Identifying and Defining Your Brand Image

Just as there’s no one-size fits all diet solution for weight loss, there’s no one-size fits all way to brand yourself as a small business owner. Yes, there will be “experts” out there who have a standardize questionnaire or routine method they’d like to take you through in a branding process. But branding organically is more complicated. Anyone can make you look a certain way, but unless it’s authentic to you, it probably won’t fit very well, and you may be found out.

The Meaning of Being Authentic

When creating your website, promotional material, Facebook page, and so on, resist the urge to pretend to be someone you’re not. It’s easy to create an online image of how you’d like to be perceived that isn’t the real you. It’s easy to embellish the truth in order to impress potential clients. It’s just too easy to lie on a computer screen, and there are plenty of lies being told out there.

Even if you think you’re being authentic, it’s easy to over-promise. Of course you want to draw clients in, but you should only promise what you can deliver. Integrity means being who you say you are. Perhaps your integrity is yet to be proven. Try not to experiment on unsuspecting customers, though.

Developing Your Organic Brand

Organic implies that which naturally stems from you, not from someone you are pretending to be. Your organic brand is a combination of many things you already possess: your values, passions, what you’re good at, your approach, and your choice of product, service and niche.

Your authenticity should shine through your marketing and communication materials. In order to be truly organic, you’ll need to know yourself so that you can present yourself consistently. If wearing a cowboy hat is you, it’s okay to wear one in your profile photo. More importantly than how you dress, though, is that you consistently represent what it is you do and what you will do for your customers.

Having a Consistent Voice

Be conscious of the messages you give out. Don’t be the type of entrepreneur that flip-flops every few weeks. You might be tempted to flip-flop in the early days as you try to figure out how to set your business up, but when you begin mass marketing, stay consistent.

A flip-flopping personality may not be as severe as a Jekyll and Hyde, but if you are that type that changes the name of your Facebook page frequently or continually changes your Company’s public mission statement you may confuse your audience. If you state one thing one day only to renege on it later, you’ll be seen as undefined and unstable. Few will want to do business with an unstable person.

There should be some consistency through your blog, articles, or website blurbs as well. Yes, you can hire professional copywriters, but you should tweak your material so that it sounds like you. Even if you’ve hired a PR firm to do your publicity, you should know what’s been said. You should believe in what’s been written and be able to back it up.

To ensure you’re image is organic and consistent, read your blog posts, status updates, and other blurbs aloud to hear if the words sound natural. If not, change them.

It’s always important, to try to step outside yourself too. The goal of branding is to have people take notice and respond. So look at your material with an outsider’s eye. Or, better yet, have an outsider give you feedback to see if you’re sending the right message.

Polishing Your Brand

Part of branding, of course, includes your choice of theme, color, icon, logo, that sort of thing. Will you be flowers and rainbows? Will you be black and white? Will you be journalistic or editorial, or will you be whimsical? Can you find a theme that identifies one common thread about what you do? How can you demonstrate that theme?

Sometimes it’s easy to find a theme. In other situations it may be trickier. A transformational coach might choose to feature a photo of a path, or something that symbolizes transformation or forward movement. An entrepreneur who is a physiotherapist, but also likes to bake and sell homemade sprouted grain bread and who wants to move into life coaching might wonder what physiotherapy, bread, and life coaching have in common. One answer may be health and wellness. Rather than trying to operate separate businesses, she might create one business built around health and wellness including all the elements she loves and is able to provide.

Finding Your Theme

Finding one theme that ties what you sell or service all together will help you define your brand. Search for that hidden gem until you unearth something that makes all you do make sense. Identify a certain word or tagline that you can use often in your communications.

Here are some probing questions that might help you make further progress in identifying your brand:

1. What is one theme that ties all your passions, products or services together?
2. If your business was a color, what color would it be?
3. If someone were to describe you, what would you hope they’d say?
4. What products might a would-be customer want from you initially? (For instance, a brochure, contract, downloadable material, or menu?)
5. What is one word or picture that will help a person remember you?

Drawing a Line in the Sand

Branding yourself also means setting boundaries about who you are not. If you are an article and website editor and have no intention of editing manuscripts for books there’s no reason you can’t say spell that out in your information. You’ll save would-be book authors and yourself time by doing so.

Don’t lead people on just because business might be slow. If you’re a handyman who has no experience laying drywall, don’t pretend you do. Be a niche handyman. If you are a cat sitter and have never owned a dog, don’t pretend you know how to take care of dogs. Instead, be the best cat sitter in town. Tell the dog owners they’ll have to choose someone else.

By identifying what you don’t do and by willing to refer clients when necessary, you build an even strong case for yourself. When you spell out what you don’t do, it makes what you will do appear more specialized.

Branding is an art as well as a science. In a technological age there are umpteen places online you can appear. Creating and developing your brand and patiently peddling it consistently across the board will be crucial to your business progress.

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