Branding is Vital | Step Up Your Game

It doesn’t really matter what your business is, branding is the cornerstone. You can be successful in a corporate role at a Fortune 500 company or making fair trade friendship bracelets from locally sourced beads, either way your brand matters. This is perhaps one of the most important principles to embrace when it comes to marketing. You must consider it with every decision you make. Wrapped up within your brand is your story. - That DNA that makes up your marketability as an individual or business. Mess it up and, while you may never know it, you will suffer missed opportunities or lesser success. Get it right, and doors will open that you never imagined you could ever walk through.

Today, I’m going to focus on three compelling reasons you need consider evaluating your brand and ensuring its consistency across your marketing platforms.

Recognition

This is probably the simplest example of the power of a brand. We, as consumers, are programmed to recognize symbols. Whether that symbol is an apple missing a bite, a simple swoosh sign, or a mermaid with a crown, we immediately recognize it and respond appropriately.

Why wouldn’t you want to harness the power of brand recognition for yourself and your business?

Taking the time to think about your target market and develop a strategy and brand identity could potentially change everything for you. I will be writing more about defining your target market and how to create a brand image, but you can get started today by evaluating your ideal customer. Define their age, gender, culture, income level, housing, geographic location, family size, their favorite restaurants, clothing stores, etc., and develop your brand in a manner that is aligned with goods and services they purchase.

By creating a brand identity that is unique and in alignment with your target market, you will more quickly be able to establish a recognizable presence as you market to them. That’s the ultimate goal - having a brand that is first in their mind when they need whatever it is that you offer.

Consistency

Building an identity that you present to your potential clients provides consistency. Your logo, font usage, signatures, color schemes, and design should work together to form your brand. As you go through your daily life, those elements will build upon each other and reinforce who you are as a company or professional. This consistency in approach inspires confidence in your clients. Through it you can weave your story into every aspect of your website design, content creation, and social media. It gives your clients and followers a sense of familiarity and makes your brand more personable. All of these elements are vital to growing a customer base and professional network.

Professionalism

Similar to the blurb about consistency, professionalism is a byproduct of branding. It takes time and commitment to ensure that your content, photos, and social media posts are branded properly. Whether that means having to delay a post a bit due to not having brand consistent images, missing a logo or watermark on a photo or design, or any of the thousands of other details that you must pay attention to. By intentionally engaging in your branding, you are shouting to the world that you care. You aren’t just another of millions of moms or dads with a DLSR or another self-taught designer with no experience or education. Every industry is inundated with people trying to "make it." The vast majority of these individuals are lacking the talent, work ethic, or business sense necessary to be successful. However, the sheer number of them can be overwhelming to consumers and it is important that you differentiate yourself from the masses. Work hard at it! Stand out!

Committing to your brand shows that you are taking yourself and your business seriously, and you expect others to do the same. Anyone can buy a cheap camera, build a free website, and start charging for a CD of photos, but the person that takes the time to nail down their target market, build a consistent image, develop a solid logo (and use it EVERYWHERE!), and create strong content in the form of images, writing, and video (yes, even as an individual looking simply looking for their next job) is much further ahead of the game. Stick with it, provide excellent products and service, and the business, clients, or jobs will follow.

What other branding benefits keep you focused and committed to maintaining your brand?

The Power of a Dream

There are no overnight success stories.

I can’t remember who that quote is attributed to, but Google that phrase and countless quotes from other successful people will fill your screen. Tales of “overnight successes” that were 1, 5, 10, 20 years in the making are the norm rather than the truly overnight rises of a viral video or personality. If you find yourself a few years into the building of your success story and feel like you should have arrived by now, welcome to the club!

The impact dreams have on a life is ironic. On one hand they drive you to grow, fight, and (hopefully) eventually be wildly successful. However, the road that you must travel in the pursuit of that dream can be incredibly painful. I lay awake for hours nearly every night simultaneously fighting feels of inadequacy and hope, while brainstorming ways to grow my fledgling business. I toss and turn, and fight to choke down the urge to throw in the towel because the goal seems so unattainable. Once morning comes, I force myself through the harried morning routine like a robot and groggily march out the door to my 8-5, the job that pays the bills.

Throughout, the power of my dream drives me, inspires me, and challenges me to hustle more, work smarter, and build more relationships. If I weren’t intentional about my approach to life and my dreams, they would drown me and leave me lying burnt out and bitter on the floor of my cubical. Here are three ways I've found that help me be intentional, manage my dream, and stay focused on the “now” while working toward my goals.

Set Boundaries

There are many different directions we could take this discussion on setting boundaries, but let's focus on the importance of protecting personal and family life. When you are focused on pursuing a dream that you are passionate about, pretty much everything in life tends to fall to the wayside. You can spend hours working on a project and forget to eat, stay up all night long, or spend weeks where all of your free time is allocated to the work necessary to get your dream off the ground. This is my version of shouting from the rooftops, “Be Careful!

It’s somewhat painful and frustrating to put projects on hold or step away from a something when you are “in the zone” in order to have a family dinner, play games with your children, or go hang out with friends. It’s not that you don’t love those in your life, quite the opposite! It just that things can become...complicated in the pursuit of our dreams. For example, my family and my desires to provide them with the lifestyle I’d like for them is a major motivator for me. If I sacrifice my relationship with them in order to accomplish that goal I am working against myself.

I can’t imagine reaching my goal, running a healthy entrepreneurial empire, turning around to enjoy my success with my wife and daughter only to find that they’ve left me (whether physically or emotionally) at some point along the way.

The same holds true with friends and personal relationships. Eventually reaching your goal will certainly provide a degree of satisfaction but human beings are social creatures (for the most part), and enjoying accomplishments with relationships intact are what lead to happiness. Money and success without strong, healthy relationships in life do not provide happiness and frequently result in emotions that are the opposite of happiness.

How do you set boundaries?

Part of this comes down to hustle. You have to examine your schedule and determine where your relationship times live. Are your evenings your primary time to spend with family and friends? Set some boundaries that say that you are going to spend two or three evenings a week completely focused on those things. Maybe you don’t feel that you can sacrifice that amount of time? Wait until after your family goes to bed to start working on your projects, get up early in the mornings, instead reading, playing games, or watching Netflix on your lunch breaks, re-allocate that time to working on something for an hour each day…once you commit to protecting your relationships and the time they take, you can quickly begin to see where you’ll need to apply your “hustle” and the other sacrifices you’ll have to make in order to do so. If your dream is important enough, no sacrifice of entertainment or down time will be too large.

Hustle

This is just an old fashioned term for, “WORK HARD!” There’s really no way about it. Sure, you can “work smarter,” but if you apply a solid work ethic to an intelligent approach, you’ll go much further. Often, I see that people touting the “work smarter, not harder” approach confuse working smarter with laziness or a lackadaisical approach. Pursuing a dream is much like weight loss or fitness. You can be like the contender on your favorite reality weight loss show that is complaining and crying about the amount of effort they are putting into their diet when the scale shows that they are obviously being less than honest with themselves. Or, you can be like the contender that works hard, acknowledges that they’ve strayed or stumbled a bit this week but still manage to register a loss on the scale despite setbacks. Progress will not lie. Without hustle, most (if not all) dreams will continue to rest firmly on the ground. With hustle, empires will be lifted with the years of blood, sweat, and tears invested by their creators and explode onto the scene “overnight.”

Be Objective

Establishing your ability to be objective is vital if you want to improve in ANY aspect of your life. No matter your role, industry, or purpose, the ability to maintain objectivity is a non-negotiable trait that will go a long way towards helping you become the success you want to be. I feel like we’ve all been there, heard that, and understand it to some extent. However, you also need to develop your objectivity to the point that you can see the positive traits, growth, or abilities you have without crossing the line in to arrogance or “unfounded self-confidence.”

I tend to do GREAT at finding my flaws, pointing out my mistakes with reckless abandon and fighting to improve “all the things” at the same time. I don’t do so well acknowledging my strengths or progress. Despite amazing developments, I find it difficult to enjoy them at times because I'm always checking things off my list and moving on to my next challenge or goal. It's important that we as creatives, entrepreneurs, and marketers take time to enjoy our successes as they come about, no matter their size.

Hopefully, these three guidelines to pursuing your dreams help you avoid some of the disappointments, frustrations, and burn out that seem to be so common among visionaries. I know this list isn't all encompassing and that there are certainly other important steps to take in order to maximize your chances for success. What steps or rules do you follow? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

(Photo credit: www.pexels.com)