Haley Rae is not only a member of The Inspiration Lab, but she’s also the creative mastermind behind much of our website, workbooks, and more. For six years she has been helping small business owners strengthen their brands with design, strategy, and websites that convert through her boutique design studio, Studio Wilde. When she's not pushing pixels on her laptop, she's either in the ocean, snuggling her pups, or trying to tame her bed head.
If you’ve been in business a while, you know the struggle is real when it comes to losing steam in the backend. Burnout, inspiration overload, and comparison traps can easily send you down the path of “what even IS my brand, anymore?!”. Whether you switch color palettes like Bob Ross, are having trouble defining your unique voice, or find yourself taking on clients who are less than ideal, there are some major brand focus hurdles I can help you jump.
Below are five ways to refocus on your brand while you're staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It doesn’t matter if you're just starting out or have been in business for years — these exercises will help you gain brand clarity and inspire you to take action today (and from your sofa!) without the overwhelming feeling that usually comes with reading the word “exercise.”
Why you started in the first place. Where you're headed. How you want to make an impact on the world around you. Knowing your vision means having a clear understanding of the journey you’re on — why you’re on it and the problems you’re helping people solve along the way. Things change, the market is changing constantly, and the way you do business might have changed recently, so your vision might have to change too. That's okay... just keep moving forward!
Maybe you started your floral business because you love flowers and making beautiful arrangements. But how do you enrich the lives of others with this service? Maybe you help customers build connections between people when they give the gift of flowers.
- Why do I do what I do?
- Who am I helping and how?
- If I had all the tools I need and I only heard “yes” from here on out, what's my big dream for my brand?
Invite your audience into your vision and share your “why.” Use your voice (more on this later) to evoke feelings and emotions beyond the physical thing you're selling. Your vision adds depth to your branding. It's unique to you and cannot be replicated.
Values are something we all have, even if we don’t always think about them on a conscious level. Identifying your brand values will help you attract your ideal clients. Your values might be more clear to you now during this time of crisis. They represent a promise of how your business will show up and conduct itself. They also help you stand out and differentiate yourself from your competition. Consumers don't just price-shop; they make gut decisions on who they'll purchase from and work with. When deciding between similar offerings, a buyer will likely buy from the one who shares the same values as them.
Your floral business values sustainability, so you never wrap bouquets in plastic and only sell arrangements in handmade vases. A buyer who shares your values will choose your shop over a grocery store bundle, even when it's at a premium price. They feel when they buy your bouquet, they're voting for the environment, even if it's at a subconscious level.
- What does my business stand for?
- What am I not willing to compromise?
- What do I consider to be important in life?
Share your values on your website or sprinkle them into your social media content. Your audience wants to be invited into a story they can see themselves in. Incorporating your values in your messaging, website, and social media gives customers a chance to find you, get to know you, and become raving fans.
Your brand voice is the way you communicate with your audience. It’s important your voice is natural, which can be the hard part considering we were all trained out of writing like we talk. If you're like me and have a zillion emails sitting in your inbox from that one PDF you wanted to download, take a peek at some of those. I bet the ones you keep opening sound effortless, almost like you're hearing from a friend. Your writing doesn't have to be cutesy or cursing in order to get your tone across. What it does need to be, like everything in branding, is consistent. If the phrase "Hey, gorgeous" has never left your lips, it doesn’t belong on your website.
Take my intro above, for example. You could probably draw a few conclusions about me after reading it: Haley loves her dogs, the beach, alliteration, and might not own a hairbrush. Maybe I turned some people off from reading more, but the ones who said "Yes! Me too — I'm currently rocking a bird’s nest up top!" kept reading. Using your voice is a great way to attract your ideal clients, the ones who see themselves in your brand.
Exercise - How do I greet people IRL when I see them, when I say goodbye, or when I'm talking with a friend?
- Are there words or phrases I'm always saying?
- Are there words or phrases I would never say?
Take Action Here's a trick to write more naturally. Record yourself verbally replying to an inquiry for your product or service. Transcribe the audio exactly as you said it out loud. Turn this into a canned email reply you can use for every inquiry. Canned emails help you stay consistent in your messaging and brand tone.
Visuals are the thing we associate most with branding because, well, we see them the most. They're what we consume every day on social media and on every website we visit. Right now you might not have the budget to invest in a designer to get your brand visuals designed professionally, so I'm going to tell you everything you need to know: Keep it consistent. When you have consistent brand visuals, you have the biggest key to brand recognition. Use the same color palette, fonts, and patterns across all platforms like your website, Instagram highlights, Pinterest templates, and print materials. Limit yourself to three fonts, five or six colors, and two patterns if you want to use those.
- If you want to use this time at home to update your website but don't have the budget for a custom site, you can use a platform like Showit that doesn't require any coding. They have a ton of free templates like this one that have been created by professional designers.
- Use Canva to create Facebook posts, Pinterest templates, Instagram quote posts, business cards, etc. The pro version even lets you add brand preferences — like your logo, fonts, and colors — so you can keep everything consistent.
- Scroll Pinterest to get inspired by font pairings and color palettes.
Visibility is something most people love or hate, but it's something that will truly help you refocus on your brand. Given what’s going on in the world, it might not feel right to hop on Instagram and carry on like it's business as usual. So don't. Show up and acknowledge you've been affected in some way. People buy from people, and unless you're Apple, there's a real live human being behind your brand, and that builds connection. If an Instagram post doesn't feel right to you, send an email newsletter. Showing up is not only going to put you in front of your ideal clients, but it's also going to get you valuable feedback. Who are the people purchasing from you after you posted that Instagram story? These are your followers and they will tell you to keep going. Their feedback will show you how you need to pivot your offerings. And, as with the rest of the keys to branding, consistency is important. When your audience knows how and when they can expect to see you, it builds trust.
- How do I feel comfortable showing up for my audience?
- Could I gain valuable knowledge about my ideal client if I were to be more visible?
- How often can I commit to showing up regularly? Once a week?
Make a plan for how and when you'll show up for your audience. This might look like a post once a week, a note in the mail once a quarter, and/or an email newsletter every other week.