I was several months into my jobless life after graduating from college. All that work seemingly wasted. I was devastated. And I started sinking into a depression with no desire to hear any of the usual, “It’ll get better,” “You’ll find a job,” “We’ll be praying for you!” Three months in and those things start falling on deaf ears, you know? I just wasn’t having it. But one day I got called down to visit and do something for a nonprofit organization my grandpa and dad co-founded, TRAILS Ministries. On my way out, I was asked if I could redo the organization’s website buttons. Redo the website buttons? Huh? I barely had any knowledge of web design, but I did a lot of basic graphic design work in college (which was pretty terrible, if I may add.) I agreed to it and thought nothing of it once I left. But once I started on the buttons, I started picking up on different things. For one, the existing web design wasn’t good. And to be honest, it was pretty downright terrible. Nothing made sense to me. And I quickly came to the conclusion that the buttons wouldn’t help the overall design of the site. It needed an overhaul and it needed it done right then and there. For whatever reason, I started researching web design. I asked them questions regarding their site and if they felt the same way. Turns out they did. And from a button designer, I started researching on how to improve this thing. But the more I researched, the more I started discovering this term called branding. I was intrigued. And the more I looked into it, the more I started noticing how TRAILS’ didn’t have one, nor did they have an identity. And even though I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I knew something needed to be done to effectively communicate who and what TRAILS was. From that moment on, I ended up creating a position for myself: Branding & Design Manager, and held my dominion over all things related to TRAILS brand, identity, and graphical output. This in turn created a department, Branding & Design, in which I had trained and managed several people as I grew into understanding and learning more about what I’m doing today. This was the platform and the project that lead me to teach Graphic Design at a school for two years, then I had this strange idea to start this business called Geeky Dreamer Branding & Design. It adds up. It always adds up. Stay the course and have faith that it will. But enough talking about it, I want to show you the outcome of the time I invested into my first major brand identity project. You can view my new case study for TRAILS Ministries here.
There are so many misconceptions about branding. And I really don’t like the fact that they’ve influenced so many people. Including me. I’ve had to relearn just about every doggone thing I thought I knew about branding to fix it. One of the most common misunderstandings of the term is when people say they need a “brand” or need “branding.” These people are often referring to their logo, website, business cards, or some other thing they can put their logo and colors on. Your logo, website, and business cards are important parts of your brand, but they’re also an extremely small percentage of what your brand really is. Your logo may get them to look, but your brand keeps them coming back for more. And to get your audience coming back for more, we gotta get a better understanding on what a brand and branding means at the fundamental level. So throw out all the junk and lets relearn some things. 100 days before her graduation, Sarah (Fudin) Hermalyn got inspired to get 100 definitions on what branding meant from 100 different people in various industries. I’ve pulled some of the best ones out for you as they’re gonna answer our question (and answer it right): What is branding? A brand is a simple mental model that represents, collectively, what people feel, think and say about a product, service or company, and where meaning is established over time through consistent positive experiences and engagements. – Elizabeth Talerman Feel, think, and say. That would make your brand an intangible thing, right? Your brand is the collection of these feelings, thoughts, memories, experiences, and stories that influence what is said about it. And in consistently doing these things, your brand means something to your audience that’s more than your product or service. This is why I caution against the ”Buy my thing!” culture on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You’re influencing someone’s mental model that all you do is create noise. The experience you’re creating is spam, and the memories you’re making are ones of evasion. Stop creating noise and start creating a brand. Tell stories and create relationships, then ask people to buy your thing. Branding is convincing that voice in someone’s head to be on your side. – Veronica Parker-Hahn A logo won’t do the job alone. To convince the voice inside someone’s head that you are the side to be on takes work, but it isn’t impossible. This goes beyond colors, business cards and letterheads, and feeds right back into creating experiences, memories, and stories to build up someone’s mental model of what your brand is and what it means in their life. One of the interesting considerations today about branding is how so many companies today must build and position their brands for growth and success in a much more integrated fashion, moving beyond the identity of the products / services (e.g., performance and benefits) being sold, to the experience being delivered, to the employees – on the front line …
2015 was a year of growth, both personally and professionally. It was the year I took my passion in design and turned it into a freelance business, called it Geeky Dreamer Branding & Design, and had a very small understanding on how business worked in today’s times. I winged it though. Stringing myself along day-by-day as I threw things at the wall in hopes that they’d stick, using that as a method to “learn” business and how it worked. Then at some point I just got really tired of that. I ended up coming across a podcast—the seanwes podcast—and started listening to the shows as they talked about design, creativity, professionalism, and most importantly, business. I caught onto another show—Lambo Goal—that also talked about entrepreneurship and business. Over the next several months I listened, applied, listened, and applied. Always taking the nuggets that jumped out at me the most and applied them to my own business. Then I got around people who thought and talked like me. Who wanted to do better, think bigger, and dream more ambitiously. And inside this community, my learning continued. And all throughout the rest of 2015 I took it upon myself to soak up as much of the information and value I surrounded myself with. And now I’m here. In 2016. Feeling phenomenal and in a much better position because I took the time to learn. So I figured, hey, why not share the top 25 lessons I learned that transformed my business with you? And as you read through the list, I’ve included additional material for you to either listen, watch, or read that’s related to the lesson. Hopefully you’ll find this valuable, and if you do, don’t be afraid to pass it along to other entrepreneurs who may benefit from this list. (1) Niching Down is Essential to Your Business Growth Niching down keeps the noise out of your ear. I believe we all inherently have a bit of “shiny-object syndrome” where “the new, shiny thing” catches our attention too often and takes our focus off of what we should be focused on. Niching down took me from a graphic designer who designed everything from t-shirts, flyers, buttons, CD covers, and anything else a client could throw at me to a brand identity designer who creates brands worth remembering for entrepreneurs. This has also lead me to developing two courses (Learn Branding online video course and the FREE 7-Day Branding Bootcamp email course (page coming soon)); add two more services this year; and running a weekly blog dedicated to providing branding and entrepreneurial insights. From designing club flyers to growing a business. All because I niched down. Don’t fear it. Embrace it. [clickToTweet tweet=”Niching down is essential to your business growth.” quote=”Niching down is essential to your business growth.” theme=”style3″] Listen 4 Reasons You Don’t Need to Be Afraid to Niche Down | seanwes podcast Making a Living at a Niche Pursuit with “The Trifecta” | seanwes podcast Watch 4 Reasons You Don’t Need …
I thought I’d share what my most recent sabbatical allowed me to accomplish. I just don’t want to talk about clarity and focus. I want to show you exactly what came out of it. My Target Audience Hyperthyroidism may have had me down, but my focus was on the come up. I was able to think about you. Who am I targeting? And how is the content I’m producing benefiting them? It was during all that resting I realized I was doing too much and trying to capture everyone. I was writing for: Creative entrepreneurs Designers Brand identity designers Entrepreneurs Nonprofits People looking for motivation and inspiration People looking for design tips and tricks Clients looking to be better clients Designers trying to be better designers This really had me tied up and ultimately confused. So as a result: My content was all over the place. I lacked focus. It was hard to blog week after week due to the frustration and stress of not knowing who to cater to on that given week. I came to a point I didn’t want to blog anymore, because I didn’t know who I was blogging for. And after months of thinking about this, I was able to eliminate all of those audiences down to a single, core focus: New entrepreneurs seeking branding and entrepreneurial insights to make their entrepreneurial journey less frustrating and more navigable. With that, these last 4 blogs have been a direct output from discovering my core audience. And my frame of mind is much more productive and focused when it comes time to creating topics for 2016’s editorial calendar. But then more stuff started happening after this. By knowing the blog’s target audience, it helped me further shape and determine the target audience for Geeky Dreamer, which lead to some repositioning of the brand. Repositioning the Brand My target audience before the sabbatical: First time entrepreneurs Seasoned entrepreneurs Small businesses between 2-10 employees Nonprofits After the sabbatical: First time entrepreneurs looking for their brand to become relevant, story-driven, and memorable. In doing this I got some of the best clarity I didn’t get prior to taking the sabbatical. How could I though? I was always in the trenches and rarely came out for air. And once I did, I was able to see that my content on the site and social media wasn’t targeting this audience. I was still doing the catch-all approach. So in realizing this, it prompted me to redo my website’s copy. Redoing the Web Copy Oh good. You’re here. Now it’s time to start working on that dream of yours. You did your part at the 9-5. Now it’s time to get serious and create something bigger than yourself. These were the headlines I created for the different pages on my site. With a much better focus of who I’m targeting, I was able to position the site copy to speak to that audience, which further created a consistent brand voice and brand personality. …
I love what I do. It doesn’t feel like work. So it’s easy to rack up 12+ hours a day. But there came a time where I needed to actually slow down. And since I didn’t slow down on my own, my body did it for me. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in early August, and had to take several months of rest from everything. It took a serious medical issue to get me to see the power of rest, but I would have never been able to reap the benefits of resting and recharging had it not happened. So because of that, every 7th week I’ve adopted the concept of taking small scale sabbaticals. Going hyper-speed; pulling long nights and early mornings; and grinding 12-18 hours a day is what we do as entrepreneurs. But it isn’t sustainable. You have to take a break. “It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal.” – Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free The Purpose Rest brings clarity and focus. It opens your mind to Creativity Innovation Newer knowledge So you can imagine what taking a small sabbatical every 7th week has done for myself and others who’ve adopted this concept from Sean McCabe of the seanwes podcast. Sean and his team take a full paid sabbatical week every 7th week. Their output stops for an entire week (podcasts, blog posts, newsletters, videos, etc). Watching them do this for several months I caught onto two things: They were refreshed and recharged. This lead each of them to clarity, having more focus, and they were able to structure, organize, and plan for the next 7 weeks to come. Other areas of their lives were growing. Be it learning new information through a conference, writing music, a book, or simply being able to spend time with family. Two Purposes For Sabbaticals Rest and recharge Pursue secondary passions Like your phone, you need to recharge to get any use out of the body you demand so much out of. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m hustling for my business, I’m having to turn a lot of things down that I really want to do in order to focus and not stretch myself thin. Sabbaticals give me the opportunity to say yes to those other things I really want to do and rest at the same time. Three Types of Sabbaticals I can’t even lie. Doing my first few sabbaticals I was all over the place. It was overwhelming. I had all of these free hours stacked and could do anything with them. But I found myself stressed out and frustrated, and that isn’t even the point of taking a sabbatical. So needless to say, focus is important when you’re resting too. It isn’t so much about the rest, it’s how you rest. Reintroducing Sean’s concept, there are three types of sabbaticals: Rest Sabbaticals Project Sabbaticals Travel Sabbaticals Rest Sabbaticals Netflix & …
We run ourselves through the ringer as entrepreneurs. All of that hustle and grind can really start feeling like extra weight. We’ve gotta respond to emails. We’ve got meetings to schedule and run. There’s proposals to submit and approve; inventory to restock; refunds to issue; and batches of invoices to send out. It’s a marathon, but I need you to chill for the next 5-8 minutes and catch your breathe, because you’re killing yourself and your business trying to do all of the things. You can’t do it all. I know you want to. It’s tempting to want to handle every single document, approval, and contract from start to finish. If you don’t do it, who else will? This is your baby. You made the sacrifices. You had the vision. But have you ever considered that doing less may make room for more? Answering emails. Fielding orders. Sending invoices. Updating contact lists. Answering support calls. Making calls. Issuing refunds. Putting out fires. Keeping track of who’s paid their invoice and who hasn’t. We all do these activities to some degree to run our businesses, but where do you find the time to: Direct your vision? Build a memorable brand and consistent customer experiences? Scale your business? If you’re wondering if any of this is even still a possibility, it is. You can start finding that time again by automating, and in order to get started with automating, you need to identify your day-to-day business processes first. “My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” –Francine Jay, Miss Minimalist: Inspiration to Downsize, Declutter, and Simplify Automate? What’s That? Automation is taking all that tedious busywork, and optimizing and systematizing those processes. By the end of this post, you’ll find at least one of your processes that can be automated and optimized. Processes: What They Should and Shouldn’t Be Process is how something is handled in sequential order involving a series of activities to produce a desired and predictable outcome. If you’re unsure or don’t know if you have any day-to-day processes that are mandatory for the running of your business, may I strongly advise you to take a minute to start writing what you think may be a process. We do this because your processes: Shouldn’t vary from time to time Shouldn’t be a different experience for each customer Should be consistent in time and quality Identifying Your Processes Record Your Ways of Doing Things Document them. Write them down. It doesn’t matter if you do this on the computer or with a pen and paper, just get them written. Note: I find when I remove myself from the computer, my thinking gets clearer because I’m not distracted by the temptation to do other things. Just a suggestion. Some processes may include: 1) Emailing Some emails are standard. General inquiries, shipping questions, refunds, etc. If you’re hand typing each one of these, you need a process or protocol in place for each. 2) Client Onboarding From the moment …
As entrepreneurs, we strive to make the best product, the best service, and distance ourselves from our competition with unique benefits and features. But there’s a major shift happening in the arena of marketing, and it’s called Customer Experience Marketing.
It’s all about putting the customer at the forefront of your marketing strategy. Instead of trying to sell your customers on features and benefits, shift your mindset to create the focus on them. We are no longer in the age of features and benefits. Customers expect more and customers want more, and that’s exactly what we got with the recent phenomenon that is Patti Labelle’s sweet potato pie and the video testimonial that set their sales on fire.
Color can be your most powerful ally when it comes to branding. Are you using it to your advantage?
Your logo is an important part of your brand. As an entrepreneur you can’t afford to not do it the right way.
This four part series under Build the Brand is nothing to blow off. You need to handle the backend of your business to get clear, stay focused, and improve productivity. With out them, where is your brand going?
We’ve gone through developing your Why statement, Mission statement, and Vision statement. Now we get to the final part in Build the Brand: Your Core Values.
Mission statements don’t have to be paragraphs of meaningless information. You can make yours memorable and actionable in just a sentence or two.
How do you build an empire with no blueprint? You can’t, which is why your vision statement is an important part of your brand.
A multi-part series on branding building and creating a visual identity. Start with finding the soul of your organization and your own by discovering your Why.
I’ll admit it. I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like to. Between client work, writing case studies and blogs, brand building, maintaining a social media presence, creating new services, and starting projects while still holding a 9-5 eats more of my time than I’d like. Like you, I’m a busy entrepreneur. But even while working crazy hours I still enjoy learning, improving, and growing as a person and for my business. We don’t know everything. Someone has gone through something you’re trying to get through, has done something better, has made improvements or innovated new processes. As an entrepreneur I have to keep up with these things to streamline and focus in order to successfully grow my business, but those opportunities to sit down and read have become painfully rare. So I made a very simple change to how I consumed content and learned while being able to maintain these extremely crazy hours. I started listening to podcasts. Podcasts allow me to consume valuable, educational content while I’m working I love Anthony Hamilton and Jill Scott playing in the background while I’m working, but doing this, I wasn’t learning anything. Since making this change, I’m learning a lot of valuable, educational information that I can instantly apply to my business and personal growth. For example: What would have taken me several days to read several articles on design professionalism, I got the most valuable, life-changing content in an hour and 24 minutes. Because of this podcast alone, I’ve positioned myself not only as a professional, but a designer who listens, who is capable of building a trustworthy relationship with clients, and provides one of the most comprehensive, introspective Q&A experiences that truly define the problem you’re having and how to position you to start building your brand and business in the right direction. I’ve made a livable income off my passion pricing on value and not positioning myself or my services as a commodity in a pricing competition with other designers. I’m no longer leaving money on the table by doing more of what works for me. My eggs aren’t in one basket. I’ve got several services and more on the way that are going to allow me to increase my revenue and invest back into my business to continue to grow it. When I launched Geeky Dreamer I had only thought as far as using this site to showcase my work and have a section for people to get to know me. And that’s as far as I had gotten. I was scrambling all over Google researching other designer’s pricing models, trying to come up with a stable business plan, and figuring out how to attract more clients. Everything you see on the site today is the result of listening to podcasts. I didn’t intend on blogging and case studies were the furthest thing from my mind. I’ve been able to get organized, streamline, develop a niche for myself, and essentially transform my business from the the …
I’m an entrepreneur or nonprofit. Why would I even need a brand identity? Isn’t that something for the bigger corporations and businesses to worry about? Short answer: NO. You are in the best position to create a strong, cohesive brand identity so you can avoid muddy communications and get focused on what your business is all about to attract the right customers and get into the right markets. It isn’t always about fonts, colors, and logos.
In 1997 the University of Tennessee Volunteers (Vols) partnered with Adidas on a uniform deal. On June 30 of this year that deal ended. And in no time did they partner with Nike and its Graphic Identity Group to release an entirely new brand identity that now stretches across all 20 of its sports teams.
And I’ve got to say.
I’m thoroughly impressed.
What’s the cost of cheap or do-it-yourself logos? More than you think.
These questions will not only prepare you for your next design project, but lay down the foundation for your business.
Giving up leisure time and working until 2 am aren’t something I do for every client. But for the ones that I do they’ve consistently shown me these 3 qualities that make work fun.
There’s always a need for designers and clients to be on the same page when it comes to design. It won’t do you much good learning all the jargon, do’s and dont’s without first explaining what design is. You may have a misconception or ill-informed definition of design and are using it to set your expectations for projects.