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A Content Tease
Our guest today is Craig McBreen and the first thing we want to know is: why do we have to wait a week after signing up for his email list before we get our first branding lesson??
He says it’s all about the anticipation but we’re just not buying it because we can’t wait!
Branding: More Than Just Your Logo
Our conversation today wraps around branding – what it is, why you need it and how to think about doing it for your business. Most people typically think of their logo when they think of branding.
Some people just want a really nice website design.
But branding starts long before anything visual happens. So what is branding, exactly?
Craig says that branding is the intersection of passion and knowledge. You take what you love, and what you know, and you create your message and content around that. It’s thinking about who you serve and how you do that. It’s about the language you use and the personality you bring.
Sometimes you talk to other people (like clients, business partners and colleagues) about what your company is and what you do.
Knowing the “what” and the “why” are key to effective branding.
Personal Vs. Business Branding
We pose this challenge to Craig: is personal branding a thing? Isn’t a brand just a brand? “Personal branding” seems to be a buzzword that marketers use to sell just another service to people.
Craig says that while you do have a personal brand, it’s still part of your big-picture brand and you’re not a separate entity. But people often know and use the term so he also uses it to help engage and guide someone through the branding process. But ultimately, it’s about your message, your what and your why.
Good Brand Vs. Bad Brand
Just because you know the why and what doesn’t mean you have built a good brand. You can know all that and still get it wrong. So we want to know what differentiates the good from the bad.
Craig says a good brand has a direct and consistent message that speaks to your core audience. Your language, personality, message and even graphics and colors are consistent across all your content, from your Twitter cover image to your website to your emails and business cards and everything between.
Conversely, a “bad” brand is the opposite. Your message doesn’t speak to your prospective customers. It’s all you, all the time – what you do, your awards, how great you are, instead of about the people you serve. Your Twitter page and Facebook page and website don’t quite mesh or look consistent. You use different language in different places and it’s likely confusing to people.
Bad Branding? Start Here.
If your branding is inconsistent, off-target or non-existent, get help! Find a professional, collect some clients and colleagues, just get people who can help you tell your story properly. Ask them what’s great – and not so great – about working with you. Ask people what they think you do and match that against what you actually do. Notice the language people use, the consistencies and the misconceptions.
Make copious notes. You’ll need to refer to them to help craft a cohesive, consistent and clear message – one that speaks to the right people.
Then from your message, your graphics, logo and other visuals will follow.
As long as we’ve got him, we decide to extract some free consulting out of Craig for our own business.
We have a lot going on. A number of different businesses, with different partners and different branding for each. So we want to know how someone like us manages these different entities and avoids a branding nightmare.
The bottom line is that we (and people in our boat) need a concise message that speaks to the ideal client for each brand. Then we need to be sure to design consistently across the board, from colors to words.
In Craig’s case, he has two companies – one that caters to larger clients and one that caters to smaller clients and solopreneurs. His message is specific to each but he’s done a great job creating some overlap so that when people find him they aren’t confused.
Branding Needs To Be Maintained
Your copy is written. Your logo is designed. You’re officially branded! And now you’re done.
But hold your horses – there’s more to it.
If you’ve done branding right in the first place, you’ve got a bunch of notes from all those conversations you had with colleagues, partners and clients and you have a strong message. But over time, your business evolves. And as you add or remove a service, add a new social network, change a bit of your website, it’s very easy for things to get out of synch. A tiny change in tone here, a different color there, and next thing you know you’re looking at branding death by a thousand cuts.
So over time, check back in with your brand, from the language and message to the colors and graphics, and make the tiny tweaks that will keep it sharp instead of sliding into disaster.
More Free Consulting!
We’ve been considering doing a bit of rebranding ourselves. Our focus has shifted a bit and we feel like maybe it’s time for a change. But every time we present the idea to our listeners and fans, there’s a little bit of freaking out. People don’t want us to change, even though we think it might be time.
So we ask Craig: how do you make that change without pissing people off? Just think of the fit people had when Gap changed their logo, the utter outrage. People get very attached to their brands. Is change worth it?
Craig says that he doesn’t think we’ve shifted so much that we need to start from scratch. With a little tweak, maybe a different tagline or adjustment to our messaging, we could bring our brand in alignment without a scary overhaul.
He suggests maintaining our existing branding elements, like colors and even music, but just being mindful of the messaging. And since we’re still us, our language and personality will still be the same.
Who Is Craig McBreen?
We talked a lot about branding, but Craig is still a guy who runs a business and has a family. So how does he make it all happen?
Craig is right in our wheelhouse when it comes to work and life. He’s learned to work on a consistent schedule (even though like many of us he was used to working until all hours of the night), he meditates each day, he focuses on the tasks that need to be done during the day and then he quits and makes sure he has time to live his life, take time for his family and get in some much-needed down time.
He also has a trick up his sleeve, and that’s planning out his daily tasks the night before. That way he doesn’t have to spend time figuring them out first thing each day. He already knows and can get right to them and get them done.
One Last Question. (Or Two.)
All of the branding talk has been fun, but there’s another issue at hand, which is that a brand is nice, but it does you no good unless you get it out into the world. It hardly matters how great your message is unless you get it heard. How does that happen? Especially when there are so many ways to get your message out? Sometimes having so many options, from web to search to social to email and even snail mail, is paralyzing.
Craig says that you don’t, in fact, need to be everywhere. You only need to be where it works for you. If you’re making connections on Facebook, then don’t worry that you’re not on Twitter. If Facebook isn’t happening, then skip it and try LinkedIn. Don’t worry about where you’re not – just focus on where you are and what’s working.
Ok, but what about all the new social networks and marketing channels that keep popping up? Periscope. Blab. Snapchat. Do you sometimes feel compelled to jump on the latest trend before you miss out?
Craig says that he doesn’t have time to jump on every new thing. For him, LinkedIn works. He’s too busy making those connections and running his business to worry about the new shiny object. Take this advice to heart: you don’t need to be trendy either. If you’ve got time and want to try something, or expand into a new market, go ahead. But don’t feel guilty if you ignore the next live streaming service or opt out of the hottest new social network.
Stay focused and you’ll reap the rewards of your efforts.
Your Action Item
From Craig: Stop reading business books. When you quit work for the evening, don’t pick up the latest business book, don’t browse blog posts or inspirational books. The problem is that your brain will start spinning with ideas and you won’t actually relax or sleep well. Your brain needs time to stop. So use your down time to leave work behind and you’ll do wonders for your health and creativity.