5 awesome and actionable branding tips for creative entrepreneurs
Great brands become household names, but they don’t happen overnight. Discover the 5 best branding tips for entrepreneurs + the 9 must-have branding elements.
Great branding sets your business apart from the ocean of competitors.
I know, I know — that sounds painfully obvious.
But even the painfully obvious needs emphasis sometimes, because that ocean? It’s growing at a rate of 543,000 new businesses per month.
So, let’s put this another way:
Bad branding -- lazy, inconsistent, and forgettable branding -- is a surefire way to make your business fade into the background of the other ~744 businesses that launch every hour.
Now, here’s the part where you can take a breath of relief. Good branding isn’t hard or expensive.
Today, we’ll tell you how with five cost-effective, proven branding tips for creative entrepreneurs. After that, we’ll go over 10 must-have branding elements. But first, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page -- just what is branding, and more importantly, what is it not?
What is branding?
Branding is a marketing communication process that allows your customers to identify your business any time they interact with your brand (i.e., your name, logo, design, look and feel, service, symbolism, and et cetera).
Branding is the way to shape your customers’ image of your business.
Why does your customers’ perception of your brand matter?
It can make or break your business.
Naturally, the higher the consumer perceived value (CPV), the higher their willingness to pay.
This means if your audience thinks highly of your brand, they’re willing to pay you more for a similar product or service than a competitor who isn’t as esteemed.
And that's ultimately what branding is: it’s what your audience thinks of as your brand and values in it. Not what you think of it or value in it.
The distinction matters.
Too many businesses make the mistake of prioritizing their own perception instead of their customers’ perception. It gets them nowhere.
80% of companies believe they provide great experiences to their customers -- including their branding -- but only a measly 8% of customers agree.
Fortunately, there’s a fix.
(Assuming you don’t want to be part of that 72% majority that’s got it all wrong about how their customers feel and think of their brand, anyway.)
There are at least five of them, even. Now that we’re all clear on what branding is, let’s dive into those fixes, starting with your values.
5 best branding tips to use today
#1. Highlight your personal values in your branding
To stand out from your competitors, you need to inject a bit of you into your brand.
There are a lot of ways to go about this, but one of the most foundational is to align your business with your personality and values.
Why? It’ll make your brand unique and memorable.
As for how, go back to the beginning -- when you were discovering how to start your own online business -- and think about your why your business exists in the first place.
Renowned author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, places the “why” at the center of any successful organization -- inside the “how” and “what” -- and calls this concept the Golden Circle.
Here are some questions to help you get clear on your “why”:
- Aside from the benefits of entrepreneurship, why were you drawn to starting your business?
- What was it that made you passionate about your business idea?
- What excites you about solving your audience’s problem?
Once you have your “why”, it’s time to think about your audience.
Work backward by starting with your customers’ needs. Create a buyer persona to get crystal clear on their needs and wants.
If you’re unfamiliar, a buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer based on market research. It helps you understand demographic and psychographic details about your ideal customer at a glance and provides a reference point when you’re making changes.
Buyer personas are often visual, as in the example below, but the medium isn’t important -- there are plenty of text-heavy personas instead.
Regardless of how you format your persona, once you have it in hand, align the two sides of the equation: your audience values and your brand values.
More specifically, think about how you want to present your brand’s values and personality to your audience while considering their needs.
For an example of how to align your brand and audience well, look no further than Spindrift.
Spindrift was named one of the best new brands to hit the market in 2019. It ranks at the top as a brand that clearly communicates its dedication to delivering a healthy, fun, and tasty drink made with real squeezed fruit.
Everything about the brand -- from product to website -- is clean, simple, and speaks to their values. For the audience who’s looking for a healthy, fun, and tasty drink, Spindrift is a perfect fit, and that’s crystal clear from the first contact.
The same principles apply even with more personalized branding, such as what you see with the likes of Joy Cho of Oh Joy!.
Check out how Joy describes her 13-year entrepreneurial journey.
It started from a graphic design studio and flourished into a lifestyle brand that involves licensing product lines and creating daily editorial content focusing on “design, fashion, food, and joyful moments from everyday life”.
By sharing her personal story and areas of interest, she’s able to tap into her audience’s life and create a brand around herself that resonates with them.
But it’s not a resonance that’s limited to brick-and-mortar sales. Her masterful branding allowed Joy to expand her products and turn her expertise into numerous digital products as part of the Oh Joy! Academy site.
That said, there’s a catch here.
Joy’s success as a personal brand hinges on a quality that can’t be bought -- it relies on authenticity. And it’s important.
The more authentic you are, the more you’ll attract your audience. So much so that authenticity is declared as the top quality to attract customers to a brand.
As for how to be authentic, there’s no hard-and-fast rule -- but our next tip can help you lay the foundation for that authenticity.
#2. Sound consistent in all of your brand’s content
Another effective branding tip is to use a consistent brand voice that features the same core personality and values in all of your messaging.
To do this, create a brand voice that bases your written and verbal communication on your mission and core values.
Just like everything in your business, it’s also important to consider your audience’s perspective and conduct market research to learn what resonates with your ideal customer.
From there, you can go as far as creating a brand voice chart, where you outline voice characteristics alongside complementary descriptions and “do and don’t” columns.
Another option is to follow in the footsteps of the University of Carolina and create a content style guide, where you can outline writing standards like tone words, consideration for the audience, purpose of writing, and length.
Content style guides can serve as the keeper of your brand’s voice, grammar, content length, editorial requirements, and even your publication frequency.
But words aren’t the only area where you need to stay consistent to establish a strong brand. As much as your brand should sound cohesive, it should look cohesive, too.
#3. Use consistent visual styling across all branded channels
Likely the most common branding tip, it’s vital to present a consistent look for your brand.
Not doing so could leave money on the table. Consistent branding across all your channels increases your revenue by 23%.
Wherever possible, try to match the creative elements of your brand. This includes everything from your logo and color palette to your font type and imagery.
Why? Beyond the potential revenue gain, consider this:
It takes an average of 5-7 brand impressions before someone recognizes your brand. If your branding is inconsistent, you’ll need twice as many impressions before a customer even stands a chance of recognizing your brand.
Just as a style guide keeps your brand voice consistent, a design style guide does the same for your brand’s imagery. It’s a useful tool for anyone in your team to reference your brand’s color palette, fonts, image standards, logo usage, and et cetera.
Here’s how music distribution platform, Spotify, outlines their logo usage.
They include details like exclusion zone, minimum size, and even logo misuse.
It also gives you the documented space to keep track of your color palette, one of the most important ingredients for a cohesive brand.
Ideally, you’ll want to track your colors by identifying your brand’s Hex, RGB (red, green, and blue), and HSL (hue, saturation, and lightness) colors, similar to how Spotify does in their brand style guide.
With these color identifiers in hand, your branding will remain visually unified no matter how much your content changes.
And your content will change, particularly if you’re following our next rule of branding.
#4. Create custom content for your brand’s audience
Another vital branding tip is to create custom content for your audience. Whether social posts, email blasts, updates, or articles, publish content that’s specifically tailored to your audience.
You need to if you want customers to trust your brand.
78% of consumers believe that brands who focus on creating custom content are more trustworthy than those who publish generic content.
A powerful channel for publishing custom (and trustworthy) content is through a blog. Companies with blogs attract 67% more monthly leads than brands that don’t have a blog.
The numbers make sense, too, because blogging gives you a platform for creating limitless articles that speak to your audience’s specific needs.
The more frequently you blog, the more traffic you build. Companies that publish over 16 blog posts each month get nearly 3.5x more traffic than companies that publish between 0-4 posts.
What’s more, 85% of marketers say the main reason for creating content is to build up a positive image of the brand, so it’s worth prioritizing your content plan as you ramp up branding.
And, just as you would when highlighting your brand’s values and personalities (our first tip), remember to stay authentic to your brand during content creation.
Customers demand it.
Of course, nothing sells authenticity like follow-through, which is why it’s our last branding tip of the day.
#5. Deliver on your brand and business promises
Another effective branding tip is to follow through on your promises. If you do, it’ll help people take you seriously, and in turn, purchase from your brand.
Case in point: 93% of customers that trust a brand are likely to recommend that brand. What’s more, 91% of the same are more likely to buy more frequently, and 88% will probably spend more money.
On top of the sales benefit, your audience will also have a better customer experience.
That enhanced experience also leads to an increase in brand loyalty and more purchases. 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience, and customer experience is expected to be more important than price and product by 2020.
On the flip side, if you don’t provide a positive customer experience, it’s likely to cost you a pretty penny. So much so that US businesses miss out on nearly $62 billion due to poor customer experience.
Part of that poor customer experience is breaking promises.
38% of customers switch companies soon after experiencing a broken promise, and only 10% keep working with the brand as they explore competitors.
So, want to avoid this unfortunate scenario?
Then ask your customers for feedback from time-to-time to ensure you’re delivering on your promises and customer experience.
Remember, your brand relies on your customer’s perception of it -- not your own. In the same way that your customers may see different values in your brand than what you see, they may also perceive different promises, both met and unmet, than what you perceive.
So by asking them for feedback, you’ll be able to keep a pulse on their sentiments about your brand and catch any dissatisfied customers before they leave.
Which a lot, unfortunately, will. A whopping 91% of customers who don’t complain simply leave your brand.
OK. That covers us for overall branding strategies, but what about the individual elements that make up these strategies? There are about nine of them, give or take, that make up a brand.
What elements are necessary for branding?
#1. Business name
The first -- and most obvious -- branding requirement is to have a business name. You can make this as personal as your own name like entrepreneur Nora Conrad, who helps people declutter their lives.
Or as self-explanatory as entrepreneur Jacob J. Morris’ Discover Your Values personal development business, which helps customers assess their personal values.
The main takeaway with your business name -- and with everything in your business -- is to convey your brand’s values and personality.
Another important branding element is your logo, which is a graphic symbol, mark, emblem, or design that represents your business.
While your logo is different from your business name, it should at least allude to your business name or imagery, similar to how the logo of She Did It Her Way does.
You can also make your logo a direct copy of your business name, as you see below from Erika Tebbens Consulting.
A tagline is another necessary branding element to include in your business. It’s a short phrase that further explains your brand’s purpose, mission, or culture.
As an example, MVMT Blog Travel Beyond Bounds uses the tagline, “Teaching you how to travel beyond bounds.”
Another example is Coding is for Losers’ “Making spreadsheets great again” tagline.
Good taglines are memorable and connect well with their audience, similar to how Nike’s iconic “Just do it” tagline does.
It’s worth noting that a tagline is different from a slogan in that a slogan references a specific product or service. Your tagline references your entire business.
#4. Color palette
When branding your business, it’s also important to include a color palette, which is a set of colors that you use to identify your brand.
The colors in your brand’s color palette are the ones to use repeatedly in all of your creative assets, including your logo, product offerings, and imagery across your business, just like Everesse’s personal development site.
They also use the same colors on their products like their Creativity Defined online course.
Specific colors are psychologically associated with certain emotions, so it’s worth checking out the meaning behind branding colors before settling on your scheme.
You’ll also want to choose a font for your brand, which is a typeface or specific style of visual rendering for copy.
Some people like to use a few fonts across their brand. For instance, entrepreneur Ali Abdaal uses a block all-caps type for his headlines, a script font for his subheaders, and a Sans Serif for his body text.
Just like your brand’s color palette, there are also emotions and psychology behind your font choice, so choose wisely.
#6. Imagery guidelines
Imagery guidelines are another necessary branding element. This is something to include in your design style guide, where you outline details for the way images are used within your brand.
For example, restaurateur Jamie Oliver outlines parameters for using photography associated with his brand.
It’s common practice to include other imagery guidelines like logo usage, image placements, and exceptions -- among other things.
#7. Brand voice
Another key component to include in your branding is your brand voice. Your brand voice shows off your business’ personality and attitude.
It comes across in a selection of words and tones, which you can define in your content style guide just like Mailchimp does.
#8. Mission statement
Your mission statement is another essential branding component to include in your business. It’s a short action-oriented statement that clearly explains why your business exists and what it aims to achieve.
Discover Your Values has a clear mission statement of “To help people create more self-awareness and personal transformation by exploring and living their unique personal values.”
Sweetgreen’s mission statement, “To inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food,” is also clear and action-oriented.
#9. Unique value proposition
A final branding requirement is to have a unique value proposition (UVP). Your unique value proposition is a statement that clearly explains the benefits of your offer, how you solve your customer’s problem, and what makes you different from the rest.
Wanelo’s UVP is “All the best stores in one place,” which is pretty self-explanatory.
Another example is DogVacay’s “The nation’s largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers” UVP, which conveys both what makes them different and how they solve their customers’ problems.
As for how to put all of these branding elements together, you could spend a few hours tinkering with Word docs, a few more playing with widgets, and then another few weeks fixing those widgets, or . . .
You could do things the easy way and keep everything together with a unified website and marketing dashboard like Podia. Start for free today.
Be bold, creative, and decisive as you brand your business
You don't have to be a media mogul to brand your online business like one.
Here’s what you need to know about branding:
- Branding is the ultimate way to shape your customer’s perception of your business.
- To successfully brand your business, include your personal values and personality, which makes your brand more authentic and trustworthy.
- Look and sound consistent throughout your entire brand, too. Use style guides to outline your verbal, written, and visual communication.
- Create custom content to tailor every interaction your brand has with customers and potential customers.
- Follow through with your promises to create positive customer experiences. If you do, you’ll increase your revenue and your customer loyalty.
As for the individual elements of a brand, make sure you cover:
- Your business name
- Color palette
- Imagery guidelines
- Brand voice
- Mission statement
- Unique value proposition
Here’s to following your entrepreneurial dreams and being authentic in the process -- happy branding!