In Part 1 of How to Start Your Brand Before Hiring a Designer, we got to the core of how to start your branding yourself: Pin point what you are selling and who will buy it.
Easy answers? Well, not exactly.
For most businesses, there are nuances to our products and target markets. Products are shaped by the needs and wants of the people who buy them. You may start with one product concept and see it taking on another shape halfway through the process. After all, Coca Cola wasn’t always a family friendly soda and Listerine wasn’t always a mouthwash. Product ideas can easily change based on the people willing to invest in them.
So the pressing question is, what makes your offering unique and exciting?
If you find yourself fumbling for answers to this burning question, then how will potential buyers or investors trust you? Simply put, they won’t. They will quickly move on to someone or something else with a clearer offering.
But that’s ok.
You are pinpointing a problem in your business. Not having the answers to important questions right away means you need to take the time to reflect on your brand offerings, making the following a perfect exercise for you to get back on track.
5 important questions to help you get started with your own branding
As an example, we can pretend you are an independent travel writer and photo journalist looking to build a recognizable personal brand that you will eventually incorporate into a portfolio website to help attract big name travel publications. For the sake of this exercise, lets imagine you are really interested in eco-tourism and living a sustainable lifestyle is very important to you.
Note: The simpler and more concise your answers, the better. This may take some time and could be an exercise you revisit a few times.
1. What business are you in?
Travel and publication business.
2. What are your three most important goals?
Sometimes it helps to compare yourself to others. Take design mogul Herman Miller for example. As a company they design, manufacture and distribute furnishings and products for homes, offices, healthcare and education environments.
Three of their main goals are:
(1) Improving the performance of human habits, (2) Reducing their environmental footprint, and (3) Focusing on design innovation and quality.
As a travel writer, your goals could be to: (1) Captivate audiences with stories of adventure through natural beauty. (2) Focus on promoting eco tourism. (3) Helping others find better travel experiences.
3. Describe your products and services:
“I write stories of unbelievable adventures and take photos of stunning, never seen before places. I want to connect travellers with small, reliable tour companies.”
In your case, hiking through the wilderness trumps reviews of luxury hotels. While mosquito nets and the backcountry might not be everyones cup of tea, it’s yours and chances are, you are not the only person who has your traveling style. There are thousands of curious travellers stuck behind desks with one chance every few years to do what you have chosen to do everyday. So make what you are writing about worthwhile. Think about who it is you are writing for, put yourself in their hiking shoes and make them envious of yours. Your goals is to pinpoint what your audience is searching for and to give them the best opportunity to get closer to what they want.
4. Who is your audience?
Travel publications, Independent travellers, tourism agencies and government departments.
5. How do you want to be perceived by each audience?
Travel publications: Creative, Knowledgeable, Available, Valuable.
Independent travellers: Trustworthy, Creative, Fun.
Tourism agencies: Credible, Articulate, Social, Experienced.
Government departments: Effective, Professional, Available, Popular.
Now that you have a clear idea of what you offer, what are your next steps to creating a successful brand?
In Part One of this article we touched on not putting the cart before the horse: Don’t get wrapped up in what everyone else is doing creatively and don’t make important decisions solely on what works for other brands.
The best thing to do when making comparisons to competitors or other products that you admire creatively is to delve a little deeper than what things looks like on the surface.
Use a creative bookmarking tool like Pinterest or Dropmark to organize visuals from other brands that you like – ex. identities, websites, email campaigns, etc.
Then, take those other brands (or professionals) and do a separate SWOT analysis on their different marketing initiatives.
Analyze what you like about them. If you share an audience, find ways to connect with people who use these brands through a survey and find out what they like best about them and why. More importantly, try to discover what they feel is missing from their experience and where you could fill in the gap.
Helpful links to start your branding process
Free and paid email surveys by SurveyMonkey
Further reading: Target Market or “Who is the customer?” by Dr. John Farris