Getting Beyond the Brand
If you are a slow-growth, part-time entrepreneur type like me, listen up… it’s time to talk about your brand!
The fourth year of my five year plan is ending… really soon! And in the next year, it’s finally time get beyond my brand. And while I tell my story, don’t overlook the big lessons in here for you too!
Here’s the catch up on who I really am if you don’t know me yet:
I’m the typical overscheduled mom with an atypical passion for pursuing my business dreams against all odds (and those odds I’m against are laundry, insane amounts of driving kids to and fro, migraines, a few medical quirks related to being 40 and not as fit as I’d like, and impatience with my pace of growth… in spite of what I teach which is practice, patience and persistence).
The other part of my story is that I started this business four and a half years ago with a five year plan, a part-time job, a home party business, a 4 year old and a 2 year old and pregnant. I now have daughters who 9 year old, a 6 year old and a 4 year old. Between them and their competitive gymnastics dreams, I’m at gymnastics 7 times a week (x2 for pickups and drop-offs). I am at the Starbucks office 4x per week. I am on email and social media constantly via my iPhone and tethering my Mac. I run marketing workshops and am invited to speak at increasing regularity. I am NEVER home to clean my house or do laundry. Ever. It is hard. But it is also awesome. I live in my mini-van and I love my life. I wish there were more date nights with my husband and girl’s nights out with my kids. But I love my life.
That five year plan came about purely of recognition that my third baby would be in school when I reached year 5. And that is the year my time can finally shift more to monetized business growth. In the meantime, I’ve been all about building brand, building reputation, doing great work for the few I can take time to help and learning how to be a money-making entrepreneur.
So here I sit. Feeling that the last 4 years were so challenging trying to grow this business that any “normal” person would have quit. But entrepreneurs aren’t normal, they are crafty, innovative, stubborn, persistent in spite of evidence to the contrary – like fluctuating client rosters (sometimes too big, sometimes too small), programs that work great and programs that don’t quite take off, technology hiccups and hangups and technology heros. It’s been A-MA-ZING! And it’s been challenging. I march on to year 5. No. Matter. What.
So for those in my shoes, wanting to grow slow and steady, here’s my two step process that you must consider too. (And consider joining International Alliance of Motivated Part-Time Entrepreneurs, an organization I founded for slow-and-steady-motivated types like you and me).
Build Your Brand
Most businesses build a brand by accident. And remember, a brand is not your logo, it’s ideally the combined experience you create for your customers. It is from effectively portraying what you do, what your vibe is and what you stand for. When your audience “gets” all that and agrees, you have the golden ticket of brand equity. When how you are perceived is the way you want to be perceived, you have solid brand equity. You have a kick-ass brand!
You build brand on purpose by:
- knowing who you ACTUALLY are and showcasing the most unique, special, skilled, unusual, intelligent side of yourself — by being a completely unique snowflake in any snowstorm — no matter how competitive your industry you stand out because there is nobody just like YOU and you can prove it by BEING the most unique version of yourself in the public eye
- having a strong, professional visual identity consistent across everything you create (you don’t have to invest thousands into this, but you do need to invest in having a professional “look” and existence)
- having a consistent, as frequent as possible, presence to your audience – whether you share photos, services, a blog, a newsletter, mail or make phone calls, advertise, run classes, show up at events
- having a consistently clear, simple message about who you are, what you do, why it matters and how they can get it (check out “Are you Screwing Up Your 30 Seconds of Fame” for some tips)
Your brand will never be perfect. Because it’s not entirely up to you. Your audience really decides what your brand actually is.”]
I fall down on clarity and consistency at times – mostly because I’m still figuring out how I want to share my knowledge. But a mostly perfect brand can hold up your good image enough to grow and meet at least some of your key goals while you are plugging away and creating success!
As you continue to grow your brand, you need to get a bit tougher with yourself or you’ll end up with a business that looks great but makes no money. You need to make decisions that MAKE you money. Year five comes all too fast! And your main goal must be that you are 100% established to grow 500% in that year.
The following five years, when all the kids are in school, will be the money years. So how will we get there?
Get Beyond The Brand
A successful business has more than a good brand. It makes money of course – the sooner the better. Even if that money is reinvested in the business in the early stages, it still has to make money. I’ve done that. I feel good about it. I’ve had months where my sales have been fabulous and months where they weren’t… because I didn’t work. I was busy being mom more than being marketer in this first five years. That was part of the plan.
But I admit, I’m super anxious to get into the next 5 years — the money years.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned that I will soon apply for making money on the momentum of a great brand:
- Have something to sell — obviously! But while this is easy for many businesses, for coaches and consultants like me where we are the product, we have to create services and products that are interesting and helpful to an audience we connect with. It’s taken me a few years to figure out what I want those products to be and for me to clearly understand who I want to work with before I could create these (they are “in the works”)
- Deliver products and services in several different ways — having “multiple revenue streams” and more than one product or service is money-smart business planning. If you have a “thing” to sell you can show up online, at trade events, at local stores to sell your inventory. If you are a service, you can deliver your services or knowledge at events, through web classes, through online systems, personally one to one and more. I primarily deliver my pay-for services as knowledge-based workshops to community groups, not for profits and individuals through retreats, meetings, workshops and online classes. This will expand in the next 5 years. Will it be a book? A video series? Bigger stages with bigger audiences? Probably all that and more!
- Price for success — pricing must be valued along the lines of the industry we are in PLUS more. There is no point undervaluing yourself in anyway, price included. If people want to truly work with you or buy your products or services, as long as they are exceptional, they will pay. Value yourself and others will value you.
- Constantly expand your communities. CONSTANTLY. Your greatest success will come from those you connect with within your existing community — those who already know, like and trust you — but that does not mean you stop growing your community. Your community must constantly be fuelled with new, interested buyers and supporters or your business can’t grow and the money won’t come in. How to do this depends completely on you, your style and what your business needs. But figure it out. This is key.
Are you in need of a brand check-up, a brand creation or a RE-BRAND?
I’d love to help you out. I’ve re-branded big businesses on tiny budgets and it is a very specialized process to change your brand without losing customers.
This article includes some tips to consider first: Constant Evolution – Art of Rebranding for Small Business.
The Next 5 Years
I’ll actually be planning my business in 3-6 months strategic segments going forward. I believe the faster you want to grow, the more skilled you need to be at adapting your plan on a shorter time period so you can respond to opportunities without getting sidetracked by bright shiny objects! I will still map out a vision-based 5 year plan — plotting the things I am anticipating working towards once my youngest sweet kiddo is in kindergarten. But my action plan to reach those dreams will be in smaller, bite-sized steps that will be able to bend to opportunities that fit the bigger picture.
I can’t wait to create my marketing map and continue to grow my brand over the next 5 years!
What is your brand status? Any brand building tips you’d love to share?