7 Steps to Building an Authentic Brand That is Unapologetically You!
Building a brand that’s authentic and that you love could be the difference between having a successful business and one that’s not. Why? Because having a brand that’s authentic means being more in tune with who you are and where your passions lie as well as the needs of your audience. When I started my business almost 6 years ago, I wasn’t authentic at all. I was trying to make everyone happy by doing all the things I was told I should do and how I should do it. As I progressed in my career, I came to realize that I was making a huge mistake that was basically limiting my success.
"IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY AND IT’S A SURE WAY TO BE MISERABLE YOURSELF."
So, I made a shift in the way I communicated with my audience and with myself, understanding my passions and being unapologetic about doing what I love.
Sitting down to reflect on what I wanted for my business was eye opening.
What I realized during that sit down was that I wanted to be ME. I wanted to be funny. I wanted to share my knowledge and provide VALUE in the lives of others. I wanted to CONNECT. I wanted it to be so much more than slapping some designs down with a one liner caption and calling it a day. I wanted the people who showed up for me daily to know they were appreciated. And from that day forward I did just that. In life. In business. With no apologies. And I finally saw my brand grow in all the ways I had wanted from day one.
Maybe you too are starting a business and aren’t sure what the next steps are. Maybe you feel like you SHOULD be doing this or that, but it doesn’t feel quite right. At your core you know what you want to do or need to do but the social media comparison game is paralyzing you with fear. “No one will like me if I do (fill in the blank).” “This big biz is doing it this way so I should too.” “I will finally make it if I do (this thing).” I’m fairly certain we have all thought those things or something similar! Let's stop that nonsense right now and focus on the things we love about ourselves that will also help our business grow.
Here are the seven steps you should follow in order to build an authentic brand that you love and that is unapologetically you.
1. Define what makes you "you"?
One of the first things I did when I decided my brand (and my life) needed a huge overhaul was to sit down and list all of things I loved (and didn’t love!) about myself. What were the things that make me click? What are the things people think of when they think of me as a person? What are my core values? My beliefs? What are my strengths? What aspect of my business/ process do I not enjoy?
My list looked something like: I’m a woman of faith. I’m fiercely loyal. I mess up a lot but I also admit it. I’m pretty funny. I’m probably too intense. I love the color yellow. I believe in giving before receiving. I believe in honesty. I care more about the people that show up for me everyday than I do about any number count on any platform. I love connecting and empowering women, especially new business owners. I love creating community. These are things I will not compromise in order to grow my business.
Once I was supper clear on who I was and how I wanted that to reflect in my business it was easy to begin building a strong brand.
What would your list look like? How can you get super clear on who you are so you can begin building a brand that reflects you? What are you going to put out there that makes people trust you and connect to you?
2. Define your purpose and passions
A lot of times, we become entrepreneurs to “make money”, not necessarily out of passion, but out of need. I began my career with an idea that I wanted to be independent and have total control of my time. I created a business out of what I knew how to do, which was graphic design and website design. I had studied it, had experience in it and was really good at it. So, it simply made sense. However, as the years progressed, I discovered that I truly had a passion for branding and the process of helping people transform their businesses, and ultimately their lives. This is what fuels me.
I would say that understanding your passion from the start and building a business around this will ultimately create a business you love. You want to ask yourself:
WHAT DO I LOVE?
WHAT FUELS ME?
WHAT WOULD I DO FOR FREE?
WHAT DO PEOPLE ALWAYS SAY THAT I'M GOOD AT?
These questions might seem obvious, but they are so important moving forward. In my case, the answers to these questions meant eliminating 80% of the services I was offering. I feel that it’s better to be known as the expert and go-to person who does ONE thing incredibly well and with passion, than known for doing a lot of things, but nothing special. What are you confident that you can do best for others? Do that.
3. Take time to understand your audience and the type of people you want to work with.
One of the biggest lessons that I have learned in business is that unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), nobody really cares about you. LOL, I'm getting somewhere with this, just hear me out.
People mostly care about themselves and the problems that they have and how you can solve them. You see, in life, everything comes down to problems and solutions. Your audience has a problem. That problem might be the simplest thing in the world, like feeling bored on a Friday night, or the most complex thing, like being overweight. Your job is to discover what that problem is and offer a solution that will benefit them.
Building an authentic brand that you love and staying true to who you are means getting to know and understand your audience and genuinely care about creating those solutions for them.
The better you understand your audience and the type of client/customer you want to work with, the better you will get at solving their problems and enjoying the process of working with them. I will go more in depth on creating an ICA (Ideal client Avatar) in a future blog.
You have to do everything in your power to find out what their pain points are. How do you do that? By asking questions. Contact every client that you’ve worked with and ask them where they were before they hired you. Research through Facebook Groups, or simply ask Google. All of these things will get you closer to understanding your audience better than they do.
4. Create an experience that transforms
Once you are clear on your audience and their needs, you want to make sure that you build an experience of transformation. Building a brand that’s authentic means really making an effort to move people from their problems to their solutions, and you want to make sure you communicate it clearly.
For a long time, my marketing and website communicated that I was a graphic designer who created logos, brands, and websites. It was a very general and basic description of what I did and it did not set my messaging apart in anyway.
Eventually, I realized that focusing solely on what I did, took the attention away from what was important: my audience and what I can do for them. So I reframed the way I communicated by stating: I help purpose-driven entrepreneurs + businesses create authentic brands and profitable websites. Can you see the distinction? Now it’s not about me, but what I can do for others. It nor provides clarity about the type of transformation entrepreneurs can expect when they hire me. Where before it was just about someone designing a logo for you, now it’s about building a unique brand.
What you want to do is fill the gap between the problems and the solutions of your audience, and make sure that your communication is geared in that direction. It all comes down to how you frame and package what you do; in other words, it’s all about positioning.
How are you communicating who you are, what you do and how you do it?
5. Ask yourself "What about me can make my brand unique?"
Another thing I used to struggle with when I started my business, was the though that there were so many other designers out there, I would wonder why anybody would hire me over someone else. Here’s the thing — yes, people do hire you in part for your skills. But, the truth is that people hire you mostly for you. There are millions of businesses out there that are doing exactly the same thing you are, but the one thing that makes yours different, is you. Your experiences, your education, your skills, your personality, your values, your “you”.
Building an authentic brand means bringing YOU to the table. Showing up, with your qualities and imperfections and being genuine and real.
The truth is that in the end, we all want to connect. That means that we don’t want to feel like we’re alone in our journey, that we’re the only ones going through whatever it is that we’re going through. We connect when we hear people that understand us. We connect when we feel seen; not invisible. It all comes down to bringing your story to your brand.
6. Accept what you are and what you are not
Once I made my list, I had to get real clear on the fact that I wasn’t going to be for everyone. Not every single person was going to appreciate my aesthetics, my faith, and my personality that shows through my designs. Not everyone was going to flock to my Instagram and hit follow. And I had to be ok with that. And you will have to be ok with that too! (It gets easier, promise).
And while I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I am, in fact, lots of peoples cappuccino :) There may be days where your sales are slow but in that time use it to create community, building trust, and cultivating relationships. And when the time comes for someone to buy your products/ services, chances are they will think of you, because you've given them the space they need to trust your brand by interacting with them and providing value through your content.
WHAT ARE YOU CREATING BESIDES YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE THAT KEEPS PEOPLE COMING BACK FOR MORE?
HOW ARE YOU ALLOWING THEM TO KNOW THE REAL YOU AND THE WHY BEHIND YOUR BUSINESS?
7. Create a brand that is authentic
In the end, if you are creating a business that’s aligned with your passions, offering solutions that are capable of making experiences of transformation for your audience while building your business around what makes you unique, you need to make sure you’re reflecting that in your brand.
Branding is fundamental to making that happen, because branding is all about building perceptions from the inside out. You begin by determining your Unique Selling Proposition and positioning and you end with making sure your brand looks the part.
You need to make sure your logo, website, and images in general, build you the necessary credibility while looking authentic and unique at the same time. Having an image that brings everything I mentioned to the table is fundamental to really creating something extraordinary that’s capable of standing out.
We’re very visual beings and are quick to judge when something doesn’t look valuable. It might be the most incredible and delicious food in the world, but if the restaurant looks dirty and sketchy on the outside, we won’t go in. It’s the same with our brands. If the image doesn’t reflect the value you offer and if it doesn’t make you stand out, people will take 3 seconds to form a decision and leave. Branding the right way will actually be capable of making you stand out from everyone else in your field. At the same time, it will build you recognition and ultimately create more credibility and trust. All of these coupled with your unique goodness are the perfect ingredients to building an authentic brand while staying true to who you are.
When you are true to yourself, you are happy. When you are happy, your brand will shine. It takes work. It takes consistency. It takes knowing what you are willing to compromise on and where you draw the line. But you can build a brand you are proud of, that people take notice of, and a brand they trust…And you can do it being absolutely , unapologetically you.