As a business owner, you have tons of decisions to make each day. Should you use bright or dark colors for your event flyer? Should you include a photo of your shop, a stock photo, or some kind of illustration? Should you write in a professional tone or be conversational? So many decisions for just one of your many to-dos! Is there a way to make running a business less overwhelming?
Defining you brand can help ease this kind of stress. Having a clearly defined brand helps you see the bigger picture, which helps keep you from feeling paralyzed when you have to make a big decision or a million little ones. Knowing your brand gives you vision and intention. Your next steps become clear and you can move purposefully toward your goals.
If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you already have a brand. Your brand is the intricate combination of feelings, thoughts, and impressions people get when they interact with your business. Whether they’re reading your event flyer, visiting your website, or browsing in your shop, you are making an impression and building your brand.
The strongest brands are built intentionally and communicate a business’ offerings, values, and positioning in a way that resonates with their ideal clients. Businesses with strong brands start by defining what they want to communicate and figuring out what kind of impression they want to make. Then, they make sure everything they do aligns with that and moves them toward their goals.
So how can you begin to define your brand? Here are four steps you can start to work on now:
1. Define what you do.
It may seem overly simple, but you can’t move to the bigger questions without answering this first question: “What do you do?” Take some time to really think about it. Because we are real people with many interests, the vision that first lead us to start our businesses can get clouded. We get distracted easily by new passions and try to add them into what we’re building. But that only ends up distracting from the real purpose of our business.
Once you have a clear definition of what you do, ask yourself, “Why does it matter?” Why is your work important? What change are you trying to bring into people’s lives and the world? The motivation behind your work is what will resonate with people and guide your brand
2. Get clear about your ideal client.
Your ideal clients are the people you are most passionate about serving and reaching. Your brand should be something that resonates with them, that they’re proud to be associated with, and that they love sharing with their tribe. Think about your favorite clients. What about them made your heart feel full? How were you able to help them?
Then, find a few more people like them (social media is great for this kind of research) and take notes on what they’re like. What personality traits do they have in common? How do they spend their time? What seems to be important to them? You can use all this information to create the kind of experience they’ll love.
3. Learn from your neighbors.
Figure out what makes you stand apart from your competitors, but don’t stop there. You’ll gain even more insight by also thinking about who you want to fit in with. What businesses do you want your ideal clients to associate you with? Who should also come to mind when they think of you? Just like people need community, businesses need a tribe to fit in and engage with. Who do you want on your team?
Fitting in with other businesses doesn’t mean you copy them or lose your voice to be just like them. It simply means positioning yourself similarly and reaching out to similar audiences. It means analyzing the things they’re doing right and learning from what they could do better, all while being your authentic and unique self.
4. Define your goals.
Setting business goals is fun when you start broad and let yourself daydream. What does your ideal business look like? What does that mean for your life? Let yourself dream big and get lost in the possibilities. Then, think about what steps can you take in the next year to move closer to that ideal life. What steps can you take in the next five years?
Whenever you’re setting goals, consider whether they fit in with what you’ve already defined about your brand. Do they align with what you do and why you do it? Do they help the people you want to serve? Do they differentiate you from the competition and align you with your tribe? If a goal doesn’t fit in, it’s probably a good idea to replace it with one that does.
I hope you’ll set aside some time to sit in your favorite coffee shop and answer some of these questions in your planner or journal. Defining your brand is not the easiest thing to do, but investing some time and effort in getting a clearer picture of it can make all the difference for your business.
About the Author
Lilly Garcia is the founder and creative director of Wild Olive Branding Studio, a boutique design shop dedicated to helping natural minded businesses discover their brand and creating visual identities that empower them to reach their goals and change the world. She loves exploring her new home state, Oregon, with her husband and daughter. Download a free copy of her Brand Discovery Workbook by signing up for her weekly branding newsletter at signup.wildolivebranding.com