Ed’s note: This post was written by guest editor Tess Robinson of Smack Bang Designs.
Fun fact: Most business owners don’t die of starvation, they die of indigestion – being gluttons for bright, shiny things that overwhelm rather than satisfy their primary business objectives.
Naturally, a business owner is a business owner because they have had a bright idea. There are light bulbs ding-dinging overhead at a million miles an hour and often, entrepreneurs feel like they just have to do it all: the graphic design, the magazine, the website business, the plant rental business, that new app idea – even the bloody belly button dusters.
Finding a direction for a business is not often the hard part, but sticking to it generally is. We usually know where we want our business to go… in all 23,908 directions, without delay. As entrepreneurs, we get so excited by all the possibilities that it can sometimes be paralysing, or at the very least, leave us feeling scattered, burnt out and as though every cell of our body has been pulled in different directions.
As much as we don’t like to admit it, the way we feel and operate is reflected in our branding.
I’d like to fly a little warning flag here: when we flutter off into scatter-space, it becomes super obvious to our audience. As much as we don’t like to admit it, the way we feel and operate is reflected in our branding. We wear our inside thoughts and emotions on our outside appearance.
I was chatting to a client the other day as she described how she felt that her business had too many directions. I explained that I already knew that – I could tell by the 10 different fonts she had going on, the mix-matched collage of styles throughout her Instagram feed, and the fact that her website copy sounded like it was written by a collection of 30 different authors. Harsh? Yes. True? Very.
Your brand needs to have one core idea in order to clearly communicate why people should work with you. What is it that your brand does?
We all know the importance of having a clear idea of why we exist in this world, to whom our brand is speaking, and what kind of brand personality we want to reflect. However, without setting up some systems and keeping tabs on this, it is easy to venture off the pathway chasing bright shiny things into a rabbit hole of no man’s land.
Having a clear direction, with clear branding, allows you to attract the right kind of customer, and treat them to a good time.
So, how do we get focused and stay focused?
Work out your ‘why?’
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” –Simon Sinek
Whhhhhhyyyyy are you getting out of bed each morning? Why do you skip social events and hunch over your laptop into the wee hours? Why do you stay on top of trends like a cyber-stalker and conduct your inbox like a ping-pong tournament? You’ve got passion in spades about something spectacular – so make sure you’ve connected to your ‘why’, and see if others don’t follow suit.
Brain dump your ideas
If you’re anything like me, the ideation stage is easy. All it takes is a Sharpie and some butchers’ paper and off I go. Within 10 minutes we’ve negotiated a double storey studio, landed the best project to date, worked out our major process issues, landed the deal of a lifetime, solved life’s meaning and eradicated world poverty. The first step for getting clarity is getting it all down. Brain. Dump. Everything. Jot down every idea, thought, feeling and persistent little glimmer of hope – it’s the golden key to the next golden key (and so on).
Check-in and cull
Check your ideas against your big fat ‘why’ and work out which ones to keep and which ones to park for the time being. The ideas that fit within your core idea are the ideas that you need to work towards. There’s no point wasting time and energy on the duds that don’t match your overall mission – cull, and cull some more!
Work on your core
Identifying your core idea is as crucial as caffeine before just about anything. Your brand needs to have one core idea in order to clearly communicate why people should work with you. What is it that your brand does? What does your brand want to represent? You need to be able to be conveying this in one easy-breezy sentence, to keep ’em coming back for more. Under promise, over deliver.
Get to know your audience
The next step is to work out who you’re bending over backwards for. Whose problems are you actually solving? Having a clear idea of your market is essential. Who is your niche/target market? Tailor everything you do and every move you make to that one ideal client. This will help you streamline your approach and prevent you from wandering into too many different directions. Keep coming back to that one client profile and ensuring that everything is in line with their ‘problem’. Love your people – it is infectious.
Craft a brand
Now that you’ve got (most of) your ducks in a row, you need to craft a brand that tells your story, creates an emotional connection with your target audience, and engages people to do business with you. Building a brand is not something that can be rushed; it requires time, care and thoughtful energy. It is vital to have solid branding foundations and a winning style guide so that everything you do is founded on the best premises and remains constant as you progress forward towards superstardom.
Here you are! You’ve done the hard yards and have a sweet, sweet branding deck on-board. Now, it’s crucial to stay consistent and do regular check-ins with the core of your business and brand to make sure that you are staying relevant and true to the cause. Keep the main thing the main thing – I will never tire of saying that. Consistency is key to loyal groupies who want to ride every wave with you!