Before we get into professional branding, let me just say right now… Step away from Canva. No, don’t panic. Just step away for a moment and hear me out here. I promise you can come back to it later on.
I am in no way a biased Canva hating designer. Canva is a fantastic tool that allows beautiful design to become accessible for people who don’t have the time to learn all of the ins and outs of design or maybe you don’t have the budget to work with a designer every single time you need a social media post. Canva can help you to keep your branding professional across the board in an affordable manner, and fast.
What Canva can’t do is the vast amount of research and discovery that goes into a professional branding project, and create a brand identity based on your purpose in business and your target audience. If you want to use Canva in the future, let it be one of the tools your brand uses to elevate itself… not the whole toolbox.
I’m going to tell you all about what professional branding is in this short blog. You’ll find out why you need more than just good looking Canva designs to create a strong brand that grows with your business, and how you can define yours for success.
What is a brand?
Your brand is what everybody else sees and feels when they experience you and your business. It’s made up of everything that contributes to this experience, so we are talking about your logo, but we’re also talking about your customer service, packaging, advertising, the style and feel of your products, and the way you provide your services.
Your brand has a visual identity, voice, personality and purpose. Understanding and designing this experience with the right people in mind will help your brand to leave a memorable, and pleasant, impression on your clients… and they’ll want to come back for more of what you’re putting out into the world. This is what we call branding.
One thing I always talk to my clients about it is that your business has a brand whether you’ve carefully designed your brand identity and experiences or not. Potential clients and customers will always have a preconception about you, and what you do, that’s is a given. But you can help communicate the emotions you want people to feel when they interact with your business with professional branding.
So what makes professional branding?
Your branding efforts’ main goal should be to create a positive image and stand out from the crowd. How you do that will depend on your strategy and the identity you decide on. The three steps of branding are:
The ingredients list to your brand’s recipe for success. The core building blocks. A professional branding process will include brand discovery, market research, mapping out your target audience, defining your brand’s purpose, voice and personality. Your strategy is your branding blueprint, and it will help guide the rest of the process.
Your brand’s identity is the face of your brand. It’s the way you show the world who you are and what you do. Design your brand identity to align with your strategy and apply it everywhere your brand has a presence – this way, you know everything is communicating the right message for you, and you’ll become recognisable.
Your brand identity includes:
- logo design
- colour palette
- font choice and hierarchy
- website design and experience
- photography and visuals
- advertising and content
- + more
Awareness and Marketing
Awareness is a huge part of professional branding. How will people know what you’re about if they haven’t even heard of you?
Just like your identity, your marketing efforts should always align with your brand strategy. Any decisions you make should fall in with your purpose.
The intended audience of any marketing materials will be your defined target audience, and you should work to make sure the intended feelings are communicated. Finally, making sure that any visual elements seamlessly compliment your brand’s identity and are recognisable as yours.
Yes, you can create your marketing materials in Canva, but make sure they look like the identity you have created based on your brand’s strategy. Give every last piece the correct *you* feeling because let’s face it, nobody else can do you like you can.
So, why is professional branding important?
The branding process is important in helping your business move forwards with clarity for both you, your clients, and if you have them, your employees too. Here are my top 5 reasons why you need professional branding in 2021:
1. Professional branding differentiates you from everything else out there
If you’ve been here for some time, you’ll know that we shout about community over competition all the time, but that doesn’t mean you should look just like everyone else. Differentiating yourself from everyone else in your space will allow people to understand why you’re the right business for them. If you send the right message to the right people, you’ll show you are the only option for solving their problem in the way they want and need. Others in your industry will do the same thing, and you’ll probably find you have fairly different target audiences. You’ll provide solutions in different ways to each other. This is a good thing! There’s plenty of room for everyone, but we don’t have to look/sound/move the same! The opposite will allow you to stand out for the right reasons.
2. Builds trust
You’ve probably heard of the marketing principle ‘Know, Like, Trust’. People really do buy from people they trust. Most of us crave community and to feel warm and fuzzy inside. My guess is that you enjoy feeling this way when you work with your clients too.
We rarely feel good after a cold and clinical business transaction. If you can convey your values and purpose to your audience through your identity and marketing, they can easily get to know you and trust what you’re about. Your brand builds trust through consistency and clarity.
3. A strong brand will guide your marketing efforts and help you make future decisions
You can use the strategy you’ve defined to guide your marketing efforts, and even help you make business decisions. Business owners can often fall into the trap of defining their purpose, values, personality, voice etc. and then marking it as done on their to-do list. Actually, if you refer back to your brand strategy on a regular basis, and whenever you have a decision to make, the answer may just be right in front of you.
Does the content of this [campaign, service or product] align with my values? If not, why not? How can I adjust it so that everything contributes towards my purpose?
You may be surprised how quickly the answers come to you when you have predefined standards you have set for yourself.
4. Your brand is not the colours, logo and fonts that you like
Read that again. I do say it with the greatest respect because I’m sure your style is lovely, I’m not dissing your vibes. But it’s your style. It’s probably not what your clients want to see or feel.
How many of us can say we truly are our own target audience? Yes, you and your clients may have lots of things in common, but the likelihood is that you are not as similar as you think. Don’t they say opposites attract? The very fact you’re selling a solution to these people means that you probably don’t have that one thing in common.
Making sure you research and define your target audience thoroughly will ensure you are communicating with them effectively through your messaging and visuals, and not just picking your fav fonts and colours that might say playful to you, but something completely different to your audience.
5. Separate yourself from your business
This one may be a bit niche to us one-woman-bands and service providers, but your brand can help you separate yourself from your business.
Separating yourself from your own business’s successes, mistakes, and hurdles can be incredibly difficult, especially now, when we are always reachable online. Many of our businesses are built on our own passions and purposes, but defining your brand will help you see where your business ends and where you start. It is a big win when you’re juggling all the things and need to switch off after work and at the weekend.
As you grow and take on employees, your brand will help guide company culture, making sure you have the right people in the right places. Your brand works for your employees (and you) in the same way it works for your clients. They want to know your story and feel a part of something.
If you feel like your business starts and ends with you right now, consider putting more planning into your brand’s strategy.
How do I get started with professional branding?
If you want people to invest in your business, you should be prepared to invest in your business too. Professional branding is one of the most important investments you can make to help you define the core of your business and its purpose and inspire you to move forwards with clarity.
If you’re just getting started on your branding journey, you can download our Brand Clarity eBook to read more about the research and discovery phase and help you start mapping out your strategy.
If you’re further along your journey or perhaps you’re ready to start thinking about working with a professional, take a look at our Brimful of Branding programme for more info.