Get Focused: 4 Steps to Brand Clarity & Business Direction
Over the past 3 years of having my own business, I’ve noticed one major thing that holds us back as entrepreneurs: a lack of brand clarity and business direction.
I’ve counted over 65 clients that I’ve helped to date with their brand identities and websites. That’s over 65 business owners from so many different industries - I’ve worked with construction managers, hair salons, yoga studios, coaches, product-based businesses and more. Within any industry, I’ve noticed that if the business owner is not clear on their brand or the direction of their business, we end up with prolonged project timelines, indecisiveness and a case of shiny object syndrome.
And to be clear, I’m counting myself in this as well! Many times over the past 3 years, I’ve felt completely burnt out, indecisive, unsure about where my business was going, unclear, lost and even straight up confused about why I was doing the things on my to-do list.
This past year, after a whole lot of life things were happening around me, I realized how lost I truly felt when it came to my business. I felt so unsure about how to differentiate myself from all of the other amazing designers out there. I didn’t know who I really wanted to be working with. Did I need to niche down? Did I need to charge more? Less?
So, I did a deep dive into brand clarity and business direction. I researched everything to figure out what resonated with ME and MY business. I threw out any advice that didn’t. I unsubscribed from people who were no longer adding value to my journey (even though I still send love to them, but I needed uninterrupted, to-the-core CLARITY). I sat without a screen in front of me - just a notebook and my thoughts and brainstormed everything I was thinking about. I went back to exercises and posts from people who I truly look up to and compiled a road-map for myself.
A road-map to clarity.
Spoiler alert: I did turn this roadmap into something tangible to help my community out as well. This year, I created The Brand Planner: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Brand Clarity & Business Direction. You can read more about that now if you’re eager!
So, after about 3 months into this get-it-together-Danielle journey of mine, I felt more clear than ever on what I needed to focus on within my business. I figured out the exact kind of client I want to be working with. I overhauled my entire client process to focus on taking care of the people who were already choosing me, instead of trying to be seen by a world of others. I found my own brand voice and I had a clear path towards my own version of success.
Since implementing all of this, I honestly can say that I’ve had the pleasure of working on more dreamy projects in the past few months than I have in the past few years.
The 4 stepping stones to brand clarity
Let’s take a look at 4 steps you can take yourself to start getting on track. And if you’re a pen and paper kinda person, grab something to take some notes down. Use this post as a way to start your own brainstorming process.
Step 1 | Why
We can get so caught up running our businesses. We end up in a whirlwind of hustling and striving for MORE. More followers. More money. More growth. But if we keep our “whys” in the forefront of our day-to-day, it’s so much easier to ground down and stay focused on what matters most.
1. Why did you start your business in the first place?
Was it to help others? Share your story? Create flexibility in your schedule? Financial freedom to live life on your own terms? Think about all of the different reasons you started this journey (or are thinking of starting this journey). These are key to keeping you on track.
2. What is YOUR definition of success?
We are told what success looks like in many ways each day. You’ve heard it a million times:
“Make six figures during your next launch!”
“Work from the beach for one hour a day and make six figures!”
“From broke to millionaire overnight!”
It’s exhausting, isn’t it? This kind of rhetoric leaves me feeling so drained. It makes me feel like I’m never going to “succeed” and that I’ll never be as good as so and so who is making a million dollars from their beach house in wherever. It also leaves us feeling overwhelmed by what we think we should be doing to reach someone else’s dream.
Hey, if you’re vision of success is living in a beach house as a millionaire, then you go sister/brother. But I’m challenging you right now to pause and think about what your own version of success looks like.
This might even relate back to your “whys”. For me? My success means:
- Waking up Monday morning not dreading the week.
- Taking time off without asking permission from a boss.
- Being able to do some yoga or go for a walk in the middle of the day.
- Cooking healthy meals more often.
- Having enough financial freedom to take at least one vacation per year and also go on date nights with my partner without worrying about what’s in the bank.
- Buying whatever groceries I want without worrying about the price tag.
- Being able to take one afternoon or morning each week to be creative, whether that’s painting, pottery, or crafting.
- Being able to take 2 full weeks off in December and 2 full weeks off in the summer.
I still actively work towards this vision, but it’s my own. What does yours look like?
Step 2 | What
Once you have the why’s figured out, it’s important to consider WHAT you’re building. We often get tied up in doing things because it worked for someone else somewhere at some other time.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. What is it that you LOVE doing in your business?
Do you LOVE working one-on-one with clients? Do you LOVE writing blog posts? Do you LOVE recording video? Do you LOVE designing new products? List everything that truly brings you joy within your business to-do list.
2. Now, what don’t you love doing?
Hate bookkeeping (I sure do…)? Procrastinate writing blog posts (yup… me too…)? Can’t stand phone calls with clients? These are the things that yes, probably still need to be done to run your business (well, you should make sure they do absolutely need to be done and you aren’t just torturing yourself because you think you should). But this list is full of tasks that you can either:
- Outsource when you’re able to
- Stop doing entirely if you don’t need to do them
- Rework your processes and systems so that these tasks aren’t as bad as you’re making them seem right now
If you’re a designer who hates building websites, then don’t offer web design. Or… partner up with a developer who does love building websites.
If you’re a coach who feels entirely drained by one-on-one calls, maybe you need to look into online courses or group workshops instead.
Basically, if you’re offering something to your customers or clients that you actually don’t enjoy doing, then you’re not benefiting anyone. Figure out ways to make your business work with less of the stuff you don’t love and more of the stuff that you do love.
Last one for the WHAT section here:
3. What makes your brand different than someone else’s in your industry?
This one is important and it’s one that I was so unclear about for so long. I couldn’t tell people why they should hire me over another designer.
Now, I do know what makes my brand different. I know that I have a special focus on unique, handcrafted brands (being an artist matters to my process). I know that my process is one of ease, attention, and collaboration, which leaves clients feeling very taken care of and trusting of my expertise. I know that I care about simplicity and streamlining things for my clients - I don’t want to create anything that’s a nuisance to manage or a headache to maintain. I know that I care deeply about not only creating brands and websites but also helping my people design a life they love along the way. I also know that my brand style guides are unique and have been a huge hit (since I now print them off as a hardcover coffee-table book for my clients)!
So what makes YOU different from anyone else working in a similar business?
Step 3 | Why
I’m sure you’ve done a hundred exercises on finding your ideal clients, right? Well, I’d like to throw those out. Go ahead. I'll wait.
First, you need to start with YOU. Now, a very common mistake I see in working with my clients who are most often solopreneurs (meaning they are the sole people working on their business - no team, just them), is getting too caught up in the ME instead of focusing on their ideal clients.
This comes up most often in design, of course, where feedback might be something along the lines of “I’m just not sure about this aspect,” to which I respond with “ok… but what about your perfect customer/client? How would they feel about it?”
Our business is a steady balance between us and them. We need to feel great and love our brands in order to share them so passionately, but we also need to remove ourselves enough to know that we are serving our ideal clients, and not necessarily ourselves.
So, let's start with you.
1. Brainstorm who you are and what quirks will bring brand personality to your business.
These personality traits and values are what help you connect to others. People like to buy from people. Human connection is an inherent thing we all crave. So when we can personify our business and let people know there are human beings behind the service, product, screen...etc. then we are building deeper relationships with our audience.
2. Who are your ideal clients and customers?
After you’ve figured out YOU within your business, you need to define your most perfect client or customer. Now, I’m not talking necessarily about genders, income, how many kids they have...etc. I want you to define aspects that matter to your bottom line. What are they struggling with? Why do they need YOUR help? What are their biggest dreams?
» If you missed my post on target audience profiles, read it here and work through the questions for even more clarity.
Step 4 | How
This is where it all comes together. Once you’ve gone through an entire process on why, what and who, you need to know how. How will you reach these people you want to work with? How will they find you? How do you make this all work as a business direction?
1. Start with your marketing plan.
How do you intend to take all of this clarity and turn it into an effective marketing strategy? What kind of marketing approaches can you take based on things that you love doing in your business?
2. How about your social media efforts?
We all know how important it is to be active and engaged on social media, but where do you think it’s best to spend your time and energy? Think about these marketing efforts now under the lens of your previous clarity work. There’s no sense in doing things you don’t love doing, and there’s also no sense doing things that your audience won’t resonate with.
Use your brand clarity to figure out the best marketing approach for YOU and for your ideal clients/customers
The clarity I found through this type of exploration is invaluable. The relief is real. And while this process is likely one I will be revisiting yearly as my business shifts and evolves, it’s so powerful to have this kind of direction. It makes each task worthwhile and a part of something bigger than just crossing it off a list.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, my friend. I put the entire roadmap together for people just like you so that you don’t have to take 3 months to work through this. You can take a few hours, or maybe just a few weeks by using The Brand Planner.
A road-map to clarity
The Brand Planner is a hardcover, hold-it-in-your-hands, take-it-away-to-a-quiet-place, no-screens-needed tool. It’s meant to guide you through your own journey towards brand clarity and business direction so that you can start living your own definition of success. Oh, and there is a digital version if you prefer that sort of thing.
Entrepreneurs everywhere, it’s time for us to focus! Build a better brand, but more importantly, design a life you love along the way.
Happy planning to you!