How to step up your brand in 2021

Don't hide your light behind snazzy graphics and buzz words -push the stuff that makes you different into the foreground

Why should you step up your brand in 2021? As my husband said when I announced that I’d be writing about this after dinner – well you wouldn’t want to step back!

He’s right.

Whatever you’ve achieved with your brand in 2020 the last thing you want to do is step backwards. You brand is what other people think, feel and say about your business – you want them to keep saying good things! And more of them!

Last year was so very bizarre for all of us and I’m sure you’ll have made changes subtle or major depending on what you do and got through it in the best way you could. Whatever you did you want people to be saying good things – you did really well because you offered online sessions, you pivoted brilliantly by changing your offering to something delivered in a box, you couldn’t work in the usual way but you offered something new, created incredible content, launched a course, helped the community, kept people motivated, really stepped up.. whatever it was – whatever you did – people will have thoughts about your business, what you do and your reputation and whether these are good thoughts or not so good thoughts, you want to keep going forwards – not backwards – strengthening your brand, not weakening it.

And this year – this year is different.

We can’t ignore the fact that 2020 changed everything. More home working, more online meeting, marketing, networking.. whilst thinking about your brand has ALWAYS been important, more businesses have been forced to move online now – so standing out online in particular is EVEN MORE important than ever before. Which doesn’t mean your offline activities should suffer. Your brand is ALL the things.

How do you step up your business branding?

Well the first step is going to be reviewing where you’re at, because you don’t know where to step off from if you don’t know where you are. So take a look at the stuff that makes your brand up. The stuff that really matters.

I’m not talking about your visuals. Yet. They’re important, they’re the most obvious part of your brand – the part that people seeeeee – but before you get to that bit there are elements of your brand that matter more. Because these shape your visuals.

Before you get to those you need to do a review.

  • Has your audience changed?
  • Has your delivery method changed?
  • Have your services changed?
  • Have you values changed?
  • Has your brand personality changed?
  • Do you know what feelings you want people to feel?
  • What position do you want to hold in the market?
  • Are your vision and mission still the same?
  • What are your goals, your dream for how your business is gonna look in the future – and your plans to get there? Does everything above work together to help you achieve this?

Answering these questions is critical to ensure that everything you’re putting out is on track.

So let’s pop your values, personality, feelings, vision, mission, position and goals all together. These are the elements that make up your brand in the background. You don’t have to share them with anyone, but you DO want them to flow through everything you do. Others may have a value the same as yours or a similar vision – but in this same combination? These make your brand unique. These are the threads that run through everything. So let’s sew…

  • Will your audience love your products/ service? Is it something they need? Is it presented in a way that gets them excited about it? How do they make them feel? Is there a way you can express your values and personality in the naming or sales page or through the language you use?
  • Are you delivering what you do in the best way that you can right now? That’s consistent with your values and personality and that helps your customers in the best possible way? (Note: your audience and your customer may not be the same…) Will this method help you to meet your goals? Are you sewing the threads of your brand throughout the process?
  • Are the changes you may have made to your product/service in congruence with your values and personality? You’re stepping up remember, so if you feel they’re not quite right you can step forward here, get your needle out and see what you do to improve your offering. How can you do even better?
  • Is your plan filled with the threads of your brand? If you take a look at what you’ve got going on just in the next few months – how can you add in more of your values? How can you get your personality across? Use the information you’ve gathered and embroider those plans.
  • In your marketing, how can you include these threads? Are there images or phrases that you can use to help these run through your posts or show up in your videos? What do you need to each interaction, each touchpoint, each “thing” that you purposefully put out there that will demonstrate an aspect of your brand?
  • Looking (finally) at your visuals – do you feel that these represent your brand threads? Is your logo fit for purpose? Do your colours attract the right people? Does the overall look feel right? It might be that it’s still relevant and perfect. Or you may need to change a font or stop using a particular element because your business has “grown up” a bit! It’s Ok to make changes. It’s your brand – and your brand doesn’t stand still anymore than you or your business. If it needs to step up – step it up!

If you’re implementing these threads through everything then the perception that others have of your business will be the perception that you expect them to have! It’s not about making up how you want to be perceived – it’s about taking who you ARE as a business and making it more evident. Being more intentional about being YOU. Not hiding your light behind snazzy graphics and buzz words but pushing the stuff that makes you different into the foreground.

Sewing your brand into all that you do in your business will create a beautiful unique piece that says a lot about what you stand for.

REALLY step it up. Heck, take two steps!

You could leave it there. And that would be OK, there’s a lot there to consider which could easily lead to this next part, but just incase you rush it a bit or get distracted (after all you have your own business to run, possibly home learning, dinner to make, I know!) this is the stuff that I think is REALLY important for stepping up your brand this year.

Consistency.

This one is so so important. With your visuals – follow your style guide. Create templates. Use the same colours and fonts over and over. It’s not boring. It’s about making your business known to others. Repetition gets you recognised, remembered and referred. The four R’s.

It isn’t just about your visuals though – arguably these are the easiest to repeat – but you can also repeat phrases and messages. This is not the first time I have spoken about doing a brand review. It won’t be the last. Nor will it be the last time I bang on about consistency. These things MATTER. Especially if you want to have a successful brand.

It’s actually SO easy (once everything is set up) that it’s almost lazy.. you don’t have to come up with new ideas and new topics and new images and new phrases.. hit repeat, tweak your content, improve on it over and over. Consistency is the laziest brand timesaver with the biggest impact.

Visibility.

Get your consistency sorted and this becomes pretty easy too ๐Ÿ˜‰

I know you’re busy. I know you have a multitude of things to do – clothes to put away and fractions to re-learn so you can “teach” them tomorrow, the cat needs feeding and you still haven’t sent that email you meant to send three hours ago (I have one of those too…!!) so being visible is EASY to put off. Especially if it makes you squirm.

You mean I have to tell people what I do? I have to talk about my work? I have to show other people my stuff? I’ve gotta brush my hair today?!

Yes.

Because letting people know that you exist and how you can help them helps you. If people don’t know you exist… then they’re not gonna be spending their money with you are they? They’ll tootle over to competitor number one who is posting on social media every day, showing up – or they’ll see an email from competitor number two and end up on their website. Not on yours.

Perhaps the question isn’t – can I keep my slippers on? (yes you can) it’s what are the consequences of NOT being visible?

So go pick the ways you’re going to do that and refer back to the bit above about consistency. Go for it!

Connection.

I won’t talk about this one for long. You can go read about it here. I’ll just say that we all crave connection, so this year think about how you can really make that happen. What can you do to connect MORE with others? This could be about posting on topics and interests that your ideal client cares about… it could be about actually connecting. Going live for a chat. Setting up a zoom call. Networking. It could be being aware of who your audience is and being relevant. Thinking about how you can bring them joy, entertain them, empower them and help them feel good. There’s a video by Lisa Bean which is a lovely, thoughtful watch on gentle connection – watch it here. It’s important, so give it some thought.

Simplification.

This is about removing confusion. Making things obvious. Clarity. Ease. Taking things away.

Simplification – NOT multiplication. (This is not some challenging equation that you need to help your child solve the long way.. )

This is HARD. I know – it’s about things like niching and focus. Scary words! Think of it as decluttering for your business.

An example: I know that my services can seem confusing because actually I offer a LOT, but this year, whilst I can still do (and am doing) all of the design things, I’m focusing on two main areas and one secondary area to simplify my message. I’ll be talking about my Big Brand Adventure because this is where I can have the MOST impact, and my Brand Success Club because this is where I can help the most people. That secondary area is digital products because I love that I can create resources which help people right away. Simple. (Yes I still need to do a lot more to make this a thing – I’m working on it ๐Ÿ™‚ )

But simplifying isn’t just about structuring your services so they are less confusing. It’s about simplifying how you talk about them. Not using jargon. Being clear. Making sure that the stuff you create makes sense and has a hierarchy, isn’t so full of information or badly laid out that nothing can be found.

It’s about making it EASY for your audience to know what’s what. Remembering that white space is just as important as the stuff you put in it. Ensuring that what you DO say, is seen.

This also comes back to being consistent again. Do you see how important this is?

Are you gonna make a commitment to step up your brand this year? To have more impact? To focus on consistency (if nothing else), visibility, connection and simplification?

Get yourself a bit of paper, fold it into four and tackle each of those four things head on NOW before you forget.

Five steps to help you love your brand.
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