If you’re an entrepreneur or simply interested in entrepreneurship, odds are you see the term BRANDING pop up every now and then. This term has two distinct meanings: the way you present your business (or yourself) to the public and the way the public perceives you. The first definition is about brand identity and the second about brand image. If you position your brand strongly, this will obviously help to positively shape your brand in the minds of (potential) customers. Brand image is all about perception. These two concepts, however, are intertwined and both vital for market positioning.
As a solopreneur or freelancer in the service industry, it often isn’t so much about presenting your business – more so, it’s about presenting yourself! (Being a VA, I am indeed an example of that.) After all, you’re selling your skills and qualities in a package of time. Creating a brand identity is usually experienced as more difficult by entrepreneurs who sell ‘themselves’ rather than a product. It causes us to – often critically – judge ourselves.
Let’s study brand identity in a bit more detail…
Brand Identity: Through the Eyes of the Entrepreneur
You and the designer you’re working with are pretty much in full control of brand identity. That’s why it’s so important to leverage that power! From a customer point of view, the logo is the central part of your brand identity and often the first aspect to be judged. In order to create a successful logo, it’s important to know what it should express. The logo as well as the other visual design (e.g. web design) usually needs to be crafted once only, and that’s why this part of the job doesn’t normally result into issues (as long as your designer knows their stuff). Content, on the other hand, needs to be written over and over again – it’s a recurring process. That’s why it’s easier to produce inconsistent writing than an unfitting visual design. Regarding to this, my tip is to take your visuals and texts through the same list:
Express or accentuate your identity. Make sure your knowledge, your skills, and the activities of your business are a clear given, that is, explicit. As it turns out, people actually prefer the human side of a business to stick out, and entrepreneurs don’t always realise that. Of course you can still keep up your professional tone, but take into account that people like to see that – just like them – you are a human with a character, values, interests, and goals. No business would exist without the person behind it, and often, the business itself is a reflection of who that person is. Express to impress.
Think of your distinctiveness: what is it that makes you unique, special, or memorable? What is it that you do just a little – or completely – differently than competitors? Don’t be boastful, but do make sure it’s noticeable. That can be a little tricky, although practice makes perfect. ;-) The bigger the perceived difference between you and competitors, the easier it is for potential customers to choose. When it comes to distinctiveness, the heart of the matter isn’t necessarily being ‘better’, but being different; adding something different. Because what if two companies are equally good at what they do…?! Also, be aware not to turn your originality into complexity. In the end, simplicity is easier to understand and remember.
Does every piece of design (logo, website, prints, etc.) and text suit your company and your target audience? Do they think, “Yes, this is about me!”, when they see or read something of you? Create a sense of recognition that accords with your target audience, so that they know it’s them you are talking to. Don’t leave any room for doubt. In order to achieve that, it’s of key importance to have a thorough understanding of your target audience, what drives them, and what their ‘language’ and behaviour is. Sometimes, it’s even the case that the people who are drawn to your business do not match the audience you were hoping to attract. In that case, you may not be aware of the right audience to serve – or you are emitting the wrong signal… Therefore, make sure to research your target audience well in advance and use tools such as Google Analytics to learn more about their commonalities.
All parts of your business fit together and convey reliability. That’s the essence of consistency. Consistency, thus, is not so much about the separate components of your business, but rather the cohesive quality of the big picture. Think of the style and quality of, for instance, the content you write, the imagery you use… And of course everything inside your business, i.e., the style of your work and the quality your customers experience; to create the same customer experience, time and time again. If you work according to a clear system (composed of rules about how you want to do everything), it’s a lot easier to run a consistent business.
You’re now equipped with a number of handles to leverage your brand identity. Put this information into practice, give it some time, and you will see your brand image bloom! And people will want to pick the flowers of your blooming brand image. :-)
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