Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry I want to talk about branding. If you want to start your own business someday, it's so important that you develop a brand and not just "sell" products or services. A lot of people miss this. They think if they start a website and upload pictures of their products, people will buy. That couldn't be further from the truth, especially these days.
In this day and age, people have the ability to buy things from people all over the globe. This wasn't the case in, say, 1990 when the Internet didn't exist. Before the Internet, we were limited to the stores in our geographic area. But now, we can purchase a plain white t-shirt from someone in Florida as easily as we can purchase a plain white t-shirt from someone in Australia. What makes one person buy from the seller in Florida, and another buy from the seller in Australia? If the products are exactly the same, the differences can be found in the branding. And one mistake I see a lot of new entrepreneurs make is failing to think about branding.
If you aren't sure what branding is, let me explain. Businesses need a brand - or an identity - to grow and succeed. When you file paperwork to form your limited liability company ("LLC") or corporation, the state actually gives you a piece of paper that says your business is its own entity, distinct and separate from you. This entity can open bank accounts, get a credit card, and enter into contracts. Some would go so far to call their LLC or corporation a living, breathing thing, and when you start the business ownership journey you'll quickly understand why! It sometimes feels like a newborn who needs all your attention and care. And just like a growing newborn, the things you do (or don't do) help shape the personality of your business. If you don't give any attention to branding, the personality is going to be dry, boring, and fail to connect with the people you hope will buy from you. On the other hand, if you develop an engaging personality for your brand that resonates and connects with the people you hope to sell to, those people will most likely become customers. Do you get the distinction I'm trying to make here? There are businesses and then there are brands. A business merely tries to sell things. A brand, on the other hand, connects with you and tries to serve you and fulfill one of your needs. It is a relationship, not just a one-way street for selling.
How do you go about creating a brand? Generally, a brand is based on the things that make your business different. Let's walk through an example. Say there's a company that makes scarves and hires former victims of domestic violence to sew them. That company's branding will probably center around the empowerment of women. Their marketing messages will be inspirational and perhaps focus on a woman's resilience. You get the point? The company isn't just selling scarves. It's a company that's selling scarves with the much larger mission of empowering women through whatever circumstance they might face. And that concept resonates with a lot of people out there.
So if you plan on starting your own business, one of the first things you should think about is how you are different from all other sellers selling the same things. Then use those differences as a starting point to craft your brand's personality.
What makes up a brand personality? So much! The logo design, the colors of your packaging, the font on your website, the tone of the language on your Instagram posts - basically everything that comprises the look and tone of your business. For example, a jewelry company selling dainty, feminine jewelry like mine is probably going to use soft colors like pink and lavender, as opposed to red and orange. It'll use soft, flowery language on Instagram, not a sarcastic tone.
Here are two "big picture" questions you can consider when developing your brand:
1) Who is my ideal customer and what would appeal to him or her?
For example, if your main customer is a 20-year-old college student, the colors you'll select and the language you'll use will be very different from the colors and language that would resonate with a 50-year-old father.
2) How do I want to make my customers feel when they interact with me and my business?
For me and grace + hudson, I want people to feel a sense of lightness and feminine beauty when they interact with my brand. This is very different from a jewelry brand that wants to come across as trendy and edgy.
If you are setting up a business (or already have!), I hope this is good food for thought. Definitely devote lots of time and attention to building your brand. It truly will make the difference between getting zero sales and getting tons of sales.
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