Let’s start off with the basics: WTF is a brand, anyway?! A lot of times, it’s assumed that your brand = your logo and the way that your business looks. Sure, that’s part of it. But your brand is SO much more than that.
Your brand is the experience you create through the culmination of many working pieces. Because we’re always hungry, we like to call this the Brand Pizza. There are eight slices that make up one delicious (er..successful) brand, and some of those slices just might surprise you!
A successful brand is comprised of the following slices*:
- Niche + Mission
- Values + Your Big “WHY”
- Dream Client Persona
- Cohesive Design + Voice
- Web Presence
- Social Presence
- Internal Processes
- YOU + Your Relationships
*Of course, just having these elements alone isn’t the key to a successful brand. Making sure that each piece speaks to your mission, values, and ideal client in a cohesive and unique way is what equals success.
Today, we’re going to focus on that last slice: you and your relationships. That’s right, YOU are an integral part of your own brand. Your personality, the way you look and dress, the way you speak, and the way you interact with others all have an impact on the success and validity of your brand.
In addition to you, the relationships you create will play an important role in your brand as well. It’s important to foster a few different types of relationships as a business owner:
We’re going to share tips with you on how to grow and maintain each relationship type, examples from our own biz, and how each of these relationship types relates to and strengthens your brand identity. Ready? Let’s do it!
1. Client Relationships
Whether you are a service or product-based company, your client relationships are what keep you in business! It’s important to consistently nurture these relationships and give your clients the best experience possible when working with you or buying from you.
Grow + Maintain
Put yourself in their shoes. Walk through the process as if you were your own client. Is the process simple? Fun? Enjoyable? Where could you improve? This is where we recommend utilizing a client management system that streamlines your internal processes (things like proposals, contracts, invoices, and bookkeeping). Keep reading to find out which one we use!
Surprise and Delight
Think of ways that you can go above and beyond to make your clients feel extra special throughout the process. If you’re a service-based biz, perhaps send them a $5 e-card to Starbucks after booking them. Send a gift box or a thank you card in the mail after your project is complete. For product-based companies, maybe throw in a surprise freebie or a coupon. It doesn’t have to involve spending a lot of money either–get creative! Surprising your clients and making them feel special along the way will leave a lasting impression and likely lead to referrals galore. And, bonus points if you can partner with another small business to make these surprises happen!
Examples from Our Biz:
We’ve been perfecting our client experience for over two years now, and we’re still constantly improving it! There are plenty of Client Management platforms out there and each has it’s own pros and cons, but we have chosen to use Dubsado. It helps us look professional, stay organized internally, and also makes things super easy for our clients! As for surprise and delight, we enlisted the help of our Dream Team member, Betsy, to create a custom surprise for each of our clients when they launch their new website. Overall, we are living proof that the Client Experience is super important. For the first two years in business, we never once paid for advertising. We were booking clients left and right, and the vast majority of them were coming from referrals. The more happy clients you have, the better!
Why It’s Important
“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” -Jeff Bezoz (Amazon Founder + CEO)
It might sound cliche, but it’s for real! Remember how we said that your brand is an experience made up of many different slices? That whole experience is what your clients will talk about to friends, family, and other business connections. You want them to say good things, right?
Bonus: We do a little activity with our branding clients that helps establish what you want clients to say about working with you. Imagine that scenario right now: You finish working with a client, and they go tell a friend about it. What do you want him/her to say? Try to select three words that really symbolize the experience you desire for your clients. Write these three words down and place them somewhere you’ll see them often. These words should guide every decision you make for your client experience.
2. Collaborative Relationships
Collaborating with other like-minded biz owners is a way to contribute your expertise and get your name out there. Every time you collab with someone else, that’s another badass biz owner singing your praises. Give it a try!
Grow + Maintain
There are TONS of Facebook groups out there for biz owners, especially creatives! The descriptions range from super specific to super broad. There are SO many out there that it might be hard to weed out the few you want to spend the most time on. Pay attention to things like engagement—how often do people post in the group? Do most posts comment thread full of conversation? Is that conversation positive, constructive, and honest? Go for those types of groups if you can find them! (Some of our faves for creatives: Savvy Business Owners, Own it. Crush it., Wit + Wisdom, The Real Female Entrepreneur)
Bonus: Many of these groups have a specific day of the week with a prompt from the moderator for members to post anything they’re looking for assistance with (also called ISO – ‘In Search Of’ post!). Hop into groups with these threads to see how you can contribute your expertise!
Styled Shoots/Vendor Relationships
Styled shoots are a great way to build vendor relationships, especially in the wedding industry. The majority of our clients are in the wedding industry, whether it be a wedding photographer, wedding planner, invitation + stationery designer and even florists! So many of them have been involved in styled shoots and have their “go to” vendors to learn on. Remember, especially in the local market, people talk about the good, the bad, and the “stay TF away from” vendors. Build relationships with vendors and get involved in styled shoots – especially if you’re looking to build your portfolio or attract certain types of projects!
Examples from Our Biz:
* Our Crazy Story
The whole story behind our business is actually based upon a collaborative relationship! We met in a Facebook group for creative biz owners and ended up swapping services (back then we each had our own separate businesses). During the swap (Kelsey designed Britt’s brand and Britt designed Kelsey’s website), a friendship started to blossom. We really enjoyed working together and it was nice to have another biz owner to talk to. After the swap, we realized that we wanted to keep that collaborative relationship alive someway, somehow. An opportunity presented itself when we realized that our clients had similar needs and they often needed both of our services. So, we started offering a collaborative package: work with both of us and you get the whole shebang—brand design and website design from start to finish. This package quickly became the most popular option not only for our clients, but also for us! After 1.5 years of collaborating our service offerings, we figured it was time to take the next step and merge our businesses into one. This matters to you because it’s proof that these relationships are beneficial to your business, and can even morph into something amazing that you had never imagined in the first place!
* Our Dream Team
Another example of this type of relationship in our business is our fabulous DREAM TEAM! As Launch Your Daydream began to grow into more than just an idea, we looked for ways to make it even better than our previous businesses. We noticed that many of our clients had a need for additional services that were relevant to what we do, but not within our range of expertise. And that’s where our team of experts comes in. These relationships are mutually beneficial for both sides–we create content together, we help promote each other, and we create mutual income! Plus, it’s always a bonus to work with incredibly talented creatives that you hand-pick to be a part of your biz!
Why It’s Important
You’ve probably heard about the #CommunityOverCompetition movement. And while we love every part of this, it’s also all about #CollaborationOverCompetition. Find ways to work with other businesses and you’ll both mutually benefit from it! Collaboration helps spark creativity and can give you a new perspective in certain situations. These relationships in turn will feed back into your business through recognition and referrals. Sounds like a win to us!
3. Community Relationships
Community relationships are similar to collaboration relationships, but there’s one significant difference. These relationships are often more like friendships–people you can lean on who understand what you’re going through as a creative biz owner. You don’t have to work with or collaborate through every connection you make. Sometimes you just need a friend who understands and supports you (and your biz)!
Grow + Maintain
A great way to work with your local community is to find in-person meetups. We recommend finding your local Tuesdays Together chapter (sponsored by The Rising Tide Society) or checking out a co-working space if you have one nearby!
Bonus: If you have a business serving local clients, get creative in how you can build relationships within your community. Sponsor an event that hits home with you, go to a local meet-up to chat with other business owners, or become a vendor in a bridal show and introduce yourself to other local vendors to show support for one another.
Workshops are hands-on learning opportunities, usually facilitated by a few people, for groups of business owners to learn, collaborate and take a step out from behind their desk for a day or two. They’re a great place to create relationships and have a place for vulnerability because most of the attendees are there for similar reasons. Whatever the workshop topic is about, those people in the room with you signed up because they wanted more information, too! Bring your business cards to stay in touch with people + allow yourself to be an open book and have fun!
This one might make you introverts out there wanna puke, but trust us! It’ll be okay! Finding local networking events will help to not only grow your relationships with other business owners, but it’ll help you not feel so alone in the world of entrepreneurship. Sometimes it takes opening up and bonding with someone else over a business struggle to start a really good relationship! To help ease any anxiety of going in-person to network, get comfortable talking about your business out loud. Work on your elevator pitch so when people ask, “What do you do?”, you can be confident about your answer!
Examples from Our Biz:
We’re so lucky that Kelsey lived in San Diego, CA for enough time to form incredible relationships with a few members at her local Tuesdays Together! Not only did we have a great experience at their local meet-up when Britt flew in to visit, but our community relationships turned into collaborative relationships with a few of the members! During our time with them in-person, we talked about a vulnerable subject (finances) and it was such a sigh of relief to know that we weren’t the only ones overwhelmed by #allthingsmoney. This group was facilitated in a way where everyone felt safe, comfortable and open to discussing sensitive subjects. Even though Kelsey isn’t in San Diego anymore, their leader allows us to stay in touch with the group community Facebook group online!
Why It’s Important
The whole entrepreneur thing sho’ ain’t easy, especially if you’re doing it on your own. We need people who understand what we go through, how our crazy creative minds work, and who are there when we need encouragement. (Different than a spouse or childhood friend!)
We always swore when we started our individual businesses that we would NEVER EVER EVER work with someone else because we wanted to own our business and only work with our clients. Welp, you can see how long that lasted. It’s important to learn from each other and help each other out when times get tough. It’s always nice to even have a go-to person to get a second (or third) opinion from.
Give yourself a break and realize that building these community relationships will only help your business. If your town is small or doesn’t have a strong local community presence, schedule time each and every day to make your way into online communities. Share your knowledge, learn from others, and build those friendships!
We have tons of these relationships that we’ve been fostering over the last two years, but we’re constantly reaching out to strengthen them and to create new ones as well. Just like your business, your brand and the relationships that affect it will always be evolving.
Now don’t just let all that time you spent reading this go to waste! Let’s get these relationships going by setting some goals. Pledge to yourself RIGHT NOW that you’re going to take action on each of these 3 relationship types in the coming weeks.
What is one thing could you do in each category to work toward either growing a new relationship or strengthening a current one?
CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS: (ex: Reach out to an old client to check up on them, send a previous or current client a $5 Starbucks card just because, etc.)
COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS: (ex: Search online for styled shoots happening local to you that you can collaborate in, make a list of expertise topics you can discuss on a guest blog post, etc.)
COMMUNITY RELATIONSHIPS: (ex: Post in a Facebook group looking for people who want to do a virtual coffee date to learn about their business, find a local chapter and commit to attending their next event, etc.)
About the Authors
Britt and Kelsey are Biz BFFs who launched a business together while living states apart. Launch Your Daydream provides wedding professionals and creative business owners with a comprehensive one-on-one branding + website design experience, targeted educational tools + a supportive and engaging creative community.