Branding 201: When should you invest money in your brand image?
Your brand image is how your business is perceived by other people.
That’s the simplest definition at least. If you want to get more technical, it’s the sum of a thousand parts, ranging from the tone of ‘voice’ you use in your blog posts to the logo on your business card.
It’s all the places your client comes into contact with your brand. Your website, business card, the thank you page they hit after subscribing to your newsletter. It’s your logo and color scheme too, but that’s only part of it.
More important than what it is though is what it does. Your brand image has a job to do, and that job is to represent your business in such a way that the people you want to work with also want to work with you.
A successful brand image, one that positions you as a leader, attracts your ideal clients, and represents the true you, is more than just a pretty website. It’s the result of understanding where your business is now, where you want it to go, and having a plan to get there.
A well designed, successful brand image is the implementation of well thought out strategy.
Have you ever looked at another entrepreneur’s website or social media profile and wondered how they manage to look so pulled together? Like there’s just something you can’t put your finger on that makes them stand out and feel somehow more legit than others you’ve seen? It might even feel like they’re speaking right to you.
Odds are they were able to make you feel that way because they:
A) Did the foundational work of figuring out who they serve (and who they are), what they do, and what unique value they offer.
B) It’s highly likely this is NOT the first iteration of their business.
As our businesses evolve and grow over time we start to learn things like who we work best with and what services we really enjoy offering. Having a good understanding of those things is crucial to creating a brand that works for you.
Because we are continually evolving though it can be hard to know when it’s time to stop piecing things together bit by bit and instead invest in having a cohesive brand professionally designed.
Will you just reach a point where you know you’re finally ready? You’re done evolving and now it’s time to brand, like a caterpillar morphing into a majestic butterfly without even knowing it?
Sorry, no. Much like puberty and your grandmother’s tuna casserole, this is not an exact science. It’s an ongoing process of figuring out who the hell you even are.
However, my general rule after years of working with clients is this:
Don’t invest a lot of money in branding in the first year or two of your new business.
The first two years in business can be a huge learning curve.
Learning what you enjoy doing, who you enjoy working with, what you really really hate, and vice versa.
Your focus can narrow or change rapidly and dramatically. And that’s okay! It means you’re trying things and growing. But it does make creating a consistent brand image tough.
Before you invest a lot of money (more than just a few hundred dollars here and there) in your branding you want to be able to show you have a viable business idea, a decent understanding of the value you bring to the table, and a good idea who your ideal client is.
This doesn’t have to mean you’re turning six figures, not at all. Just that people are picking up what you’re putting down (and paying you for it!).
It also doesn’t mean don’t go get a logo and website in your first year of business by the way. You should definitely have those things. It just means it’s totally okay if they feel cobbled together and you know you can do better. It’s more than okay, it’s normal and recommended.
Your business needs time to settle into what it really is before you can effectively brand it.
As with most rules though, there are exceptions, such as:
Working with a strategist or coach can help you get there exponentially faster.
An experienced business coach or brand strategist can guide you through the important who, what, why, and how questions that you need to answer to craft a solid brand and speed up your growth substantially.
They can see the forest and the trees because they’re outside the situation and have been there before, plus they are almost as invested in your success as you are.
I will absolutely work with new businesses to craft their brand image, but only if they go through the foundational work with me or have already worked with a coach. Because when they come into the project with an awareness of who they are, I’m able to build a brand that reflects that.
Another exception could be that this isn’t your first business.
Once you’ve built one business successfully it can be easier to transfer that knowledge over to a new business.
The foundational work is the same no matter the industry really. It’s more an issue of knowing what questions to ask yourself and how to find the answers than anything. You’ll still have a learning curve in the beginning of your second or third business, but you’ll have your past experiences and mistakes to look to for advice.
The last thing I want to say on this subject is - there are no hard and fast rules here. I definitely advise people to wait until they’ve been in business a couple of years before upleveling their branding, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
Every situation is unique, every business grows at a different pace. Learn the rules, learn your business, then do what feels best for you and your brand and you’ll thrive.