5 Steps to Take Before You Hire a Designer

We see it all too often, and it's like watching someone swimming in a lightning storm. SBOs and entrepreneurs slap a shiny new logo or business card on an idea that hasn't been thought through yet because they're sure it's the piece they need to create a successful business. YIKES, you like to live dangerously, dontcha?!  Not only does this often create a flat brand, it can create inconsistencies in messaging because there isn't a north star or foundation to work from. Can your business be successful still? Sure, you'll probably start to figure these things out one at a time, thousands of dollars and countless hours later. But, it's going to take your customers AWHILE to trust your brand, remember who you are, or take you seriously. Ultimately, you'll be taking the long route to figure out what I'm about to share with you.

Thankfully, you're reading this message and (cleverly) decided to set your brand and business up the right way! You go, Glenn Coco! Before hiring a designer to create your visual identity, follow these 5 steps to establish a roadmap for your brand. 

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Step 1: Research Your Competition

This may sound obvious, but before you create a brand, you need a product. But not just any product. A product with a strong market fit, something that isn't already available. Doing a little research into your competitors goes a long way in determining whether or not your product is (a) needed and (b) already out there. If someone has already snatched up your idea (those vultures!), how might you be able to create a unique offer? Is your product addressing a different pain point? Will it be marketed to a different clientele? Or, is there an opportunity to establish a unique process or story behind your brand? Either way, you'll want to make sure there's room for you in the industry before you spend a dime on branding.  

Step 2: Establish Your Product

Congrats! You've found a hole in the market where your brilliant idea can make a killing! Tough part is over right? Hmmm, not quite. Next you need to make sure that you have a revenue model and can actually make a profit. You know, money? That little thing that none of us like to think about but all of us need. The best way to test your product out is to create a kind of lo-fi sample, or a minimum viable product (MVP) as we in the biz like to call it. Think of your MVP as a kind of Costco sample of your product. It can be used to gauge your COGS (cost of goods sold) and test your product or idea with your key demographic. There's a ton that you can learn from user testing that may have some impact on your branding too. 

Step 3: Determine Your Customer

As you begin testing your product (or service), you'll start to notice characteristics of users that are drawn to it. You likely won't have enough data to make a robust customer persona at this point, but you can garner personality traits, likes and dislikes which will help you determine who your target audience is. Once you have this information, it becomes easier to know how you should talk to your customer, which in turn will give you the framework for your brand voice and identity. Look for things like personality traits, male/female, interests, and location.

Step 4: Define Your Purpose

You'll frequently hear about 'defining your why' in business. This somewhat generic phrase is referring to the reason your product or service exists and what you stand for, your core values. Let's say that you have a coffee company, but you only buy coffee beans from responsibly grown farms (if that even is such a thing). That's something you are going to want to reflect in your branding and messaging. It can effect the visual elements too, so it's a good idea to note what's important to you in terms of your product.

Step 5: Choose a Name

What's in a name? A lot, actually. Your name is the shortest, simplest explanation of your product. It should not only tell your customer what you're selling, but what the personality of your brand is. For example, are your products authentic and trust-worthy (ex. Honest Company). Is the most important thing the value that they create for customers (ex. Dollar Shave Club)? Is your brand going to be rambunctious with a surly sense of humor (Dick's Last Resort)? A good rule of thumb is that you should spend as much time thinking about the name of your brand as you do on all of the branding elements combined. After all, once you choose it, you're kind of stuck with it. Sure, there are some ways to work around it, but ultimately you'll save a lot of money if you get it right the first time. Not only that, but it's pretty difficult to create a logo without it!

For more guidance on finding clarity in your brand, subscribe to our newsletter and we'll send you our Brand Planning Workbook! 

When to Invest in Branding for Your Startup

You’ve got an idea for a business. You’ve started setting aside a little revenue to spend on professional branding. Maybe you’ve even put together a Pinterest board of images that represent the look of your brand (good for you!). Now what?

When it comes to investing in your branding, timing is everything. Waiting till you land a few big clients/sales makes sense from a financial standpoint, but often what’s keeping you from getting those big deals is your branding. At the same time, you don’t want to start building a visual identity before you’ve really figured out who you are and what you stand for.

Believe it or not, there is an ideal time to invest in branding and it’s usually not right at the beginning.

Develop a Brand Strategy

Creating a solid brand strategy is more important than ever in today’s saturated digital market. Your customers (and your competitors) are all online, therefore you need to be online. But simply having a digital presence isn’t enough anymore. If your brand doesn’t stand out as memorable within the first minute of visiting your site, it’s overlooked, and it will be difficult to win back those views.

We see tons of startups spend thousands on a logo and a website to create their online presence before they’ve even figured out how to differentiate their product and their message. Ultimately, these companies have a very hard time creating traction. Their brand identity feels scattered or flat because they haven’t taken the time to create the foundation before diving head first into their branding.

To ensure that your brand is sticky, you’ll want to get super clear on your product value and how to communicate it before you hire an agency or design shop to create your brand’s visual elements. In order to get a cohesive brand that truly engages your customers, your product needs the following elements:

1. A unique selling point

2. An easily-digestible (and memorable) message.

3. A clear vision of what your company stands for and what it doesn’t stand for.

These items are the backbone of your brand. They tell your client what you can do for them, what makes you different from your competition, and why they should care. Without them, you are just white noise.

Lean Branding

So, what happens if you don’t have the experience or data to know what your unique selling point is or a clear brand vision? Or perhaps your business isn’t at the point where you can afford to invest thousands in branding yet? You need some kind of logo and website to test your product with, right? The answer is lean branding. 

Hire a visual designer who can create a basic logo and website for a small fee. This gives you something to get your business out there, to start selling and testing your services in the market. Keep the branding simple so that it’s not such an elaborate change later on. 

Once you’ve had some experience with clients, a strategic brand shop can craft that into something that will take you to the next level.

What the F is a content strategy and does my business really need one?

If you’re a business owner (and haven’t been living under a rock), you’ve likely heard that creating relevant content is an effective way to engage potential customers, improve SEO and drive consistent traffic to your website. The key word here is relevant. Unfortunately, creating content in a vacuum that isn’t related to your business or doesn’t speak to your users can have the reverse effect. It can actually create confusion, mistrust with your customers or make you appear desperate to jump on the content bandwagon.

If the purpose of your content is to engage with customers and drive more traffic or sales, it’s critical to have a cohesive, on-brand, and professional content strategy before you spend anymore time on generating blog posts, Instagram photos, Facebook pages, etc.

But what is a content strategy exactly, and why do I need one? Can’t I just post this video of my cat and hope people will like it and follow my page?

Kristina Halvorson, author of Content Strategy for the Web defines it best:

“[A] content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.”

In other words, a good strategy defines the who, what, where, when, why, and how of your content. Think of it as a roadmap that starts with detailed research into who your customers are and what your competitors are doing in terms of content. From there, your strategy should develop an authentic and on-brand voice, tone, look and feel. It should then explain how to use that content on various platforms (social, email, etc.) including frequency. 

Our content strategy also includes an editorial calendar that spells out what and when content is going out, a keyword list for SEO, and a distribution strategy for sharing content on social media.

Ready to dive into content marketing for your business? Visit our contact page to set up a free consultation!

How I Launched A Business While Pregnant

Most women will tell you not to make any major changes in your life when you’re expecting. But then, I’ve never been one for convention. So, the day after I found out I was pregnant, I put in my two-weeks notice at my cushy tech job and set out to launch my own creative marketing consultancy.

Not even 24 hours had passed since I saw those two pink lines on my third test (because every good entrepreneur needs at least three sources to confirm a theory) before I made one of the most life-changing decisions anyone can make.

While the news of my pregnancy was met with joy and a few It’s about dang time! responses from most, my plans to start a business received some cautionary replies like Are you sure you want to do this?, What about health insurance?, What are you going to do once the baby comes? or the seemingly-supportive Well, you can always go get another job if it doesn’t work out, right? There’s merit to these questions. I was aware of how difficult the choice I was making was and the hardship it could bring to my budding family, but I had already decided to leave the company before I knew I would be adding another title to my resume: MOM. After some deliberation, multiple pros-and-cons lists, and the full support of one very understanding hubby, I decided this was the right choice.

Now on the other side of signing my first few clients, I know this is the best possible time to be taking on both roles.

First Trimester: Navigating New Challenges

Never having had a baby or launched a company before, the first trimester of both were admittedly rocky. Besides the hustle and bustle of building a personal brand and establishing a clientele, I was dealing with perpetual exhaustion and morning sickness (which frequently lasted all day). On one occasion, I ducked out of a conversation with a very promising lead to sprint to the ladies’ room. 

"It was in this moment that I realized why so many women feel the need to sacrifice a career to start a family. This was not going to be easy."

Though some days were less productive than I would have liked, I pushed through and took advantage of my peak energy hours. Every morning, regardless if I was peeling myself out of bed or off of the bathroom floor, I’d journal, meditate or say my affirmations (Read: You don’t suck at this!) to keep my mindset in check. I created a clean and professional website for my business and used my network to get the word out about what I was doing. Plus, I networked my little butt off. With no business cards and little more than a Facebook ad, I started getting some leads that eventually converted to business.

Second Trimester: Forming Key Partnerships

It takes a village to launch a business, or at least to launch one successfully. In the first few months of my venture, I’ve been lucky enough to build relationships with mentors and form strategic partnerships that have landed me leads, additional freelance work, and even an office space. But perhaps the most important partnership is the one I have at home.

It’s crucial in this first year to be selective with which clients and projects you take on, and being on the same page about that with your spouse is everything. My husband provides the emotional and financial support - as well as health benefits -  that I need to get both business and baby off the ground (er, out of the womb). He also shares the responsibilities of our household which makes me feel more comfortable in planning for what the near future of my business will look like with a newborn. I’m excited to have the flexibility of occasionally working from home with our new baby girl when the time comes, but I know that there will be some late nights at the office, or client meetings that run over, or evenings when I’m just too exhausted to figure out dinner. Having that support at home is one of the biggest assets for my business I could hope for.

Third Trimester: Keeping Perspective

One unexpected benefit of being pregnant while starting a business is how easy it is to let things go. Starting a family gives you an incredible perspective on what really matters. I don’t stress about having every answer, closing every lead, or the day-to-day setbacks that come from being my own boss.  Somehow, despite my Type A personality, I have the ability to remain laser focused on the bigger picture; the fact that I’m not only doing this for myself and my husband, but for our little girl. My wish is that someday she will know that she doesn’t have to choose between family and career. She can be great at both. Nor will she have to stay in a job that doesn’t make her happy. She can choose to carve her own path as I am.

Ultimately, what keeps me going past the tough days of early entrepreneurship is the hope that she will be proud of her mama, and maybe even start a business and a family of her own one day.


Planning to start a business while raising a family or already have? Share your advice for other aspiring mompreneurs in the comments below.