- Don’t be too exclusionary or too inclusive when determining your messaging. There should be focus, but not so much so that it’s alienating to a large number of people who would otherwise fall head over heels in love with your brand.
- Put your best foot forward when it comes to products and services. You don’t have to offer it all, and in fact, it’s probably best that you don’t. Instead, devote your attention to a limited number of things that make your brand special.
- Don’t try to do it all yourself, resulting in a hand-me-down-looking brand. If you need help, it’s okay to pay for it. But remember: this is a business, not supermarket sweep. You’ll crash and burn if you buy every shiny thing that catches your eye. So, be selective!
- Be strategic with your title. Set yourself apart and demonstrate value. As long as your title still suits your wheelhouse, you’re golden.
- Just DO IT! (Sorry, Nike.) No, really, though. Don’t wait until every last detail is perfect. Sometimes it’s best to jump in at “good enough” and work your way up in public…. You know, while you’re making money!
- Utilize the internet. It’s your friend. Don’t be afraid to adopt new technologies or systems. They’ll only help you in the long run. I swear!
If you are able to apply this advice to your brand as you grow, you can SERIOUSLY lessen the growing pains and scale your company comfortably over time.
And don’t forget!
For your own list of tools and systems to assist in growing your business, check out today’s bonus!
What are you doing to boost your brand’s growth? Tell me in the comments below! I’d love to hear your favorite tips and tricks.