Time for the third and final episode in my Summer Shorts mini series, and this one is for the new business owners out there, or even if you are just in the early planning stages of “possibly, maybe starting a business”. Today I’m tackling the runner-up question from the vote over on Instagram: Branding advice for the first 6 months of your business.
I meant to keep the Summer Shorts episodes under 10 minutes each, but I “had to” sneak in a bonus tip in this one, so it’s a little longer. Two minutes and thirty four seconds longer to be exact. Please don’t hold it against me. 😉
There is one piece of advice that I give new business owners all the time, so my first and main tip is: don’t worry too much about the logo. At least not just yet.
Your logo is not important in the grand scheme of things. Where many people seem to think that a logo = a brand, the truth is… the logo is just one very small part of your brand. Sure, a great logo can act as an instant identifier for your brand – but if it communicates the wrong things because it was just thrown together in a hurry by some random dude on Fiverr… (seriously, don’t get me started on Fiverr, because I have all sorts of issues with those kinds of platforms – and not because I feel threatened by them in any way… but that is possibly a topic for another day?) …but yeah. If your logo communicates the wrong things because it was just thrown together in a hurry by some random dude on Fiverr, or your cousin who loves to play around in Photoshop, or even if you did it yourself in Canva, then that has the potential of doing more harm than good!
Few new business owners have the financial means to invest in brand identity design right off the bat, so I get that it’s tempting to just get something “for now” – the real danger here is that those temporary measures have a nasty habit of becoming permanent.
My advice to you as a new business owner would be to forget the logo for now, and focus instead on the invisible side of your brand: the foundations that will later inform that strategic brand identity (including your logo!) that communicates all the right things to all the right people.
What do I mean by the invisible side of your brand? There’s so much that goes into this, but basically it means investing time to really define who you want to be as a brand. What’s the purpose behind your brand, why does it exist? What are you passionate about? What are your values? Why? What do you offer and who do you want to serve? What personality should your brand have? What’s your vision? What are your goals?
Many new business owners skim quickly over these important questions, or even skip them altogether, and that’s understandable. These are some big questions and deep, deep work that needs to be done. Way more fun to spend hours on Pinterest looking for colours and logo inspirations, right? I’m not judging, even I’ve been there.
Also, some of these questions are… I want to say impossible, but challenging is probably a better word… some of them are challenging to answer before you start your business – often you learn so much and evolve so much in that first year or so in business, that you find yourself constantly refining and redefining your brand’s foundations as you discover more about yourself and your brand in the process. Even after the one year mark you will find that you’re evolving, but most likely not in as huge leaps and bounds as in those early days. Your first six months in business, you’re learning to crawl. That first year is about finding your feet, your brand is a baby that needs time to grow into a toddler, a preschooler, a teenager… until it finally matures. And adulting can be hard too, right? But if you raised your brand right, with good solid values from the start, brand adolescence and adulthood will be easier to navigate.
So that is my top tip for your first six months: step away from the logo, the pretty colours and fonts. Invest some time in getting your foundations right before investing in your brand identity. And when you do invest in creating that visual brand identity, make sure you go to someone who knows their shit. Maybe that means a higher initial investment, but working with someone who understands how to translate brand strategy into a compelling visual brand means you stand a much better chance of getting it right first time, and getting a result that will stand the test of time – so you don’t have to feel like you need to rebrand over and over and over again. Because that can quickly rack up the $$$ – and it’s gonna cost you not just in designer fees, but also in lost brand recognition. Which again impacts the bottom line, because if you’re not consistently recognisable it will be harder to build a loyal following of clients and fans.
Quick little plug for my own product here: If you’re just starting out and this all seems a little daunting, my Brand it! workbook guides you through those crucial foundational steps – and it’s only €47. Grab it here.
The second tip from me is to spend time building a community around your brand and nurturing connections. That could look like showing up consistently (online or irl) and giving value without expecting anything in return. For me, that part happens in a select few Facebook groups where I know my ideal clients are, it happens on Instagram (my favourite platform!), occasionally on Linkedin, and in real life. And do it from a point of genuine interest in that other person, not because you’re hoping to convert them into a client one day. People are savvy enough to see right through that kind of bullshit. It might be a slower way of building a business and a brand, but to me it feels good, and it’s sustainable and lasting. Think of it as sowing a seed, nurturing it… and then, only after a while can you harvest the fruit. And also, these connections don’t have to necessarily be from the specific niche or segment you’re serving either. I have had people come to me after years of conversations back and forth, suddenly they’re starting a business and they come to me for their brand identity seemingly out of the blue. Or that old friend from way back that you drifted apart from because life just got in the way, but occasionally stay in touch on Facebook, all of a sudden they’ll recommend you to someone.
My third tip is: Under promise and over deliver. I am not saying you should sell yourself short or work yourself into a pulp, that’s not going to help anybody. But exceeding people’s expectations is a surefire way of getting red hot referrals! I should know, my entire business is built mainly on referrals from happy clients. So have a think about how you can create a top notch customer experience – some of the things you implement could even save you time so it’s a win-win situation. For instance, you could streamline your onboarding process. Use canned emails, create a client portal, have a client welcome page, send your clients a welcome or thank you gift (doesn’t have to be a huge thing) or a postcard with a nice note… Have standard operating procedures in place, so you’re sure every client receives the same level of service and attention. Standardise the delivery of the end product. Add a little note with their delivery if you’re a product based business. Follow up with clients after a while, see how they’re doing, ask if there is anything else you can help them with.
A fourth bonus tip: Charge enough. Pricing your products and services is hard as fuck, especially when starting out. But under charging in the beginning will only lead to bad bad things. 1) It’s harder to raise your rates later if you start out too low. 2) People don’t always see cheaper as better, sometimes if you’re priced too low people will think it’s too good to be true. 3) You risk devaluing your industry, making it tougher for everyone else to charge enough too. 4) If you are constantly under charging for your product or service, it will lead to burnout and you may end up resenting your clients. That last one will definitely shine through, and it’s not gonna get you any of those red hot referrals I spoke about! So charge enough. Exactly what “enough” looks like is not for me to say, you’ll need to consider both your target audience, your competitors, and last but definitely not least: what feels like enough to you. Some people have their eyes set on a millionaire lifestyle, while others are content with enough to comfortably cover living expenses + a bit of fun. Some people live in higher cost areas, and/or love to splurge on whatever makes them happy, while others may live in an area where property is cheaper and lead a more modest lifestyle. Really, you’re the only one with the answer to that final piece of the equation. Similarly, if you’re trying to sell a super high-end luxury product or service to a target audience with very limited disposable income, that’s probably not going to work either. It’s a balancing act. But definitely charge enough, whatever enough means to you. Because you don’t want to hit burnout (been there, done that!) or start to resent what you do, that is not sustainable in the long run. And you’re in it for the long run, right?
I hope you found these tips helpful! I wish you all the best as you continue to build your brand – in the first six months and beyond. And if you’re a seasoned biz owner who still tuned in, please share this episode with someone who might need it.
Until next time,
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