As a creative entrepreneur, your plate is full. Between serving your clients, marketing your business, and doing all the things you have to do behind the scenes, it can be difficult to find time to sit down and think about your brand.
But, friend, you need to. Because, your brand should be the basis of all of your marketing efforts and the driving force behind almost all of your business decisions and systems.
With this in mind, today on Priority Pursuit, I’m excited to discuss what a brand is, why your brand matters, and how to develop and communicate your brand as a creative entrepreneur with six simple strategies.
What is a brand?
Before we discuss how to develop and communicate your brand as a creative entrepreneur, it’s important to define what a brand is.
And, friend, just to be clear, your brand is not your logo. Your logo is certainly an aspect of your brand, but your logo and brand are not one in the same.
According to Ignyte CEO Brian Lischer, “A brand is the way in which a company, organization, or individual is perceived by those who experience it.”
More simply, according to Director of CEO Branding for Liquid Agency and Author Marty Neumeier, “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.”
With these definitions in mind, as a creative entrepreneur, your brand is
- How people perceive you, your business, your work, your services, and your products
- The gut feeling you, your business, your work, your services, and your products give your customers
- What comes to mind when people think about you, your business, your work, your services, and your products
Why is it important for you to develop your brand?
Now, taking time to define your brand is important, because according to Donald Miller, author of Building a StoryBrand, “clarity” or clear messaging is the key to both strategic marketing and making sales. And, in order to make your messaging clear, you have to determine your brand.
When you take the time to define your brand, you can decide:
- How you want your business to be perceived in the marketplace
- What comes to mind when people think about your business
- What problems you can solve for your customers
Then, when your brand is developed, you can (1) use it as a basis for all of your marketing efforts to create consistency—which is key in establishing a strong brand—and (2) clearly communicate how you can make your customers’ lives better or easier. This consistency and clarity will help you stand out and be remembered when prospective customers are looking for your products or services.
Basically, in order to make sales and for your marketing efforts to be effective long term, you need to develop and then communicate your brand.
Six Strategies You Can Use to Define & Communicate Your Brand as a Creative Entrepreneur
Establishing your brand may sound like a big, impossible job, but if you complete the tasks listed below and make them part of your workflow, you will be prepared to clearly communicate your brand, meet your customers’ needs, stand out in the marketplace, and sell to your ideal customers on the regular!
1. Determine your “brand story.”
Arguably the most effective way to define your brand is to determine your “story brand.” If you haven’t read Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller, I highly recommend purchasing a copy. (I’d say borrow it, but I go back and look at my copy all the time.)
In his book, Miller argues that because story is proven to be the best way to help people remember information, by defining your brand through the seven story elements, you can better communicate your brand and clarify your message.
In case you aren’t familiar with the seven elements that make up stories, they are:
- Call to action
These elements are combined to create a story like so according to Miller, “A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.”
I promise you that if you sit down and think about your favorite stories, nearly all of them will break down in this manner.
For example, this is how Disney’s Moana breaks down:
Moana (CHARACTER) wants to save her island from famine, but to do this, she has to sail beyond the reef, which her father won’t let her do (PROBLEM). Her grandmother (GUIDE) tells Moana that she needs to sail across the ocean to find Maui (PLAN) to return the heart of Te Fiti (CALL TO ACTION) to end the famine. Moana’s actions prevent death for her people (FAILURE) and end with her saving her people and her relationship with her father (SUCCESS).
And, believe it or not, your brand can also be worked into a story format that will help you clarify your brand and messaging. If you listen to this podcast episode (You can find the recording at the top of this page, on Apple, on Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.), we dive a little deeper into this topic and process. And, if you read Building a StoryBrand—which I highly recommend you do—Miller will walk you through this process step by step with countless examples and helpful worksheets.
For now, in case this helps you better understand, this is why my brand story looks like for my brides:
Andrea (CHARACTER/MY IDEAL CLIENT) is a detail-oriented bride who wants to be able to relax and enjoy her wedding day while being confident that she’s going to love her wedding photos. However, Andrea knows her wedding day will only happen once, and she’s anxious because she’s afraid she won’t find a photographer who is as detail oriented as she is (PROBLEM). Andrea finds Victoria of Victoria Rayburn Photography (GUIDE), who tells Andrea it’s important to find a photographer whom Andrea connects with and can trust to capture her big day well (PLAN). Victoria encourages Andrea to meet her for coffee to find out if they’re a good fit (CALL TO ACTION). Andrea chooses Victoria as her wedding photographer to prevent a not-so-detail-oriented photographer from missing the little things on Andrea’s wedding day (FAILURE) and to have wedding photos that will remind her and Nick how wonderful their wedding day was while being able to relax and truly enjoy their wedding (SUCCESS).
When you take the time to create your brand story, you won’t have any trouble selling your product or service because you’ll be prepared to communicate exactly how you can solve your customers’ problem in relation to your product or service.
Now, the other steps and tactics listed below will also help you develop and communicate your brand as a creative entrepreneur, and I highly recommend completing each step. But, if you’re only going to commit to one strategy we discuss today, make it determining your brand story, and pick up a copy of Building a StoryBrand!
2. Establish your “why.”
When you’re developing and defining your brand, it’s also important to identify your “why.” According to Simon Sinek, “The WHY is the purpose, cause or belief that drives every one of us.”
We all have whys in our personal lives (e.g. faith, family, values, etc.), but it’s also important to have a why within your business. And, your why within your business needs to be bigger than you.
While most creative entrepreneurs start their businesses to have a creative outlet, to make extra income on the side, or to have a job they truly love—and there’s nothing wrong with this—these reasons are often not enough to keep pushing and working when business gets hard.
You need to define why your business exists and the reason you do what you do to:
- Prevent yourself from becoming the hero (This will make more sense if you read Building a Story Brand)
- Give yourself a reason to continue serving your customers well and improving, especially in difficult seasons
Your why will be personal to you, but just to give you an idea, my why in regards to wedding photography is: To give each of my couples photos that remind them of the joy they felt on their wedding day and why they chose one another so their wedding photos will inspire them to fight for their marriage.
On the wedding days my feet hurt or when I feel like I just can’t edit one more photo, my why drives me, and your why will drive you too!
3. Choose your “brand topics.”
Studies show that people are most likely to buy from people and brands that they feel like they know. And, as a creative entrepreneur, you can use this to your advantage!
As a small business owner, you’re likely the face of your business. As a result, YOU are a HUGE part of your brand. So, help your ideal customers get to know you!
Now, you don’t have to tell your customers everything about your life, and honestly, you shouldn’t. But, defining and sharing “brand topics” is an easy way to sprinkle more of who you are into your brand and help your prospective clients connect with you.
Brand topics are simply areas of your life and business that you want to share (on social media, your website, etc.) that you want people to think about when they think of you and will be of interest to your ideal customer.
Just to give you an idea, these are my brand topics:
- Hattie (my dog)
- Supporting small, local businesses
- Self worth/battling perfectionism
- Education for photographers and creatives
- Wedding education for brides
- Wedding photos
- Engagement photos
You’ll notice that some of these topics are directly related to my services as a wedding photographer, and some are personal. But, even my personal topics relate to my ideal client. (For example, brides are definitely interested in marriage!)
Your brand topics will look different than mine, because you want your topics to help your ideal customers get to know YOU! With this in mind, identify five to nine brand topics.
Now, you might be thinking, “This step seems like a waste of time,” but defining your brand topics and sprinkling them into your social media content and other copy is a great way to create a connection that will keep you top of mind when your ideal customer is ready for your product or service.
For example, God willing, a bride will only need my wedding photography services once. A woman might find me before she’s engaged and follow me on Instagram because she loves my passion for small business or simply to see photos of my goldendoodle on a regular basis. Maybe it’s a few years before she’s ready to tie the knot, but because she feels connected to me for other reasons, I’m at the top of her mind when she’s engaged and looking for a wedding photographer.
And, friend, when you define your brand topics and communicate them, your ideal customers will feel connected to you and will be ready to invest in you as soon as they need your product or service.
Social Media Tip: Not sure what to post? Use your brand topics as inspiration! I don’t have new photos to post every day, but I absolutely have a stockpile of images of my dog and husband and can 100% create content around these images to create connection.
4. Establish a consistent voice.
Something else you’ll want to do while developing your brand is to establish a consistent voice or tone.
To do this, I recommend deciding how you want to talk and communicate with your clients and then keeping that communication consistent both online and in person. This prevents any disconnect and helps your potential clients know exactly what to expect when they book you.
For example, I’m naturally a perky and bubbly person—especially on wedding days. And, in all honesty, I know I could be overwhelming and annoying to shy, reserved brides. To prevent disconnect and help potential clients decide if they’re comfortable working with me, I’m sure to include the same perky, bubbly tone in all of my copy by using exclamation points and phrases I regularly use in person. (I know your English teacher told you not to write how you talk, but in this situation, you can. Promise!)
Take some time to determine how you want to communicate with your clients, and if it helps, write down adjectives to describe the tone you want to use and even phrases or words you want to incorporate.
When you have a consistent tone, you’ll attract the clients who are a good fit for you and repel the ones who aren’t. And, friend, that’s the whole point of marketing your business!
5. Make your brand visually consistent.
In addition to making your tone consistent, you also want to make your brand visually consistent.
Having a logo and brand colors can certainly help with this, but your brand includes other visual aspects—especially in a social-media-heavy world.
If you’re a photographer, it is so important to establish a consistent photography style. After all, this will help potential clients decide if they like your work and even fall in love with it. But, even if you aren’t a photographer, creating consistency within the visual aspects of your brand and the way you show up is a great way to stand out in your market.
Here are just a few ways you can add visual consistency:
1. Use your logo as a basis for all design elements.
If you can’t afford a professionally designed logo right away, don’t worry. While I do recommend investing in a professionally designed logo when you can, there are lots of online resources you can use to get started—like Canva and Etsy. But, sticking with the fonts, colors, and design elements used in your logo when you create other design elements will help keep your visual brand consistent and clear.
2. Establish a consistent photo & video style.
Even if you aren’t a photographer, having a consistent photo/video style can be helpful and is an easy way to polish your brand. To do this as a nonphotographer, simply explore presets, shoot in places with vibes that reflect the visual brand you want to convey, and hire photographers and videographers with photo styles that match the photo style you want your brand to have. Again, having a consistent photo/video style will simply uplevel your visual brand.
3. Dress in a way that reflects that brand you want to convey.
This by no means means that you should only wear clothing that has your logo on it. It simply means that you should show up dressed in a way that you want your business to be perceived. For example, as a light and airy wedding photographer who strongly encourages couples to get dressed up and wear light and neutral colors for their engagement sessions, when I show up online or meet with clients in person, I strive to dress up and—at the very least—wear light and neutral colors. This little decision has honestly helped me become known as a “light and airy” photographer. (Full disclosure: I do usually wear black on wedding days. Not only do I want to blend in, but I’m also a sweaty person. Black helps!)
4. If you have a physical space, decorate in a way that conveys your brand.
If you have a store, office, or—heck—even a home office that regularly appears in photos or videos for your business, decorating in a way that mirrors your brand can be inviting and can create even more visual consistency.
5. Establish consistency in the way your products or services physically look.
Whether you’re a photographer, a boutique owner, or whatever else, the way your products and services look are part of your brand. And, establishing a consistent style will help keep you top of mind when people are looking for whatever you have to offer.
For example, J. Crew does an incredible job of this. While J. Crew sells everything from swimsuits and casual wear to cocktail dresses, all of J. Crew’s items have a preppy feel to them and are typically in neutral and lighter colors.
This international clothing store has refined the way its products physically look, and when their ideal customers are looking for basics, items in neutrals or pastels, or simply something with some preppy flare, you can bet that J. Crew is the first place they look!
6. Serve & show up according to your brand.
Last but not least and arguably just as—if not more—important as establishing your brand story, you want to serve and show up according to your brand.
In order to do this, look through your notes based on everything we’ve discussed so far and brainstorm ways you can serve your customers and market your business based on your brand.
For example, one of my brand topics is supporting small businesses. To make this brand topic something that comes to mind when people think of me, here are just a couple ways I serve and show up with this brand topic in mind:
- I highlight small businesses I love in social media posts, in my Instagram stories, and even in my blogs (e.g. “Our 5 Favorite Date Night Spots in Lafayette, Indiana”).
- When clients book, I send them a welcome box full of goodies from some of my favorite small businesses.
- At the end of a clients’ experience with me, I mail them a painting of their bouquet create by Roseberry & Co.—a local artist I just adore.
In case this helps, here’s another example. Based on my brand story, I specifically serve detail-oriented brides. With this in mind:
- I share wedding day tips and tricks via social media to help educate brides who are worried about every last detail.
- When clients book, in addition to the local items, I send brides a bridal guide that walks through all things wedding photography. (I used Katelyn James’ guide as a basis, which is amazing! In all honesty, I rewrote 99% of the copy to make it my own, but her guide is a phenomenal place to start!)
- I answer emails as promptly as possible, because I know my brides are concerned about the details of their wedding, and I want to be there for them.
Actively serving your current and potential customers and showing up (both online and in person) according to the way you want your business, work, services, and products to be perceived is a sure-fire way to solidify your brand stand out in the marketplace.
Determining your brand will help you determine exactly what to share on social media, your website, & your blog.
Now, I know this might seem like a lot of work and that branding may seem like nothing more than a big-picture idea or task. But, friend, in case you need a practical reason to take the time to develop your brand, here it is.
Developing your brand will give you talking points and content ideas for social media, your website, and your blog.
For example, I develop social media content a month at a time. When I don’t have new wedding photos or podcasts to share, I simply look at my brand topics, my why, my brand story, and other aspects of my brand and use my brand as inspiration to create engaging content.
If you’re struggling with what to share on social media on the regular, wondering what to blog about, or wanting to add more personality to your website, developing your brand will give you inspiration and content for all of this and more.
When your brand is clear & consistent, people will remember you AND see you as their solution.
As we’ve discussed these strategies, we’ve already been over this more than a few times. But, defining your brand is important because when your brand is clear and consistent, people will remember you when they need your products or services and know that you’re the solution to their problem at hand.
And, because they will already feel connected to you and confident in you, they won’t hesitate to invest in you and your business.
Long story short, taking the time to define your brand matters, friend.
Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode
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