Brilliant Marketing Tricks : Four Simple Steps for Building Your Brand

I know, I know. The phrase ‘building your brand’ probably makes some of you want to crawl into the fetal position and stay there until the sun rises again. But honestly, it doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, its not even all that difficult if you just stick to a few key practices.

So how can you build you brand (i.e. your business) from zero to one hundred? The answer is probably not the one you are hoping to hear. But, hey, at least I am keepin’ it real. I’ll give you a moment to process the fact that I just used the phrase “keepin’ it real” in an article about marketing. Ready? Okay.

The truth is, it takes time to build a brand and create a successful business. The exact amount of time it will take is different from person to person, brand to brand. For me, it’s taken two and half years to get where I am. Two and half years to get to a point in my business where a handful of magazines and authors are coming to me for ideas, not the other way around. So, the point here is, there is not a quick fix. You’re going to have to put in the effort. There is no magic potion that is going to do it for you. Simple as that.

And the journey never ends. You’ll, most likely, always want to be a little further along than you actually are. And that’s okay. But the thing that you want to remember, and the good news to this reality is, if you are willing to put in the time (and the effort), and your product is actually worth selling (i.e. worth buying), you can build a brand that people will connect with and buy from over and over again.

The key to building your brand is accepting this simple idea and implementing it:

Your brand is you. This is especially true of small business owners and solopreneurs. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense, right? After all, you put your blood, sweat, and tears into the products that you create, and you have a connection with those products. So, for the purposes of this discussion, that explains how you, as a person, and you, as a brand, are one in the same. And because you are human, you have a personality. And again, for the sake of this conversation, let’s hope you have a great personality. So, if you show your awesome brand by leading with your awesome personality, people will like you (i.e. people will like your brand). And guess what? People like to buy from people they like.

So, in order to build your brand, you need to build you: What I mean is, you need to build yourself up within your niche / your community. Okay, so how do you that? There are countless ways, honestly, but I won’t go in to them all. Here are four steps to help you build your brand, or build you, as I like to call it.

1. Create a community of like-minded people and form authentic relationships. Creating positive connections with people who share the same attitude and interests can be huge for your business. Remember when I said people like buying from people they like? Well, this tip directly relates to that philosophy.

And building a community is not as hard as you think. Here are a few ideas: 1) Respond to people who comment on your blog. Ask them questions, send them encouragement, etc. 2) Don’t shove your links down people’s throats on social media. The key to success here is balancing praise for others with praise for yourself. Again, start a dialogue with people. This is especially easy to do on twitter. So, get to it. 3) Comment in forums and start discussions in your niche categories. Many people have gained a loyal following from steadily providing answers in forums. Leave your blog or website link in your signature there. If you are providing good info, people will take note.

2. Get yourself noticed. A simple way to get yourself noticed is through guest posting. This is something that I know quite a bit about, considering I am a regular weekly contributor on four other blogs, in addition to my own. And I’ve also written posts for Decor8, Whip Up, Bloesem Kids, 100 Layer Cake, and more.

The tendency, however, when I recommend guest posting to people, is to shoot for the stars and immediately email the biggest name they can think of. And that’s great, but sometimes you need to think a little more outside of the box than that, because chances are, lots of other people are doing the exact same thing. And that superstar blogger can’t say yes to all of you.

So, what’s a girl (or guy) to do? Reach out to smaller blogs in your niche (and even outside of your niche as long as your can tie what you do back to it loosely) that are just below super star status, or maybe even way below, and build a relationship with those people. Hey, that’s tip number one. See what I did there? As they soar, so will you. And you’ll be developing your writing skills for when you approach those huge blogs in the future as well.

3. Give kick-ass customer service every time. This truly is a gift to people who buy from you. And, I hate to sound cheesy (oh, who I am kidding, I love to sound cheesy), but it is a gift that will keep on giving to you as well. Why? Because customers who receive great service will likely come back and purchase from you again. If you don’t believe me, just think about your favorite foods.

Let me explain. One of my favorite lunchtime meals is the grilled chicken sandwich with feta from Zoe’s Kitchen. It is nearly as healthy as it is delicious, and I just love it. But more importantly, however, is why I keep paying eight dollars for this particular lunch. And the answer is that I know exactly what I am getting whenever I order it. No matter how many times I have eaten this sandwich, it tastes the same. Damn good every time. Which is exactly why, for one week straight, I bought this sandwich every single day without even giving it a second thought.

The fact is, we are creatures of habit. So, make something good and give good service, and people will come back. And, oh yeah, they’ll tell their friends too.

4. Find people who can help you grow. In business, you’ll hear a lot of people say, ‘its all about connections’. This can sound a little douche, let’s be honest. But it doesn’t have to be. Connections are important to expanding your business, and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you will be on your way to building a successful brand. Sorry, but no man is an island. Everyone needs a little help now and then getting where they want to go.

So, seek out people who are slightly ahead of you. Bloggers and business owners that you admire, and ones that have been successful in their business thus far. They don’t have to be mega millionaires. Much like guest posting, you don’t have to immediately go for the biggest fish in the sea. They are busy, remember? They just have to have a little more knowledge than you do in your niche. If you manage to develop a genuine connection with these people, they can help you. I promise. But only if the connection is authentic. Don’t just send one email and expect them to hand over all their secrets to a complete stranger. Start commenting on the person’s blog and chat via twitter and facebook. Eventually, you’ll develop a close enough relationship to feel comfortable reaching out via email. And sometimes, you might just reach out to someone who is willing to give you a little free advice or help give you a nudge in the right direction. This won’t work every time because you can’t be friends with everyone. But it does happen. So instead of being  jealous of other people’s success, reach out. Its a lot easier on your soul and it can help your business big time.

Yet, another route for finding people to help you grow is paying people who can help you grow. No one works for free, right? So, finding (and paying) a coach or a pr person who already has connections can help as well. Just do your research first. There are lots of other options as well. E-courses and e-books can teach you how to market your work online, improve your business, and create goals for the future. And even something completely different, like an exhibition site such as papernstitch (sorry for self-promotion but hey, its true), can help you promote and market your work and put you in touch with potential buyers, brick and mortars looking for wholesalers to work with, magazines, and of course other blogs and sites.

So, the next time you are feeling overworked and under appreciated when it comes to your business, remember the simple tips that I’ve shared here and carry on. Its never as difficult as it seems. And who knows, you might just become a superstar.

This post is part of the Brilliant Marketing Tricks series over at Heartmade Blog. You can check out the introduction on heartmade, find all the posts from this series, and see the full list of participants.

29 comments | Click here to reply

[…] Nov 19: Four Simple Steps to Building Your Brand – Brittni Mehlhoff from Paper N’ […]

Introducing: The Brilliant Marketing Tricks Blog Series | Heartmade Blog

I can not tell you how awesomely grateful I am to find this blog! is been helping me so much!… Im a Graphic Designer from the north of mexico and im dying to open my own business… Im full with ideas but i just dont know where to start and you are giving me the push i need to beging! thank you thank you!!!


Indira Castillo

I’m reading it all Brittni, such great advice! Thanks for putting this together!!


You have hit the mark. Thought good, it agree with you.

Daily Shopping Store


Amy Malloy

Thanks for stopping by Irene. You are doing a wonderful job with Imaginative Bloom. 🙂


What I’m trying to do with my blog and my own works is exactly this. Your suggestions and experiences of two and half years here is a precious thing for us Brittni (and so encouraging too!)

I particularly love where you reminded that our brand is us.
This is surely a great basic point to understand and work on lots of things to improve and grow 🙂

Irene Zuccarello

Two and a half years! Well, that is encouraging.
I’ve been getting impatient with my brand, but we’ve only been around since January, so I guess it’s not doing too bad after all. I guess I’ll slug it out for another year and a half. Thanks!


Thanks for sharing the info…. I am trying to put my ideas together at the moment and some days feel a bit overwhelmed.I have just set up my business so It is nice to know that it can take time to get the image and branding the way you want it.

Diane Marsland

Thank you for the great input! I am a new (hobby-ist) seller on Etsy when I’m not working my 9-5. I need all the advice and encouragement I can get to keep movin’ on! Hopefully someday the hard work and passion will pay off for my business, like it has for so many small businesses. If not, at least I love what I am creating and will probably continue to do it either way! thanks, again.


these are some great tips!! i esp. love the one about guest posting!!

Sandy a la Mode

Such a great post, Brittni.
I have found that customer service is such an important part of running a business. (Besides having great products and a niche in your market, ofcourse.) And I have found that it has led to lasting relationships with clients. I love making friends with my buyers. It truly is gratifying.


Lauren! That is awesome. So glad this has helped you. Have a great weekend.


thank you for this, brittni — I feel like this was exactly what I needed to read and came at the perfect time. I’m going to try working these things into my day starting…NOW! The way you explain things made me feel empowered instead of overwhelmed.


Mayi, Thank you for your heartfelt comment. I tell you this all the time, but I’ll tell you again…You are so kind. I feel very lucky to know you. You are a great talent and look forward to seeing all the great things you do in the future.


Brittni what a remarkable post to close the Brilliant Marketing Blog Series. It’s a GRAND FINALE!

I specially liked this point: “find people who can help you grow”. I couldn’t agree more! I must confess you have been my #1 inspiration in starting my own blog + growing my online business. Being an avid pns readers + commenting regularly + being a part of your exhibition site + contributing + collaborating together on this series… all this “connections” have brought me giant steps closer to making it + have keep me motivated during the hards part too! Thanks for being that person who helped me grow Brittni! I can never thank you enough!

Mayi Carles @ Heartmade

That’s great Kristen. That is exactly what I was hoping to do!


Wow, great tips! This really broke down the scary “brand building” conversation into more manageable chunks. You rule!


That is a really great point Dolan. And I absolutely agree with you. I didn’t want to make my post any longer than what it already was (probably one of the longest I’ve ever written here), so I left quite a bit out. But yes, building a wide-reaching community of people is definitely the way to go.


Great post. Thank you for sharing. I would definitely recommend building a community around specific things that describe and inspire your brand, rather than just creative entrepreneurs more broadly. More example, we cultivate relationships with people interested in bluegrass music, Southern culture and even bird-watching.

Dolan Geiman

All excellent points. Thanks for this post!


So happy to hear that you are feeling inspired Erin. And Zoe, you hit the nail on the head. Its all about creating reachable goals for yourself and making tasks that are realistic for you. Communication can be tough sometimes (I understand as a visual person myself), but once you start doing it, its much easier than it once seemed.


Thanks for this, Brittni. This “communication” aspect of branding is the one I struggle most with (visual branding is much easier for me, being a visual person), so these are really helpful tips. I particularly appreciate the tip about finding bloggers (and other people in your niche) to connect with who are between yourself and the “big names.” That feels much more doable to me than reaching out to some of the real biggies!

Zoe (from A Quick Study Paper Goods)

Thanks so much for all your tips Brittni! I feel really inspired now.


Thanks a lot Mallory. I completely understand your frustration, and as difficult as it may be sometimes, I’ve found that its a lot easier if we just don’t compare our businesses to anyone else’s in terms of success because we never truly know what another person had to do to get where they are. Ya know? Like you mentioned at the end of your comment, you never know what will happen in the future and you might surpass the person you (not specifically you but a general you) were once jealous of. Anyway, have a great weekend!


Thanks for this post Brittni – totally spot-on. You’re right, it does take a different amount of time for everyone. I’ve found myself frustrated in recent months, seeing people who have rocketed to success sort of overnight, meanwhile I’ve been trucking along for 4+ years at this (and building a different, but related brand for a few years before that), but just because someone gets there faster than you doesn’t mean you won’t get there too. And it doesn’t mean that in the long run you won’t be just as, if not more, successful.


Thank you Van and Tali. Yep, I think I made myself hungry as well Van. And Tali, let’s chat via email. Talk to you soon.


What a fantastic post!! This actually reminded me that I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’d be interested in me doing a giveaway on PNS ?

Tali Schiffer

Excellent post, and all very true. I’ve noticed nothing makes more of a difference than truly communicating within your niche. Communication is King! (Good content a close second!)

And now your post has me hungry for a Zoe’s Kitchen sandwich, those are so damned delicious!

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