Pamela Wilson

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16 Essential Brand-Building Tips to Grow Your Business in the Year Ahead

16 Essential Brand-Building Tips to Grow Your Business in the Year Ahead

Your big brand doesn’t just happen. It’s not a fluke.

It’s the result of deliberate actions, taken consistently over time.

But what should you focus on first? And how should you go about getting things done?

In today’s post, I’m sharing sixteen ways you can whip your brand (and your online business) into shape. Take this list, and use it as:

  • Your to-do list for the upcoming new year
  • Your growth plan for the near future
  • Your motivation to get the items mentioned done, once and for all
  • Your reading and resource list to learn more about areas you struggle with

The first area of focus is (as always) design.

Because before prospects interact with your words, they see how you’re presenting your business.

Your Visual Brand

Your visual brand is the way your business appears to the outside world. Because — after all — appearances make up our first impressions.

Your visual brand is the first thing prospects perceive about your business.

And if we make a bad first impression, we may not get the chance to make a second impression. So let’s get it right from the start!

1. Choose two colors

One of the easiest, fastest ways to establish a visual style for your business is to choose two main colors to represent your brand.

Why two? Two colors are easier to remember than three, four, or five. They make an immediate impression, and are easier for you to implement, too. (When looking for a color to use, you’ll be choosing from a list of two options only.)

For help finding the two main colors that work best for your business, take a look at this business color resource page. And if you need some professional guidance, consider my Brilliant Brand Color guide.

2. Choose two fonts

Once your prospect see your overall visual presentation, they’ll begin reading your words. And the “voice” your words will speak in is established by the fonts you use to display those words.

Use a formal, classic, serif font? Your business will be seen as well established and conservative.

Use a casual, friendly, sans-serif font? Your business will be seen as contemporary, friendly, and open.

For more on choosing the best fonts for your business, take a look at my typography resource page. And if you need some professional guidance, consider my Beautiful Typography guide.

3. Use images wisely

Our culture has embraced visuals by necessity. With so many words to understand and process, visual communication provides a much-needed cognitive break.

Using visuals to communicate means implementing them on every page of your website, and wherever you are sending out brand messages on social media, in email marketing, and in print.

It’s not as complex as you might think. For more on using visuals for your business, take a look at the visual marketing information here.

4. Be visually consistent over time

At this time of year, many of us are making grand plans for the year ahead. We dive in to them in January and our optimism runs strong.

Then we get busy. And we lose focus. And we forget what we were aiming for.

The only way to make a dent with your visual brand is to make the decisions mentioned above, and apply them consistently over time. Choose your colors, fonts, and representative images. Use them next month, six months from now, and two years from now.

Resist the urge to redesign. Stay the course and give your visual brand a chance to sink in and be remembered.

Your Verbal Brand

Your verbal brand is the way you talk about your business.

What you say matters — every word counts.

It’s the words you use to explain what you offer, and what makes your business different from your competitors’ businesses.

5. Choose a compelling business name

It’s not easy to find a business name you can live with, especially if you’re just starting out.

You find a name you think you’ll like, but — chances are — your business changes over time. You may find your original name doesn’t work anymore.

That’s why I recommend you don’t get too specific with your business name. Let your tagline (see below) communicate the specifics instead.

For more on naming your business, check out this post and to discover what to avoid when naming your business, read this one. And if you need some professional guidance, consider my Business Name and Tagline guide.

6. Use a tagline that tells your story

Your tagline is the short sentence that follows your business name. It shares additional information about what your business offers.

And it’s one of the most underused pieces of marketing copy ever.

Your tagline can make up for a multitude of sins.

  • Business name too general? Get specific with your tagline.
  • Hard to tell who your business serves? Speak to them with your tagline.
  • Your main selling point not coming across? Shout it out with your tagline.

For more on writing a tagline that works for you, read more about taglines here. And if you need some professional guidance, consider my Business Name and Tagline guide.

7. Find a brand promise that explains what you stand for

Your “brand promise” is a one-paragraph blurb of text that serves multiple purposes. It is perfect for:

  • The Home page on your website
  • A way to introduce what your business does at networking events
  • Explanatory text on social media profiles

Your brand promise is a longer, more in-depth version of your business name and tagline. And — coming soon — I’ll be offering an ebook all about how to write a brand promise that helps drive people to your business and position your offerings in their minds. Stay tuned.

8. Write these things down, and use them consistently

For your verbal brand to make an impact, you’ll need to apply these words in the same order, in the same way, every time you talk about your business.

Sound boring?

Get used to it! Because for your particular verbal brand to be remembered, you have to say it the same way consistently over time.

Let’s say that again: for your particular verbal brand to be remember, you have to say it the same way consistently over time.

So get started! Craft your words carefully and start using them today.

Your Marketing Plan

Here’s where things get interesting.

What you do with your time is what leads you to success.

We’re going to look at putting actual tasks on your calendar that will attract the kind of person you want to attract to your business.

9. Know your ideal customer: they’re the reason for your marketing

Hopefully you’ve got this one figured out: your ideal customer is the person you most want to reach with your offers.

He/she is that person who needs and wants your services or products offer. And, they’re will to pay for them (an important point some forget).

Sometimes, over time, your idea customer shifts. So if you’re a little fuzzy on who you’re aiming for, take the time to be sure you’ve got a crystal-clear vision of who this person is, and what motivates her.

Check out the resources in this post. And if you need some professional guidance, consider my Ideal Customer Finder guide.

10. Decide on your main marketing focus

Your marketing focus will change from quarter to quarter and year to year. That’s why deciding on your main marketing focus is an ongoing process.

Before you set out to conquer the next few months, spend some time planning your most-important goal. Is it:

  • To increase profits?
  • To generate X number of leads?
  • To sell more units or hours?

In the next step, we’ll be covering small short-term goals. For this step, think BIG.

What major goal would you like to accomplish by the end of the next three-month period?

11. Plan three more goals

For this step, I want you to think about smaller goals that may help get you to your large goal.

What are the big to-dos on your list? Those projects that may take many days or weeks, but which are necessary to grow your business?

Take some time to write these out. Aim for things you can get done within the next three-month period.

12. Create tasks and deadline around these goals

Now that you know what you’re aiming for, it’s time to chunk down your goals and attach deadlines to them.

Be realistic: how long will it take to get these things done?

Sit down with your calendar and spread them out over the weeks and months ahead. Assign plenty of time to each item. Plan to get sidetracked and delayed (because you know you will) … but plan to get them done.

Your Courage to Act

Isn’t it fun to think and plan?

If you’re reading this (and especially if you’ve gotten this far), you probably enjoy educating yourself. And that’s wonderful.

But, if you don’t get beyond educating yourself, thinking, and planning, you won’t get very far.

Have the courage to take action — today.

Because in the end, progress only happens when you have the courage to act on your plans. That’s what this section is about.

13. You don’t have to “know it all” to make progress

Part of what drives us to learn more is this feeling like we’re not quite “good enough” to put our business offerings out in the world.

Once we’ve mastered ____ (fill in the blank), then we can start.

And what tends to happen is that once we have in fact mastered ____ we discover a whole new level of things to learn.

Rather than focus on learning more, spend your energy finding the people who need what you offer right now.

It may not be perfect. It may not be what you want it to be in the future.

But someone, somewhere, needs exactly what you offer.

Spend time finding them. Listen closely to how they talk about their needs. And refine your offer so it fits them perfectly.

14. You don’t have to have a perfect plan

Almost as fun as educating yourself is planning, which we’ve talked about here.

But you don’t have to have a “perfect” plan in order to make progress.

Actually, the perfect plan usually unfolds as the result of taking steps. So again — taking action is what gets you where you want to go.

15. You have to find the courage to take the first step

That first step is a tough one. But for every successful business you come across, someone took that first, courageous step.

They didn’t know ahead of time if it would work. They may have been afraid they’d fail completely.

But they stepped forward, despite their fears.

You can, too.

16. Know that you’ll stumble and make mistakes.

Embrace mistakes: they’re part of the process.

As we’ve talked about here and elsewhere, building a business is an iterative process.

You’ll stumble, and you’ll make mistakes: guaranteed.

This is part of the process. It’s the way business works!

Set out on the journey knowing you’ll experience great triumphs, and days of great learning. (Because isn’t it better to call failure “learning?”)

Where to start?

Go through this post again. Use it as a checklist. Of the sixteen items listed here, you may not need to tackle all of them.

Decide which ones you’ll work on. Click around on the resources here to learn more.

And pay a visit to the comment section below to let me know how it’s going: I’d love to cheer you on there!

Pamela Wilson

I want to help you take the next step. Pick your free workshop topic and let’s do this!

11 thoughts on “16 Essential Brand-Building Tips to Grow Your Business in the Year Ahead”

  1. Hi Pam,
    I just want to thank you for all this great information. So far, everything you have said makes total sense, especially the courage part. It is scary to start out, especially when you aren’t too sure that people will want what you have to sell. One thing I am wondering about is you said to concentrate on one thing in your business, but my stuff doesn’t exactly work like that. I’m an artist and haven’t really found any certain niche that I want to stick with. I’m not good at repetitive type work and I can sometimes be all over the place, trying new mediums and techniques, so I never know exactly what I am going to do next. I’m thinking though that if I am honest about it, then the customer will be willing to go along and just wait and see what I come up with next. I’m going to certainly try it though, I think I am ready to just jump in and see what happens. The marketing part isn’t so easy but if I use the goals and set some deadlines, I think even that can be accomplished. I very much appreciate your help and will be watching to see what you have to say next! Thank you. Pam

    • Hi Pam! Thanks for leaving a comment.

      It’s pretty important to nail down something you’re going to be known for. Otherwise, it’s really difficult for people to wrap their head around what you stand for.

      Even if your claim to fame is “mixed media artist” or “pushing the boundaries of all media,” or something like that, it’s going to be important to take a stand. You have to give people something to grab hold of and remember you by!

      Good luck, and thanks so much for reading. 🙂

      • Okay, I see your point and I will take your advice on this. I like your slant and may have to snag your idea. Mixed media still tells what I do, it just doesn’t nail me down to one thing. I have to think some more about this as I know there are common threads with all my projects and I will try to think in that direction. Again, thank you so much for your help and feedback. When I get ahead a bit I will most likely sign up for some of your other programs. I know I could sure use any help I can get at this point. 🙂

  2. LOOOOOVE this Pamela!!! Pinning it so can keep coming back to it.

    You’ve covered everything I need to do since we’re going in for a brand overhaul early in the year… I totally agree with the courage to act and the okay with not knowing it all parts…I often tend to use “perfection” as procrastination;) so your post will be a handy reminder there as well. Thank you SO much!

  3. Hi Pamela,

    Thank’s for this Info.
    Regarding: “Your brand promise is a longer, more in-depth version of your business name and tagline”
    Will be glad for a bit more details…

    Thanks,

    Edwin

    • Your brand promise is an extension of what you say your business is about.

      It expands on what you say in your tagline and business name. And because it’s usually a few sentences long, you have a little more space to add specifics. 🙂

  4. Thanks for all the great info in every one of your posts, Pamela. I’ve been digging in to this one as I plan for 2015. Can I ask which editorial calendar you use? Cheers.

  5. Thank you so much for writing this! I started Tracy’s Smoothie Place 6 weeks ago and what an iterative process it has been! Each thing you said has been so true – from courage to mistakes.

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