Why EVERY Business Needs a Brand Strategy

Starting a business is not for the faint of heart.

The amount of hustle with no guarantee of any kind of security or long-term wealth. Dealing with an unrelenting inferiority complex. Writing (and re-writing) website copy. Trying to explain why your product is different from the dozens of others. Boosting yet another Facebook post and hoping that this one yields some sales. Scouring the planet for the right team members who will rally around your vision. 

Yep, there’s no denying that the business game will test your ability to KNOW and COMMUNICATE your value and vision effectively.  Effectively being the key word. It's not enough just to write a mission statement, value prop, or customer persona. You need these items to align in a way that makes your audience subconsciously identify with them. 

Strategy Solves Problems

Many businesses face the same issues: they spend money and time on social media, PR, advertising, influencers, etc. but come up short on sales. When you don't know who you are as a brand or have difficulty communicating it, it effects your culture internally too. 

I know because I've been there. When I started my company less than two years ago, I spent months spinning my wheels, working late nights and trying to figure out why it wasn't working. I knew my value but others didn't get it. I'd have interest, I'd create beautiful proposals, I designed a lovely/simple website but my potential clients weren't buying.  I nearly quit after my 4th month of NO INCOME. 

Then something amazing happened, I built what is now my Mini Brand Sprint, an intensive strategy session based on about 10,000 hours of research into previous clients, successful brands, and books on marketing and branding. I put my own business through my machine and immediately booked my first client. Then in the next two months I booked 3 more. After that, I began seeing significant increases in my revenue and am now on track to quadruple my business this year!!! 

Why Outsource Your Brand Strategy?

Do you cut your own hair? Change your own oil? Groom your dog? Clean your house? I'm willing to bet you don't and it's not because you can't or you don't want to. It's probably because of two reasons 1. You know someone can do it better. OR 2. You know it will take you more time how to figure out how to do it well than to outsource it. What's funny is that you'll spend hundreds (sometimes thousands) on these things and they do NOTHING to move your business along.

No doubt, you are an absolute pro at your actual product or service. You know you are. Unfortunately, when it comes to marketing, it's not the best product or service that wins. It's the product or service that's easiest to understand and is most memorable that wins.

Unless your previous position was a marketing exec or branding expert, you're going to need the support of someone who not only knows how to strategically position your brand, but how to write messaging that SELLS. Because it doesn't matter how great your product is or how beautiful the experience if nobody is using it. You have to get the customer to buy in order to know that it's great. 

A rock-solid brand strategy with an experienced agency will not only save you TIME (and help you skyrocket your sales and growth), it will save your sanity. Instead of spending years trying to get to these answers yourself. 

What's in a Brand Strategy?

During our intensive brand strategy sessions, we work collaboratively with clients, setting a roadmap for the positioning of the company, recalibrating the target for the emotional aspect of the brand as a whole, and finally clarifying the messaging so that everyone in the company can repeat the core elements seamlessly. Whether a client is looking to rebrand, refresh an existing brand or just appeal to a new audience, we challenge them to solidify their Brand DNA by tackling the following elements: 

1. Audience Persona: "Who is your ideal customer?" (Male/female, age, demographic, wants, needs, aspirational desires) 

2. Market fit: "What's the main problem your customer faces as it relates to your product?" (plus any internally problems the customer faces as a result).

3. Mission/Elevator Pitch: "How does the product solve that problem?" (plus getting clear on how to make this message relatable and easily digestible to customers.)

4. Value Prop: “Why should they care?” (what sets you apart from the noise and how are you different).

5. Vision: "How will the product change the world, the industry, etc?" (how can we make the brand part of a bigger movt.)

6. Core Values: "What are the values that represent the company?" (how does this relate to the product, company culture, etc.)

It's through this lens that we start to develop their messaging, voice and visual brand. 

If you're in a competitive or saturated market, if you've been spinning your wheels but not getting the ROI on your marketing that you want, if you've never worked on a brand strategy before, or if you're trying to appeal to a new audience, reach out to us! We've helped 100s of brands find clarity in their identity and access stronger positioning and digestible messaging that has translated into sales!!!

Why EVERY business needs a Brand Strategy.png

The Danger of Mainstreaming: Why Starbuck's Reserve Brand is Too Little Too Late

No doubt you've seen them popping up in trendy areas like Echo Park and the main drag of Palm Springs. The baristas wear hipster-style hats (likely part of their required uniform) as if to say, "We're consistent in our aesthetic, but definitely not corporate." The logo itself has a loosely veiled message that's meant to tell us this place is special with a simple star over a line and a single 'R'.

All the while, it feels like a proverbial Hail Mary for a mainstream brand that has lost its luster.

Starbucks used to be THE place to meet clients, escape from the office and complain with coworkers, or just sit for hours with your laptop and people watch while pretending to work. October meant nothing without a Pumpkin Spice Latte, and Christmas time came early for Gingerbread Latte drinkers. Having the coveted rose gold tumbler was a symbol of just how dedicated and driven you were to your coffee. But in the last couple of years, we've seen a shift in branding in the coffee industry.

The Law of Diminishing lOYALTy

As is the case with any commodity, the value and desire is significantly impacted with the accessibility of a product. In branding terms, I like to call this The Danger of Mainstreaming. As you try to appeal to more and more customers, your main audience loses interest. They no longer feel that the product is special or 'THEIRS', brand loyalty diminishes, and eventually you start closing down stores

Good ol' S-to-the-B seems to be combating their mainstream blues with a 'return to an immersive coffee experience' via their Starbucks Reserve locations. From the macrame decor to the elaborate coffee contraptions, the look of the Echo Park Reserve has all the allure of a new, hot boutique coffee house. Even the website is a strategic turn for the brand, focusing more on the source of the beans and the stories of the people who grow them than which mythological animal they'll create a coffee for next (cough cough, unicorn frappuccino). Still, upon careful observation, we can't help but notice that the brand is still largely lacking in its offerings. All of the innovation is happening in the coffee process with little attention to any other area. 

Sure, the new Reserve is a strategic move for the decades old global brand, but is the effort too little too late? With local favorites like Phillz and Groundworks continuing to take up market share and offering healthier food options, house-made organic milk-alternatives, and customizable choices on the level of sweetness for drinks, we can't help but feel that the Green Coffee Giant (see what I did there) is falling short on the desires of its core customers who likely care less about how the coffee is brewed and more about how they will feel after drinking it. 

Now, we're not hating on Star-Bizzle, they are still killing it in the app game - the order ahead feature really comes in handy, especially for interns. With any luck, they'll take a step back and recognize that most of their customers are looking for a boutique feel with melts-in-your-mouth goodies and ingredients that are house-made so that even if we're having a cheat day, it still feels like we're being good to our bodies. We just hope they figure it out before their competitors do. 

How This Applies To Your Small Business

You may be wondering how this applies to you if you're not a large company (yet). Many of you are actually thinking, "Hey, I'd be lucky to be as successful as Starbucks is." You're not wrong, Starbucks did a lot of things right in the beginning which afforded them the success they've had since starting the business in the 80s. What we can learn from this is how to navigate the waters and prep your brand for the long haul. Here's some helpful hints on how to avoid becoming mainstream and losing your uniqueness.

1. Set your brand identity ahead of time, and be uncompromising on it. This means establishing your Brand DNA, the heart of your company (mission, vision, core values, value prop, customer profile) up the right way before you start scaling.

2. Don't fall victim to trends, if it doesn't fit your brand, it's not worth the short term traction. You'll end up just blending with the crowd and confusing your ideal customers in the end.

3. Know your audience. This is part of your brand identity, but it also means continuing to get to know them, grow with them, ask yourself constantly what they really need and find ways to address needs they didn't even know they had with some solid market research and contextual inquiry.

4. Innovate and scale intentionally. Growth is what keeps you relevant, but find ways to do it that still make your customers to feel that the brand is personal and bespoke to them. 

The Dangers of Mainstreaming (1).png

Why Purpose is the Key Ingredient to Your Food Brand

We are in the middle of a major change in how and why consumers connect with products. Particularly within the food industry, brands with clarity in purpose are popping up everywhere and financially outperforming those without. As the economy shifts and Millennials and Gen Z start taking on leadership positions in food-based corporations around the world, a new trend is underway and it's not just about clean ingredients. 

Top Shelf Branding

Hot off my visit to FounderMade's Consumer Discovery Show in NYC where emerging brands in food, health and beauty gather to mingle with top influencers, buyers and people like me (trade professionals), plus a visit to the Heart Series event in Los Angeles a month ago, I can't help but take notice of the outliers. I'm talking about brands who not only have a solid customer base of die hard fans, but who seem to have a better product, happier team members, and a sense of self that makes them a force to be reckoned with. Brands like This Bar Saves Lives have gone as far as building their purpose into their business model, offering a 1-for-1 match where every bar purchased donates a snack bar or life-saving nutrient to a child in need. 

It pays to stand for something. In a recent study, Gallup found that when purpose and product were aligned, customers gave nearly twice as much "wallet-share" as when these factors didn't align. More and more consumers are connecting with brands that connect with causes like solving world hunger, promoting body-positivity, and encouraging ethical practices in production.

The effects of digging deeper into 'your why' go further than your bank account too. According to Aaron Hurst, entrepreneur and author of the book, “The Purpose Economy,” Millennials are driven by purpose, with 84% of them seeking purposeful work. With Millennials representing 75% of the workforce by 2025, it's worth looking at what will motivate them. Companies that hope to retain top talent and create a dynamic work culture should shift their focus from ping pong tables and nap pods, and focus more on engaging employees by clearly communicating their utopian vision of a better world and showing them how their work contributes to that vision.

The Secret's in the Sauce

So what does it mean to be purpose-driven?

Purpose is the difference between managing people and resources, and mobilizing them. It's not about just having the right packaging or messaging. It's about getting in touch with a bigger vision and well-aligned brand identity. Setting some truths or core values about your company and actually sticking to them. Determining the vision that you're working towards (beyond just the success of your company), and rallying your team, customers and stakeholders around that vision so they feel invested in your brand enough to choose you over the competition.

Need to get in touch with your bigger vision, values, or purpose? Work with us! 

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Blog Post - How to Book More Clients Through Branding (1).png

4 Mistakes I See Entrepreneurs Make in Their Branding and How to Correct Them

Between our agency and the many workshops I teach, I've seen hundreds of businesses that aren't getting the traction they want.  They have the passion, they have a smart product (most of the time anyways), and they have the drive and ambition to move forward. But something's still not working.

Inevitably, there's a few common mistakes that I see entrepreneurs make all the time with their branding that hold them back from making money. 

While these are by no means the only mistakes I encounter, they seem to be the most common, low-hanging-fruit and worth mentioning as they can have the biggest impact on your business. 

1. The Chicken or Egg Complex - this is how I affectionately explain entrepreneurs who are waiting to book big clients or fill major orders before they invest in their branding. The irony is that what is standing in the way of getting that revenue is THEIR BRANDING. They know it. I know it. Yet, they wait months, sometimes years to wake up to this fact.

How To Fix It: Invest in your brand. Determine the amount of annual revenue you want to make and do as the successful businesses do. Invest 10% of that total into your branding. The simple truth of the matter is if you don't believe in your business/product enough to invest in it, how can you expect your customers to?

2. The Nike Swoosh Myth - I love Nike. My journey to branding started with Nike. I also love their branding. But the fact of the matter is that Nike isn't a multi-billion dollar business because of their logo. In fact, legend has it Nike paid about $30 for the swoosh. Nike is a success because they built an incredible brand identity and did everything in their power to keep the brand consistent with that identity. They knew exactly who they were, who their customers were, what value they had to offer, they differentiated from their competition, and they constantly found innovative ways to share their message. Oh yeah, and they spent millions of dollars on marketing each year to spread that message. So many customers still think that branding is entirely about a logo or website. These items are absolutely important, but they ARE NOT your brand. They are the vehicles you use to communicate your brand. 

How To Fix It: Get crystal clear on your brand identity before you spend a penny on branding. Hire a brand strategist to align your mission, value prop, customer profile, core values, and vision with the product you offer.  

3. The Fluff Faux Pas - More is not always better. It's usually just fluff. Filler. Unnecessary noise that is clouding the messaging of a product trying to compensate for a lack of value or desperate to stay in front of their competition. Whether it's blocks of copy on your website trying to explain every facet of what you do (which, let's be honest, nobody is reading) or the cheap swag you're just putting your logo on because you have that big event coming up and you can never go wrong handing out more crap with your brand mark on it, right?  

How To Fix It: Think strategically about each piece you create. What will this be used for? Do your customers really need yet another tote bag, or is there something that actually relates to your brand and could be more useful to them?  When it comes to website copy, set up your text so that your customers can easily skim the info. Be considerate of their time by making it simple to navigate.


4. The Bandwagon Blunder - Whether you're trying to hop onto the latest trends by adding more unneeded decoration to your marketing materials, incorporating too many fonts or colors on your website, or adding more and more products to your online shop to keep up with your competition, being a Bandwagon Jumper is one of the easiest ways to taint your brand and confuse your customers. 

How To Fix It: Know your audience. Find what sets you apart and make sure every product or service you offer is aligned with those two things. Create a Brand Bible and refer back to it often to ensure that your efforts are aligning with your mission and vision. And, for the love of all that is holy, pick 2 fonts and no more than 4 main colors for your brand to use across all of your materials. 

Need help with establishing who you are as a brand and how to best communicate it? Learn more about our Brand Sprint Strategy Session

4 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make in Their Branding

How to Radically Differentiate From the Competition

“Companies often strive to be the best, but the first thing they should do is merely be different.”

– Corbett Bar, entrepreneur and marketer

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of business and branding is a company's ability to stand out. It's no longer enough to just try to be different to gain traction in the beginning. You need to have a hook - something distinct that's substantial enough to be interesting and relevant to your customer.

A Value Prop, sometimes called a Unique Selling Point, is a concept that you are known for and sets you apart from your competition. It can be one defining characteristic or a few different factors, but each of them should be things that your competition CAN’T or WON’T claim. 

One of the best ways to determine a value prop for your company is to think strategically about your industry. What pisses you off about it that absolutely needs to change in your eyes? How can you provide a change (big or small) that would create an overall better experience? 

Here’s two examples of strong Value Props: 

Dollar Shave Club. A great shave for a few bucks a month.
DSC is a solid example of a good value prop. The focus is on the cost per month that you will pay for a quality razor creating value that sets them apart from their competition. They also emphasize the convenience of having your razors shipped to your house vs. going to the store.

This company believed so fervently in their value that they used their value prop to influence the brand name (Dollar Shave Club), tagline ('Shave Time. Shave Money.') and content - their popular video promos consist of funny, hyperbolic instances of what customers go through in buying their (overpriced) razors at a drug store - further solidifying them as an outlier from the competition.

Drybar. No cuts. No color. Just blowouts. 

Drybar is another fantastic example of a simple, distinct value prop. Blowouts were not a new concept, nearly every salon in the country offered them as part of a service. The value Drybar offers is in the experience of the service and the focus on just performing blowouts. While their products expand beyond blowouts, it was this unique difference that made the brand compelling and marketable. 

Your value prop doesn't have to be catchy or marketable copy. It absolutely MUST set you apart from the competition. In other words, if your competition could also claim the value you offer, it is not a true value prop.  

Take a couple of minutes right now to think about what value you can bring to your customers that none of your competitors are tackling. Perhaps it’s not in the product itself but in the process of making the product, or the experience in buying the product that makes it unique. 

Want help developing a stronger brand identity for your company? Schedule a brand strategy session with us! 

Copy of Copy of Copy of Blog Post - How to Book More Clients Through Branding.png

Brand Concept Moodboard - Hotel Lola

As a native Southern Californian, it's impossible not to have an affinity for Palm Springs. So when our friends had an idea for a hotel in the area, we jumped at the opportunity. Hotel Lola is the perfect mix of desert chic with a cool California vibe. Imagining ourselves lounging by the pool here with a refreshing cocktail in hand gave us ALL THE FEELS.

Brand Mood. A take on the relaxed B&B model with the amenities of a luxury hotel, we used imagery that felt boutique yet upscale. We also wanted to keep it really clean and modern but with cheery pops of color. 

Color Palette. Naturally a flamingo pink and signature splash of grapefruit would bode well for a hip new hotel in PS. To offset the femininity of the tones, we added a deeper palm green and clean mint, playing with both the washed out hues of the area and brighter shades.

Typography. We've become obsessed with Signature Collection lately and have been waiting for just the right brand to use this, and of course Lola had all the personality to pull it off! Paired with the polished, modern Brother 1816 we've got a good mix of leisurely fun and resort casual.

Logo Inspo. Taking a cue from this modern sparkling cocktail brand, we kept the logo mark inspo polished and dynamic. Designers love working with short names, it creates some of the best work! 


How to Write a Compelling Mission Statement

One of the more frequent questions I’m asked is: Where’s the best place to start with branding?
As generic as it may sound, a solid brand strategy starts with a strong mission statement. You’ve likely heard of a mission statement before, but may not know why this is relevant to branding. 

Contrary to popular belief, your brand isn't your logo, color schemes, or look and feel of your website. Your brand is what other people think about your product or service. In order for someone to have an opinion about your business, first they need to know what you do. That's where your mission statement comes in. 

"A Mission Statement is a one-sentence statement describing what you want to be doing in the present and for whom. It should be clear, concise and useful." 
Copy of Copy of Blog Post - How to Book More Clients Through Branding.png

This isn’t the place to be aspirational. You should be able to deliver on your mission statement from day one of your business.  There's no right or wrong as far as the length of the statement. I've seen really compelling mission statements that are two words long. The most important factors are that it's descriptive enough for anyone to understand and easy enough to remember.   If you’ve never written a mission statement before, here’s a
simple format:

 What You Do + Who/What You Do This For

To help you out with this first step to defining your brand identity, here are some examples of strong mission statements from companies we know and love:

TEDx: Spreading ideas.                                                                                                                Google: To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Facebook: To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.
Charity:water: Bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries.

If you want to be a little fancier with your mission statement, you can also add your "why". What is the purpose of your business? What's the bigger picture effect of what you do?

Give it a try! Comment below with your mission statement and we'll share our feedback. 

Want help developing a stronger brand identity for your company? Schedule a brand strategy session with us! 

Brand Concept Moodboard - The Buffalo Farm

When the Buffalo Farm came to us looking for brand strategy, we were straight up giddy to work with them. A glamping style yurt and teepee B&B with a rustic Canadiana vibe!? Yes, please! This is the kind of stuff brand dreams are made of. 

Brand Mood. To pay homage to the breathtaking location, connection to local wildlife (the property has a buffalo and horse sanctuary), as well as the family's American Indian heritage, we kept the look very earthy and raw. 

Color Palette. Deep, majestic hues that call to mind the turning of the leaves, pine trees, the local well where patrons will gather their water - it's all part of the authentic off-grid experience this incredible business has to offer. 

Typography. Connecting a hip modern font like Alternate Gothic with the typewriter-esq Lekton gives the brand a balance between craftsmanship and new-age design. 

Signage. We drew inspiration from other cool general stores and breweries that fit the brand's vibe. The property will soon be adding a medieval structure micro brewery on location - the first of its kind. 

Website Direction. With such incredible, original photography and a landscape that will make you rethink your studio apartment, we wanted a template that would reach right through your laptop and pull you into their world. 


How to Book More Clients Through Branding - Part 1

Marketing has evolved. It’s no longer about what you make but the lifestyle and experience you promise. By positioning yourself with strategic branding and messaging, you can attract the unicorn clients that you’re dying to work with. I know this from personal experience.

At the beginning of launching my branding business, I had no clients or packages in place. For the first several months I floated around, putting elaborate proposals together, attending 3 networking events minimum per week, and working my little bum off, trying to find work in all of the areas I had experience in; social media, copywriting, content strategy, branding, etc.

"I thought that I’d make myself more relevant and appealing to more potential clients by trying to be all things to all people, but in reality I made NO MONEY."

The tragic irony was my branding was all over the place. I had a pretty website, but it was unclear what I specialized in, what made me different from my competition, and which types of businesses were a right fit for me. It wasn't until I got crystal clear on my brand identity that I started to book clients. Following the steps I'm sharing below, I've effectively doubled my income and can happily say I'm attracting dream clients that I love working with. 

Copy of Blog Post - How to Book More Clients Through Branding.png

Step 1: Brand Clarity + Positioning

"Branding is about so much more than just a pretty logo or website." 

The first step to creating a successful brand is to get seriously clear on your offering + ideal clients. Don’t worry if you don’t have the best assets at the beginning. Having a solid brand story is more important. Get a solid brand strategy together and, if you’re a service business, set up clear simple packages (even brand them if you can) that are easy for customers to understand and refer you.

Learn more about what goes into our Brand Sprint strategy sessions. 

Step 2: Laser Focus

"Focusing is about saying no." - Steve Jobs

With your solid brand strategy in place, say buh-bye to anything (including new work) that doesn’t fit your brand and vision. Don’t try to be the Jill (or Jack) of all trades. Even though you may get bit jobs easily, it makes your brand unfocused and hard for customers to latch onto when you are not focused in an area of expertise people can count on. You end up scraping the bottom of the barrel instead of getting the focused clientele you want. Taking on every opportunity will never help you get to the level that you want to get to. 

Step 3: Get Comfortable with Self Promotion

Once you've nailed steps 1+2, you'll need to create some brand awareness for what you do. The easiest way to do this is to start with your personal network. Don't get this confused with selling to your personal network. You should instead think of this as simply getting coffee with old acquaintances to catch up with what they are doing and maybe share what you've been up to.

Tip: I designed a simple (non salesy) email and sent it around my personal network; the 5,000+ contacts I had in Gmail, LinkedIn, old rolodexes, etc.

The purpose of the email was friendly and casual, and the only call to action was to set up a call or in-person meeting with me to catch up and see if there was an opportunity for synergy. No expectations were made. I booked one person as a direct result of this email campaign, but I also got the word out to old managers, coworkers, friends, etc. about what I was doing. I’ve really made an effort not to abuse these lists/contacts. I only email my contacts at large once per year now to keep the word out about what I’m doing. Think of it as a business Christmas card. 

Step 4: Talk About Your Topic

“A thought leader is someone with proven expertise and experience who isn’t afraid to share it with the world without direct compensation.” – Jay Baer

There are so many ways to do this; workshops, speaking on or hosting your own podcasts, sitting on panels, speaking at relevant events, writing for a publication in your subject area. There are plenty of companies out there looking for speakers on a variety of topics. To get the best response, find the organizations that fit your brand and are looking for your particular gifts. 

I got my start teaching workshops on branding at a tech school I had an existing relationship. They’ve been so popular that I’m now asked back twice per month and I’ve taught them for other accelerators and organizations around Los Angeles. Putting a little time and energy towards this every month will pay dividends in the end. I’ve recently booked a handful of clients that were on panels with me or attendees of my workshops.

Want more help getting clear on your brand? Get our free Brand Planning Worksheet with helpful tips on creating a brand that attracts!

How to Win at Instagram For Your Small Business

Instagram is such a great way to share your brand and really engage your customers through content. If you’re not already using it for your business, you may be missing out on a huge opportunity to market to your customers. It's simple to use, free, and with a little planning doesn't have to take up too much of your time to do well. Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of followers at first. I recently booked a 10k customer as a result of my Instagram, and I only had 200 followers at the time. 

Let's break down how to win at Instagram for your brand, step by step:

Branding Your Instagram

Set Up Your Profile.

  • Account type - Use a business account vs. a personal account. The main difference is that a biz account gives you a contact button on your profile which makes it easier for customers to reach out.

  • Handle - Choose a name that is homogenous with your brand name. If your grand name is your actual name, like mine is, it’s okay to use your name. If it’s not, I’d recommend either starting a separate business account, or adding your business name to your Instagram profile. Consider even changing your handle.

  • Profile image - Use something that’s clearly associated with your business, either a logo or if you have more of a personal brand, it’s okay to use a headshot, just make sure the picture is in line with the look-and-feel of your content. I’ll chat more about what that means in a minute.

  • Bio - Keep this short, sweet and on-brand. For example, if your brand voice is more casual and witty, your profile should follow suit (emojis are okay). If it’s more refined and professional, don’t have a bunch of emojis in there. Stay consistent.

Create Quality Content.

  • Vibe - Your photos should all have a stylized look and feel to them, but they shouldn’t all be of the same thing. If you go to my Instagram, you’ll see there’s different kinds of posts - some speak to how we work, some promote the work we’ve done, there’s some mood images, quote posts, etc. but they all have a similar look to them: clean, a lot of white space, but creative, relaxed, almost like a luxury vacation. This is very intentional, we want our clients to feel at ease when they are interacting with our brand.   

  • Colors - Stick to a color palette that fits your brand. Our color palette consists of white and gray colors with pops of green, turquoise and some blush. Decide on this ahead of time to make it easier on yourself to pick which images fit your look.

  • Originality - I won’t sugar coat it for you, when it comes to your images, original content is so important. That said, it takes time and money to create that content, but it is a worthy investment. I’d recommend reaching out to a photographer that has a style you really like, see if they’d be willing to do a trade. The good news is you can create content in one session that can be used over and over. Not all of the content has to be original, but we use roughly a 70/30 ratio. 70% original, 30% stock or repurposed. Also, find ways to be unique with your content that will grab your viewers attention. 

  • Caption - Don’t forget about your captions. Having dreamy photos is great. Having dreamy photos and an engaging caption is gold. Your captions should also be written in your brand voice. As a good rule of thumb, your caption should aim to either evoke an emotion or action, or educate your audience. For example, we’ll educate our audience on what makes a strong brand and what our process is, or snip-its from my workshop with a call to action to attend.

  • Boost -  When you have a photo that really speaks to what you do, the value you bring, in both the photo and the caption, with a clear call to action, boost the post. It was through this $10 boosted post that I ended up booking a $10k client. Talk about a return on investment. 

Make a Plan.

  • Strategy - Write a mini strategy for your ‘gram. Decide what 3 things you want to communicate through your Instagram feed, and stick to that. For example, if you want it to have a really inspirational vibe to it, etc then the look, tone, and content should all feel upbeat.

  • Moodboard - Get on Pinterest and start pinning ideas and inspiration for what you might like the look and feel of your images to be, colors, etc.

  • Visualize Your Feed - I mentioned this earlier this week, but I recommend using something like Planoly which allows you to upload photos ahead of time to see how they will look with your other photos, this is the best way to get a really consistent look and feel for your account.

  • Hashtags - Find popular hashtags that fit your brand and put them into a Google Drive doc that you can refer back to when you’re creating posts. I’d also recommend grouping them by theme, if needed. Also, to give your content some flair, create 1-2 hashtags of your own or use your name. For example, we use #madebyryandco for anything we share that we created, and #brandlikeaBoss which is our tagline.


  • Connect - It's not enough to just post content, this is social media (emphasis on the social part). When you're starting out, it's important to spend time engaging with your audience.

  • Find your tribe - Hashtags are a great way to find people who you are interested in marketing to. For example, if you see our hashtags, we use a lot of the bosslady and staybossy ones as well as some that are targeted to small business and more targeted ones that related specifically to branding.

  • Follow - Find people who have a similar vibe to yours and follow them. Instead of just giving your business cards out when you meet people at networking events, give them your Instagram handle and take theirs down too. It's the best way to stay in touch anyways.

  • Interact - Comment on other people's stuff, genuine comments, not just ‘love this’. In fact, as often as you can, ask questions in your comments, it opens up


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. 

How to Win at Instagram for Your Brand.png

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!

Ready to work with a designer? We'll help set you up for success with a Brand Sprint strategy session to clarify your brand identity and determine the design direction for your brand. 

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.

Copy of Blog Post - Why do We Brand (2).png

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.

Blog Post - How to Book More Clients Through Branding.png

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. 

Before you establish a robust content strategy, make sure that your brand identity is clear, concise and relates back to your value prop with an in-depth brand strategy session.

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 boutique branding shop.

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.

Blog Post - How I Launched a Business While Pregnant (1).png

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.