If you’ve stuck around me for a while you’ve heard me talk about the foundations for your branding (and your business). I spend a lot of time thinking about this in my own business, as well as for clients and peers. I find it immensely difficult to start working on visual branding before having this foundation established. What I mean by foundation is simple: you’ve figured out why you are in business, who you are in business for, and how you will serve them. Here are four reasons you need these answers and a strong branding foundation.
IDENTIFIES YOUR ACTUAL PASSIONS
Getting started with a business is so scary and overwhelming. I know what it is like to feel like you have to “do it all” and the idea of saying “no” to a potential (paying!) client is terrifying. But, I’ll say this: you don’t have to do it all and you should say no to people that aren’t a good fit. But how do you know what that even is? By understanding what you actually want to do. There is a small overlap of your passions and skills and a thing people will pay for – and we need to find that. That is something that should be uncovered very early on! It shouldn’t be “I’m a graphic designer, I’ll do it all,” but rather “I’m a graphic designer, I can do it all, but I really love working with new businesses to establish their branding.” See what I mean?
Your passions are definitely allowed to evolve and change throughout time and as your business grows. That’s to be expected. But, initially, you shouldn’t set out without knowing what you truly are excited and passionate about, and will want to spend all your time working on. Because you will spend all your time working on it. We can uncover that, and more, by talking about why you are going into business.
HIGHLIGHTS YOUR UNIQUE CHARACTER
Not only do we need to figure out what you actually want to do during this foundational time, we also need to determine what makes you unique and relatable. That might sound inauthentic when I phrase it like that, but it’s not meant to be. I want to highlight facets of your personality or your story into your branding, but we need to determine what fits into the overall plan for your business (and branding).
It might be a unique feature that you practice yoga every day or that you own 12 dogs, but does your audience need to know this? What does it accomplish to share that? In this foundational time it’s best to think through your “origin story” to how you got to where you are today and then think through sharing portions of that with your audience that will feel real and human. My personal thought is the more you share the better, but if you pay attention to those that have had a lot of success, they share things that tie back into business. So though I would want to live-tweet my reactions to The Bachelor finale, it doesn’t really tie back into business in any way, shape, or form. Instead I can briefly mention that I watch it (or eat Chipotle regularly, or quote Harry Potter) and give you a glimpse into my personality without overwhelming or affecting my actual business or purpose in a distracting way.
Outside of just personal things, we also want to make sure to highlight your skills and experiences that are directly related to what you do. So I could mention working at a worldwide advertising agency and highlight my degree from a well-known and respected university because these might be unique enough in a really saturated market to make me stand out to a potential client. You could be doing the same. It doesn't have to feel gimmicky or salesy, either. Rather, incorporating your past experiences and personal skills and attributes should feel natural and conversational, but ultimately serve a purpose.
CREATES A TARGET AUDIENCE
You need to have a strong foundation for your branding so you actually know who you are branding for. It’s not just about looking nice or using your favorite colors. So throughout developing a foundation or base for your business, one of the MOST important things you can do is define your target audience.
This is a process. Not only do you need to identify your target audience based off of demographics, psychographics, values, and so on – but you also need to identify how that affects and works with your answers to my two previous points. What unique trait about you will resonate with your target audience? What are you passionate about that can somehow help or solve a problem for your target audience?
It’s definitely one of the hardest questions to answer because you have to think about so many things simultaneously to develop a good, strong answer. I joke that you should be able to tell me what your target client had for lunch yesterday, but to be honest – you should. You should also be able to tell me what keeps them up at night or stresses them out that you can somehow offer a solution to.
FOCUSES YOUR GOALS
I’m not ranking one of these reasons over the other, but having a real, actionable, and an attainable goal for your business is the only way to actually succeed. It can’t just be shooting in the dark and hoping something works. But developing these goals should be done in the initial phases of creating your business and your branding.
I look at branding as the way to make your business work. You can have the best idea ever, but without proper branding you can’t get it out there and visible. You can’t impact the people that need to be impacted, or reach the people who will help you succeed. So right off the bat we need to analyze and figure out what your goal for your business is. The big goal. The vision. The thing that will motivate you no matter what. Then we can create visual branding and brand strategy to make that goal become attainable and accomplish it.
If you thought, “to make money” then you’re not thinking hard enough. Yeah, businesses need to make money. We need to pay bills. That’s a result of your business working, but that’s not the goal. The goal is why you do it, why you matter, why people should care.
I’m Kaitlyn, your design assistant! I work with successful creative entrepreneurs to create cohesive, clean, and compelling visuals for their businesses. You can keep being the #girlboss you are (but with more time to focus on growing your empire)! Let's set up a time to chat!