A couple of years ago I met with a client who had decided to hire me, despite winning a contest with a local web designer where their whole brand and website for free. I knew the designer, so choosing to pay me thousands of dollars when they could have something of quality for free blew my mind. When I asked why, it was because they’d had a communication breakdown. In an effort to streamline the design process, the designer had given her a questionnaire to fill out describing what her brand was all about, what she liked, etc, and it was written in “designer speak” – so while it was clear to me what she was asking, the design world was SO NEW to this client, that it went over her head, causing a breakdown.
How often do you fall into this trap?
It’s so easy to get lost in our own little bubbles, that we start to make assumptions that everyone knows what we know, or everyone knows what we mean when we say certain things. Because a lot of my followers are spiritually-minded folks, I assume everyone knows what I mean about channeling content, clearing energetic blocks and so on… but they don’t. (Especially my more Muggle-like clients.) Even having had this experience with that client, where we went into much of the same content asked in the questionnaire 1:1, I found myself in an exchange with a prospect today where I’d made some assumptions that we were both talking about the same thing when discussing brand guidelines.
For me, brand guidelines are the language of your brand. They’re the colours, fonts, digital assets, language you use that are consistent in all of your marketing. So if you have a social media manager, a VA, and a web designer working on different things for you, they all have the same consistent look and feel.
Her understanding was her logo and brochure was her brand guidelines. So when I went on her social media to find a completely different vibe, naturally I was confused.
This is the biggest way that small businesses market themselves poorly.
The colours and fonts you use are important, but the biggest thing is CONSISTENCY, especially when you’re new and establishing yourself. And sure, if you have the budget for it, hiring a brand strategist like me is a great way to do it, but there are ways you can DIY this process too. If you want a bit of support, you could buy my branding workbook “Your Big, Beautiful Brand” to work through some branding basics. If you want to completely DIY, you can go into Pinterest, find a colour palette and some fonts you like (you can also use Google fonts to help you choose your fonts – it’ll even show you what works well together). Again: it doesn’t have to be FANCY, just CONSISTENT.
So what does consistency look like?
The best example I have of this is a natural pharmacy I used to design for. When we looked at revamping their in-house product line, I started going through the items one by one, and was surprised to find one of their products had a blue and green logo, when the pharmacy’s logo was actually purple and green. (Though to be honest, the exact shades of purple and green also differed depending on the product). When I asked why that was, I was told they’d changed the purple to blue because it matched the stock photo better.
Your logo, and everything in it, is SACRED. It’s the one thing that should be immutable in your marketing, with occasional updates every few years, but not from one product to the next. You can change every other thing around it, but never the brand element themselves.
So yes, their logo is purple and green, but WHICH purple, and WHICH green? There’s a pretty big difference between lilac and amethyst, or mint and forest. Do you see what I mean?
No matter how your dream clients find you: Facebook, Instagram, your website, a business card at a networking event, they should be able to identify it’s YOU. In Canada, we have a telecom company that uses baby animals and purple and green in their marketing. The second you see a white screen with a baby animal walking across, you KNOW you’re seeing a Telus commercial. (Fun fact: they did a presentation at my co-op and they gave out stuffies of baby animals – yay consistency.) In the early 2000s when you’d hear an indie song and a silhouette of a dancing person shimmied across your screen, you knew you’d be seeing Apple something or other. That recognition is gold, because they say it takes like 7 individual touches with someone before they remember you. If each of those touches looks different, how are you ever going to warm up a cold lead? You don’t need to have a big, corporate-sized budget to make your stuff memorable. You just need to create some guidelines and stick to them.
The moral of this post is two-fold I suppose, because my observation about getting lost in jargon quickly bled into a rant about brand consistency. So here are my two challenges to you:
- Look at the places you’re using jargon where it may be going over your dream client’s heads. This could be in your social posts, the content you share, what you write on your website, what you say in your meetings. Meet them where they are. Do a quick check-in to see what you need to re-word, or re-frame to make it easy for your dream clients to understand. (Because people don’t buy when they don’t understand.)
- Look at the content you’re sharing visually – does it have the same general vibe in the language you use, and how it looks? If not, why not? And are you willing to give yourself a tiny bit of structure by way of brand guidelines to make your marketing that much more compelling? That much more… dare I say… beautiful? Memorable? Resonant?
So excited to see your big, beautiful brand come to life!