Business branding: are you standing out for the right reasons?
This year I celebrated my 18th year in business. [Cue the birthday song, streamers and party whistles].
When looking back I can see just how much my business has evolved. Thank goodness – because it certainly wasn’t always like that!
My first business venture was a secretarial and bookkeeping service, which I started when my first child was around 18 months of age.
Back then I had no idea about branding and the important steps I needed to take to build a successful service-based business. So after printing out a stack of flyers and placing an advertisement in the local paper – I sat back and waited for the phone to ring.
Boy was I disappointed.
While I managed to pick up a few clients here and there, I certainly wasn’t creating the strong presence I needed to attract a steady stream of prospects to my door.
And when I did get the occasional enquiry, I would find, more often than not, that I’d have to justify my price and offer a discount in order to win the job.
So not only was I struggling to get clients – I was also struggling to get paid what I was worth.
Disappointment turned into frustration and frustration into exhaustion as I tried everything I could think of to improve my results.
But, even with the increased advertising and more flyers being circulated in the local area – it didn’t have anywhere near the impact I’d hoped for.
Fast forward to today and thank goodness I invested in personal and professional development. The lessons I learned from my business coach and mentor were incredibly valuable and showed me where I had gone wrong and what I should have done when I first opened up my secretarial and bookkeeping business.
These are the same steps I took when I evolved my business from a secretarial and bookkeeping service into my career coaching and personal branding for executives business. And, were the same steps I used when I expanded my business to include my work with heart-centred solopreneurs to help them boost their credibility, visibility and hireability so they get noticed, booked and paid what they’re worth!
Want to know what one of the (many) important lessons I learned was? [In fact, this lesson ended up being a pivotal turning point for me personally and in my business.]
It was: Learning how to build a strong personal brand.
All of the things I learned about personal branding those many years ago prompted me to follow a career path in that field. I was hooked!
I found personal branding (for both executives and solopreneurs) fascinating, and recognised that many service-based solopreneurs were also doing it all wrong and struggling with the exact same issues I had been facing when I first started my business
So, if you’re at a stage in your business where you are branding (or re-branding), here are the top 3 mistakes that you’ll want to avoid.
Business Branding Mistake 1: You try to emulate what other successful people are doing
I recently tweeted: “Want to build a strong brand? Authenticity and integrity are vital. Don’t try to be something you’re not. It’ll show.”
To put this into context, picture this.
One of your competitors has a charismatic, yet controversial style and is known for dropping a few colourful words when voicing her opinion.
She’s all about shaking things up and destroying the status quo. If she doesn’t like something, she’ll tell you so in her usual powerful and edgy manner.
[Note: These are all qualities and characteristics of the Maverick Archetype from the Branding with Archetypes system I use when working with solopreneurs who are going through the branding process].
She has a large following on her social media networks who love her work and her business is thriving. Seeing all of her success and achievements, you try to emulate these qualities and approach in your business.
But guess what?
It’s exhausting; it feels awkward; and despite your efforts, you’re just not attracting anywhere near the results you had hoped for. In fact, you’re still the world’s best-kept secret, and you’re feeling miserable and frustrated.
Trying to be someone you’re not takes an enormous amount of energy.
And, more importantly, it’s not the ‘real you’ that’s showing up in your business so of course it feels unnatural and awkward.
The question that was asked in my article: “Personal Branding – is authenticity really important?” Yes! Authenticity is crucial – especially when it comes to your brand.
That’s why when taking my clients through my Unearth Your Inner Brilliance Branding Programs, I ask them over 50 insightful questions about themselves to uncover their unique gifts, traits, characteristics, mission, likes and dislikes.
Nothing speaks louder and more powerful than when you give yourself permission show up as ‘you’ in your business.
Business Branding Mistake 2: You listen to the advice of others
Despite their best of intentions to provide you with sound branding advice and how to distinguish your services from all of your competitors, it’s impossible for anyone to truly understand your vision, your values and core beliefs. These are the things that you stand for – it’s the core of who you are and one of the many aspects you should identify as you work through the branding process.
I’ve been a Personal Branding Strategist for well over a decade and have helped numerous clients over that time define and build a powerful, magnetic Signature Brand.
However, in all those years, never have I told a client what they should be doing with their brand, how they should act, what they should say, or what their brand attributes/strengths, their brand voice, or their brand story should be.
Going through the branding process should involve unearthing essential information about ‘you’ and what is unique about ‘your’ brand, not what I (or anyone else for that matter) believe you should be.
My own values and beliefs can cloud a client’s true essence, which is why I’ll never tell someone what they should be.
Rather, I’ll ask the right questions and present them with the right tools to help them unearth their inner brilliance and the key elements that will help them identify the core elements. All of this information will become part of their own powerful, magnetic Signature Brand.
So, when working on identifying key elements for your brand, make sure that whatever you incorporate into your brand is uniquely you and resonates with who you are and what you stand for. Not what someone else has told you how to be.
Business Branding Mistake 3: You work on all of your external brand touch points but not the core elements of your brand
The branding process MUST start with you.
The core of your brand MUST reflect vital elements such as your mission, your values and your purpose. Your unique characteristics and key factors that drive you forward with immense passion and why you have chosen the work you do with your clients will influence your Signature Brand and how you will continue to show up in the world.
As Jim Signorelli outlines in his Story Branding videos, the branding process should start with identifying the inner layers of your brand. It’s the ‘why’ you do what you do. “It’s the cause that you’re trying to promote.”
Once you have identified these core elements, then you can start to work on the outer layers of your brand such as your logo, brochures, designs and other brand touch points.
Start with the core elements of your brand first and then move onto the outer layers of your brand.
For me, taking the time to work on all these areas made a significant difference in my business. Having a powerful, magnetic Signature Brand has enabled me to get immense clarity and focus and subsequently:
- Position myself as an expert
- Charge a higher fee due to increased perceived value
- Create a powerful, clear and consistent message
- Attract my ideal client
- Create a unique brand that is difficult to copy
And, by defining and building a powerful, magnetic Signature Brand – you can achieve these things too.
HAVE YOUR SAY:
Have you taken the time to define the core elements of your brand? Why are you so passionate about the work you do? Is this reflected in your Signature Brand? Let me know in the comment box below. It’s always lovely to hear from you.
Till next time, stay inspired and brilliant!
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I’ve read your excellent article about 3 mistakes which can stop creating a magnetic signature branding. Really I’ve impressed by it. Also I’ve inspired by your too much beautiful photo. Thanks for your helpful topic.
Love this post – Annemarie, I’ve read it carefully and it’s great.
3 BIG mistakes. I guess my #1 is the second on your list – listening to the advice of others. I want to know others’ opinions but at the same time I need to remember that this is my brand…my plan.
Thanks Klaudia – glad you enjoyed the article. Here’s to unearthing your authentic brand – YOUR plan!!
Being creative and unique will surely make a business stand or floats even amidst crisis. I agree with all your points regarding this and this article is truly a wake up call to a lot of small business entrepreneur who wants to be as big as they could.