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.