I am home from Costa Rica and I am currently sitting on my front porch listening to the breeze and catching up on work. I had big goals for my time in Costa Rica. Most of which included daily blogs about our experiences there as well as launching my inaugural Guest Blog Spotlight! Well, Costa Rica was gorgeous and we spent every single day snapping photos and documenting memories that are sure to last a lifetime. Because of that, my goals for blogging got set to the side. However, now I am home, I am responding to emails, cleaning the house, playing with the kiddos, and catching up on my blogging & editing!
I am so excited to announce to you all that this year, I will be featuring a guest blogger every month discussing topics spanning across the Wedding, Business, and Photography world.
Guess what, TODAY is the OFFICIAL LAUNCH! Our guest blogger today is Emily Chandler of Poppie Studios based out of Tallahassee, Florida. She is a fellow Tuesday's Together leader & is leading the way in her local industry.
Emily is bringing us some great content on Branding and how it plays a key role in your personal & professional reputation.
Please follow the links at the bottom of the blog & give Emily & Poppie Studios a follow! Bonus points if you actually comment on her work!
Your Brand is Your Reputation
You might be thinking, “I’m a small business - why do I need a brand?” Well, what about your reputation? Do you need to worry about your reputation as a small business? Of course you do! Your brand is your business’ reputation, it’s the impression you make on potential clients. And a successful brand will tell those clients what’s special about you in a positive light.
What’s going to make you stand out in a sea of fellow _____? Fill in the blank (photographers, hair and makeup artists, calligraphers, graphic designers). How do you make waves in your area without having a completely new and innovative product? The short answer: your brand.
The word “brand” has multiple meanings, which means there’s confusion about what it really is and how it applies to your own business. Years ago, think Mad Men era, branding was a combination of your name, tagline and logo. Those elements were what differentiated you from your competitors.
Today, a brand is a bit more complex, and so much more important in the seemingly oversaturated markets that we find ourselves in. Your brand is the perception a client has of you when they hear or think of your company. And with so much technology at our fingertips, “branding” is a moving target with multiple points of contact: website, email, social media, blog, packaging, business cards, your voicemail message and even how you dress.
These are all opportunities to be your brand.
What Should Your Brand Do?
You need potential clients to connect with you. They should see you as the best solution for their needs while also feeling an emotional connection with you. How do you nurture and build that deeper connection? Make sure your brand:
Clearly delivers your message
Establishes your credibility
Motivates potential clients to want to work with you
Creates loyalty (word-of-mouth = referrals = happy dance)
Find Your Tribe
And by tribe, I mean your people, your potential clients, and, dare I say, possible friends? You want to attract clients that excite you and connect with you on a personal level because that’s what develops those strong roots with them. You want them to be as proud of you and your work as your momma is.
To find your tribe, first you need to understand their wants and needs. You do this by being authentically you at every point of contact. Every. Point. You shouldn’t have to “turn on” your brand or treat it like a special occasion. It should be you, every day and feel authentic to not just your clients, but also to you.
Think of your brand like an extension of you. It should get potential clients to relate to who you are and make them want to buy your services and tell others about you because of that authentic connection they feel to you.
As they begin to see more of you, read more about you in your About section, watch your videos on Instagram or YouTube and relate to your social media posts, the more your brand will come alive within their hearts and minds. Your brand is their total experience with you and perception of you.
Branding VS Marketing
Your brand is your business’ foundation - it must be strong. It must support everything that you build your business up with. Think of your brand as your promise to potential clients. If you uphold your brand (your “promise”) you’re more likely to have loyal customers who believe in you and stand up for you.
Don’t confuse branding with marketing though. Branding comes before marketing and gives your marketing plan roots to grow.
Branding is what you are, it’s how you’ll look in front of your audience. Marketing is what you do, it’s how you’ll use your brand to get in front of your audience. Without an authentic and strong brand, your marketing plan will only get you so far. That’s why your brand is so important. Without it, you won’t find your tribe.
If you’ve made it this far, yay! That means you want a strong brand and you want to find your tribe so you can start serving them better. You may be wondering if your brand is strong enough to meet your marketing needs?
Start by answering these questions:
Does your brand relate to potential clients? Will they “get it” and “feel it” quickly and easily, without having you there to explain it to them?
Is your brand unique to the category it’s in? For example, if you’re a photographer in a sea of fellow photographers, what makes you different and why is that important?
Is your brand capable of keeping your promise? Can you be your brand all day, everyday, without stressing about it or putting on a mask?
Does your brand accurately portray you to potential clients?
Ask these questions, not only to yourself, but to a few select people in your inner circle: close past clients, your best friend who won’t sugar-coat her answers, your significant other who knows how passionate and driven you are about this business venture. They will all, collectively, be able to help you hone in on your best attributes and find a voice for your brand that is truly you.
Once you’ve found your voice and are ready to show off your identity online, there’s two areas where you should focus your efforts: Social Media and Blogging.
Not sure which social media channel to be on or when? Check out Pew Research Center’s Social Media Fact Sheet. It shows you who’s using the major social media platforms. Which, if you’ve decided on the profile of your ideal client is (mine is Erin, she’s a 33 year old female who enjoys wine with friends during the week and entertaining family during the holidays. She attends spin classes and practices yoga, tries to buy local and/or organic as much as possible…) I could keep going but the point is I can find “her” stats on the Social Media Fact Sheet and get a better understanding of when and how to market my brand to her most effectively.
Once you establish a presence on your best social media channels, be consistent. Using a Social Media Content Calendar can make the whole process feel less daunting and overwhelming.
It will help you stay relevant to your audience because you’ll be posting consistently and proactively instead of reactively. For example, posting about Holiday Mini Sessions three months before Christmas to get clients in the door, photographed, cards ordered and now you’ve got great images to post through the new year instead of posting “Merry Christmas!” with no new content on Christmas day.
Here’s where Blogging comes into play. Blogs are the third most trusted source of information for potential clients, right after friends and family. That means, after a potential new clients asks around for a family photographer, they’re going to do a Google search and read the blogs of the photographers who show up in those search results. And a blog is where they’ll be attracted to your brand, your voice, you.
Like social media, having a strong blog means being consistent and fresh. Blog posts are where you plant those SEO keywords that help you show up in those very search results. But blogging doesn’t have to be overwhelming or a time-suck. I used to think it was and I dreaded it every week. Until I started using a Blog Content Calendar.
It helps me keep authors and posts organized, track keywords and ensures I cover a variety of topics.
Make Your Mark
Now that you’re equipped with all this great new info, I hope to hear about your authentic brand stories, about how clients are feeling connected to you, that fellow creatives are being inspired by you but most of you, that you’re being true to you!
About the Author
Emily is owner of Poppie Studios, where she’s a small business brand designer and hybrid wedding photographer. She’s a Tallahassee, Florida transplant from Fort Wayne, Indiana, mother to two rescue fur-children and new wife to her husband, Tim. Emily is a professed plant-lover, though her thumb tends to be more black than green. She’s also Rising Tide Leader for her local chapter and serves as Marketing Chair on the Board of the Animal Shelter Foundation. Emily is passionate about helping fellow small business creatives and artists make their dreams a reality.
For questions or to follow Emily: