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small steps towards building a

brand by Polly Dithmer & Roel Krabbendam

You run a small business...

...but have you stopped to think of it as a brand? Consider: Building a brand takes the same effort as building a business, but saves you from a reactive mindset that constantly has you fighting for every transaction. By focusing on building a compelling message, and a visually engaging presence, and by consistently following through with all of your materials, you will build recognition that accumulates benefits. You will also help build an understanding about your business that will keep you and your employees on the same page. In building a brand, we recommend to our clients that they start with what motivated them in the first place. If it helps, imagine your brand as a garden. Think about it step by step, 8 steps to start, just like this:

1. Examine the Soil a. Dig deep: take a look at your roots. b. Remember what nurtures you and what you stand for.

Forget for now what the market is saying: what are you telling you? Name 3 things that bothered you as a child. Do they still bother you? What problem do you seek to solve now? Do you see a connection? What are 3 things you loved to do as a child? What do you love to do now? Do you see a connection? Why did you start doing what you do?

Branding requires you to act powerfully, consistently and with supreme self-confidence in pursuit of something you believe in. Branding also requires authentic, deeply felt stories. Both these objectives are well served by looking at the ground beneath your feet.

c. Write it down like this: i. ii. iii.

“Ever since I was a child, I’ve hated….” “Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved….” “I started doing what I’m doing because….”

d. Now look at what you’re doing: i. ii. ii.

Are you living up to your own expectations of yourself? Are you expressing yourself authentically and emotionally? Bring yourself, your history, your particular genius and what you devote yourself to into alignment before doing anything else.

2. Take Stock of your Toolshed

a. Take stock:

i. Take stock of yourself. ii. Take stock of your space. iii. Take stock of your materials.

b. They all send a powerful message to your clients, and you need to take charge of it. c. Honestly: are they all aligned?

i. Are they of similar quality? ii. Do they say the same thing, authentically, compellingly? iii. Do they look like they belong together?

d. List everything that doesn’t: i. accurately represent you. ii. absolutely inspire you. iii. engage your ideal client emotionally. iv. motivate an action: to buy from you to sign up with you to talk about you

e. Fix those things. i. Graphics or Branding not your genius? Delegate. ii. Eliminate words! Clients tune out too many words! Find images to tell your story instead of words, or... Parcel your information into small digestible pieces. iii. Use professional photography! Careful: the risk with stock photography is clichĂŠ.

3. Get out of the Weeds

What exactly are you a genius at? a. How much time do you spend doing exactly that? b. How much time goes to other stuff? c. Write down 3 ways to increase the time you spend at your genius. i. What can you stop doing all together? ii. What can you delegate, to employees, to consultants? iii. What can you postpone? d. Now implement those strategies. e. Remember fixes from #2 “Take Stock of your Toolshed�: i. Do what you excel at doing. ii. Delegate to others what they excel at.

PS: Time is finite and far more precious than money. What distracts you from your purpose? We recommend mercilessly ridding yourself of them forever.

4. Who do You Love?

a. Define your Ideal Client, and write it down like this: “The people I satisfy the most, the clients I love, MY people, they are like this:”


age income gender location profession ethnic background educational background cultural background hopes and dreams something unique

b. Go deeper, and write it down like this: Who is your ideal client? “This is exactly the problem they come to me with”: (ONE problem)

“This is exactly what I do to solve their problem”: (ONE solution)

“This is what they love about my approach”: (THREE characteristics)

c. Now, find a real person: ...a real live person that embodies your ideal client. Bribe them, flatter them, pay them, whatever it takes, but enroll them as an advisor on your board of directors. No matter the size of your enterprise, no matter the scope of your efforts, no matter how few people you enroll, establish a board of directors. Something to start thinking about: What have you done for that ideal client lately?

a. How do your competitors make you feel? i. Jealousy: This is the most interesting of all emotions. It suggests that your competitor already embodies everything you imagine for yourself. It suggests they have a lot to teach you. It requires this of you: Humbleness, Tenacity and a Beginner’s Mind. It requires you to Learn. ii. Concern: Concern suggests your competitor is doing some things right. Concern requires you to consult your board of directors and to test your perceptions with your ideal client. Concern suggests there may be room for you to improve your brand, but requires you to step back before you act rashly. iii. Respect: This suggests you still have confidence in your own brand, despite the success of your competitor. If there is something they are doing better than you, then this is an opportunity to improve that something. Respect is also an invitation to be creative: to borrow, to reinvent, to stretch, to play.

5. Examine the Terrain Who else does what you do? Look at your competitors’ materials and monitor carefully your reaction

b. Do you do something better, or something different?

Do you serve a different clientele? Do you deliver a different solution? Do you deliver a solution differently? What, exactly, is better about what you do, to your ideal client?

c. Write it down like this:

“I am the only one serving…” “My solution is unique because…” “My methodology is much better because…”

d. Decide: Stand on this soil, or find more favorable terrain?

You must differentiate yourself in a way that is meaningful to your ideal client...or you will not thrive.

6. Consider the Fruits of Your Labor Evaluate your product or service. You’ve dedicated yourself to this business: why not make it awesome? Awesome. Awesome from your customer’s point of view. Awesome from your point of view. Alignment. The point is to deliver on your brand promise. To ridiculously over-deliver. Then:

a. Look at your packaging.

Ever notice how mediocre stuff sells pretty well sometimes? Packaging. Imagine your package as a gift to your fiancé. Imagine your package as your customer’s winning lottery ticket. Imagine your package as containing an incredible surprise. Imagine your package as containing a secret message. Imagine your package as the key to your customer’s future.

b. Look at the delivery

Look at that moment where your customer first hears about you. Look at that moment where your customer first sees you. Look at that moment where your customer first experiences your work. Your job is to bring it all into alignment: to match the quality of your work.

c. Deliver an experience, not just a product or service.

Make it Awesome.


7. Don’t: Expand Your (Nurture Complain. Criticize. Solicit sales.

Nourish your relationships.

your reach your relationships)


Teach people what you do. Share your stories, funnier the better. Learn from their experience. Ask for referrals. Explore alliances. Ask questions.

8. Share Be a giver, not a taker.

Attract your ideal client with engaging content instead of demanding their attention with intrusive advertising.

Share what you know! a. Go out and get a speaking gig. i. ii.

Talk to your ideal client (See No.4 above). Practice before hand, preferably in front of a mirror. In front of your parents or your kids works too, but only if you’re funny.

b. Videotape it.

i. ii. iii. iv. v.

No! Not you in front of your laptop camera! Get someone to run a camera for you. Get a good background. Consider wearing something that goes with your logo or brand. Finally: share a little of yourself. Don’t be shy about trying this 10 or 15 times in front of the camera until it feels natural.

c. Watch it and learn.

i. ii. iii. iv.

Does that person look comfortable? Does that person have a commanding presence? Does that person have a compelling message? Is that person an authority?

d. Repeat.

No excuses, no waffling, no nonsense. Say what you have to say, but leave selling for another day.


Now, Verify.

i. ii.

Before you put that video on your website and on Youtube, verify with your board of directors that your video tells your story compellingly. Take a step back and verify that it meets your own standards of quality. Now put that video on your website and on Youtube.

Put your heart in this, and the sky is the limit.

we kept this brief... ...and it’s hard to bottle 30 years of design experience, but if anything didn’t resonate, if anything didn’t make sense, if anything sounded strange or if you would like some help or clarification, please drop either principal an email: we answer them all and we’re glad to be of assistance.

© Imagine Red LLC 2014

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