When you know your brand needs an update (or you’re just starting to create it) it can be super tempting to jump right into design. But, as much as I know how excited you are to find a designer, create a logo and launch your business into the world, I’d encourage you to take a bit of a pause.
If this is your approach, you’ll be doing your brand a disservice. Without first becoming clear on your brand’s strategy, you’re likely to arrive at a solution that doesn’t quite fit, or one that you want to update again in six months. Even worse, you might go through the process of hiring multiple designers only to keep coming up short. Not fun.
If you do take a breath and give yourself some time to strategize, you will ensure that the next steps go much more smoothly. There are so many options out there that having no clear strategy to speak of will make your job (and your designer’s) extremely difficult. A focused strategy would narrow down the options so the best ones reveal themselves with much less effort.
Now that you see why pausing to strategize before the design phase will only help you in the long run, let’s talk about how you can go about doing just that.
Whether you’re pulling your brand together DIY-style or hiring someone else to do the work for you, there are a whole host of things I would ideally recommend getting clear on before you start to work on your visual brand. But let’s keep things simple and start with three. Taking the time to think through and clearly define your answers to these short and sweet (but powerful) questions will go a long way towards serving your brand well, informing your brand’s design, and connecting with your customers.
1. What value do you provide?
Your initial focus should be on clearly defining the value that you provide to your customers, which you can tackle in two parts.
First, in its simplest form, think about what exactly your customers will get from working with you. Depending on your business, it could be something tangible like wedding invitations or custom cakes – or it could be something more abstract, like career advice or life coaching. So the first thing you want to do is clearly define the product or service that you’re offering so there’s no ambiguity around what you do.
Next, no matter what your offering entails, you want to think about the value it creates in your customers’ lives. Maybe your invitation designs set the stage for a wedding, or your life coaching provides happiness and peace of mind. The answer depends on what you do best and the potential impact it can have on the people you want to serve.
2. What makes you different?
Next, you want to shift your focus to what sets you apart from your competition.
Chances are, many other entrepreneurs are out there already doing something similar to what you do. But that doesn’t mean you all can’t coexist in the world. You just need to focus on what makes you different—not better, but different.
You do this not by comparing yourself to others and focusing on your shortcomings, but by recognizing where you fit in the marketplace and what makes you one of a kind. Maybe you take a slightly different, but fresh approach? Maybe you foster an environment that hasn’t been seen in your industry? It doesn’t need to be anything monumental, but it does need to be something.
There is only one you. So even if you’re doing the same exact thing as 10 other people in your neighborhood, you will all provide a unique experience in some way or another – simply because you’re different people. So if you can’t come up with any extreme differences in the way you conduct your business, take a step back and consider how working with you specifically (and this could be a collective “you” if you’re not a solopreneur) might change the experience.
3. How do you want to make your customers feel?
When it comes to informing design, this may be the most important question you’ll answer. The shape your design takes should evoke a specific mood—a personality that expresses who you are, what you do and how you do it. Are you fun and vibrant? Serious and focused? Soothing and encouraging? If you were describing your brand as a person, what words would you choose?
One path to customer loyalty is creating an experience that connects on an emotional level. So you also want to think about how you want your customers to feel when they interact with your brand. Do you want them to feel like they are taken care of? Like they are energized and motivated? Relaxed and at peace? Your answer can really be anything, as long it authentically expresses who you are and how you want your customers to feel—whether they’re on the phone with customer service or browsing through your Instagram feed.
Keep it Simple
All of your answers should be uniquely meaningful, but above all else, simple and direct. Think of it as meeting a stranger on an elevator. If they asked you any one of these three questions, what would you say that would communicate quickly and clearly, so that they would have an immediate understanding of what you do? Try repeating your answers out loud. Try telling them to a friend. Do they still make sense and resonate? If not, just keep editing until they do.
I know how exciting it can be to have a business idea you’re really passionate about. You want to get it out into the world, you want to grow your audience, you want it to empower you to live the life you want to live. And you want to get there now. Believe me, I know the feeling.
But you will really do yourself (and your designer if you have one) a favor by getting completely clear on these three things before you get started. So set some time on your calendar to focus on just these questions and dive in. You’ll be at the finish line in no time.
And if you want a little extra help, download this worksheet I’ve put together that will give you dedicated space to brainstorm, edit and define your answers. Plus a little extra bonus that includes some of my favorite online resources to find creative assets for your brand.