As a solopreneur trying to make your mark in the professional world, it’s easy to put your branding strategy on the back burner while you focus on product development, funding, and other important tasks. But the truth is that even a great product won’t sell itself–you need to cultivate an impression about your company that will make your product (or service) grab the attention of your target audience.
10 Common Branding Mistakes
Here are ten common branding mistakes you might be making as a solopreneur–and how to avoid these mistakes so you can generate your ideal brand image.
1. Not listening to your audience
Don’t rush to spread the word about your company without first understanding how to speak to your audience.
Consider who your target audience is, the interests and hobbies of that demographic, and the words and phrases they use. Millennials, for example, use lots of modern slang that’s unfamiliar to older audiences; baby boomers prefer language that is grammatically sound.
However, it doesn’t just stop at generational gaps; you’ll want to be a little more specific when determining what your audience likes and doesn’t like. For instance, millennials interested in humanitarian activism probably won’t appreciate the same sarcastic jibes that resonate with those who watch Broad City on the daily.
As branding is all about forging connections with your audience, make sure to embrace the tone and language that you think will speak most directly to them.
2. Forgetting about the logo
Some solopreneurs think that having a catchy business name or quality product is enough to make a mark on the world, but a logo is perhaps the most essential component of building your brand.
Logos are a way of creating your brand image, spreading the word about your company, and putting a stamp on the things you create. It both separates your business from competitors and expresses the personality of your brand – if done right.
To make sure your logo is giving off the right message, think about the emotions that different colors, fonts, and images evoke, and use these elements to craft an entire story in your logo.
And, your logo should go everywhere your brand goes, whether that’s on business cards you hand out at conferences or front and center of your business website. Over time, this will help you build brand recognition with your audience and position you as another strong competitor in your niche.
3. Not developing a brand voice
Another common branding mishap is to only think about the visuals you’re putting out into the world. While they’re certainly an important part of your brand image, it’s also crucial to take the time to develop a brand voice that you think best speak to your audience and represent your company’s personality.
Your brand language should be consistent across all platforms, including digital ads, your website, social media pages, printed marketing materials, and even customer service interactions.
If you’re considering bringing others on to your team down the line, write down specific guidelines for your brand language. Don’t just say if you’re “light” and “fun”; put down examples of sentences that are okay for your brand to say and examples of language that your brand should always stay away from. Ultimately, your brand language will help you reinforce the perception about your brand that you want your audience to have.
4. Keeping it vague
In the above vein, lots of solopreneurs fall into the trap of using vague language that they think will compel their audience to engage with their brand, whether it’s empty descriptors like “most popular” and “number 1,” or overused buzzwords like “skyrocketing” or “dynamic.”
However, as your audience gets bombarded by messaging from every direction (look no further than social media), ambiguous terminology will more likely get them to scroll past your posts because you’re not telling them anything they haven’t already heard three times that day.
Instead, be sure that the language and images associated with your brand aren’t overly generic. Think of distinct words and phrases that can be uniquely attributed to your brand; you may have to go back to when you first started your business and remind yourself why what you have to offer is unique. Once you can pinpoint those qualities, don’t hold back from telling your audience all about it!
5. Lacking authenticity
While most good branding efforts are concentrated on storytelling, many of these stories come across as inauthentic.
Take the Kendall Jenner-Proactiv controversy, where the supermodel was filmed telling a heartfelt story about how Proactiv saved her skin and gave her back her confidence.
Although it was emotional, the video backfired; rather than convincing people the brand was her savior, Jenner was perceived as being inauthentic because her fans didn’t believe that she really used Proactiv to clear up her skin (based on things she had written on social media in the past).
So, while it’s important to use a predetermined brand language and tone, be wary of straying into the realm of inauthenticity. Half of your storytelling journey as a brand is to tell your sincere story, by emphasizing the real values that pushed you to create your business – rather than the ones you think the public wants to hear. Otherwise, your audience will pick up on the insincerity and run away faster than you can Tweet out an apology.
One of the most powerful (and free!) outlets available to solopreneurs trying to build their brand is social media. Yet, many new business owners look at these platforms as “extra” rather than crucial to helping them build their brand – another huge mistake.
As you create your brand strategy, make sure to also allocate time and effort in your social media strategy. Not only will platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest give you access to a wider audience, but they will also help position you as an authority in your niche.
However, to use them effectively, you need to have an active presence on your social business pages. Post branded content that’s original and relevant to your audience, and create a schedule that will help you update your pages on the regular.
Remember to stay true to your brand language and image throughout your posts (regardless of the platform), and always have your audience in mind before you post something new on any page.
7. Overcomplicating things
Design is everything in branding, but sometimes the worst designs are the ones that took the most effort. Using illegible fonts with too many flourishes or super-detailed designs that don’t scale well will only convolute your brand image and make it difficult for your audience to identify, understand, and connect with.
Before you begin designing, decide on a simple color scheme (think of Coca Cola’s classic red and white) that customers can instantly tie to your brand. Use a maximum of two or three fonts across all of your written communications, and don’t use imagery or language that is too abstract and difficult to understand.
8. Losing cohesion and consistency
Some solopreneurs lack consistency in their message and brand image, usually because they didn’t set brand guidelines for themselves at the beginning of their business journey.
However, it’s crucial to have a single brand image–one that is cohesive and unified. Remember, you’re trying to tell your audience a story and create emotional connections with them through that story. For this to be effective, the story needs to be uniform, clear, and unwavering – both so your audience knows what to expect from you, and so you know how to communicate with them in a way that keeps them coming back.
Once you develop a design scheme (color palettes, typography, brand imagery, etc.) and brand voice, make sure to stick with them across every marketing channel and brand communication. Don’t break character; if your look and feel aren’t consistent, customers won’t have a clear understanding of your brand’s personality and messaging.
9. Forgoing customer relationships
Solopreneurs, in particular, tend to overlook the importance of customer service. Whether this is because they feel they don’t have the manpower to respond to everyone that reaches out or they simply don’t care, ignoring customer relationships is a huge branding no-no.
Friendliness and good customer service are two traits that benefit any brand. Regardless of a brand’s tone or style–whether fun and playful, or strong and authoritative–every business that cares about its image should make deep customer relationships a core part of their branding strategy.
Engage with your customers on social media; make it easy for them to contact you with questions and concerns. If they email you with inquiries, try to respond within 24 hours, and keep it friendly. Showing your audience you care is a fundamental part of cultivating your brand image.
10. Rebranding recklessly
When things aren’t going as well as you’d like, it’s easy to feel like rebranding is the answer. However, more often than not, one-man businesses are too quick to rebrand – without thinking about how to bring their current brand up to speed instead.
Rebranding is okay, but be cautious and go slow. You’ll need to have a smooth transition process away from your existing branding strategy. Plan out a new strategy before you execute it, and ask yourself: Will this new look, feel, and voice of your brand help you to obtain new customers, or will only alienate the ones you already have?
As rebranding can take a while for your customers to get used to, make sure the benefits outweigh the costs. Keep customers updated on any changes, and engage with them throughout the process to show them they still matter.
As a solopreneur, you have a lot to think about when it comes to branding, whether it’s the language of your audience, your brand imagery, or the message you’re trying to send out into the world. Taking a hard look at where your branding strategies fall short–and knowing how to improve–is the first step towards building a memorable, cohesive, and relatable brand.
This is a guest post by Gordon Meagher, head of content with Tailor Brands. Tailor Brands is an industry-leading online logo maker and automated branding identify platform.
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