GUEST POST BY AMINA TAYLOR

As business owners, we want the best for our businesses. When it comes to branding, this can often lead us to look outward at best-in-show examples of success stories or fall down the rabbit hole of DIY "must haves" and "should dos." 

But what if I told you that the key to uncovering a meaningful brand for your business isn't about playing a game of "catch up"or even dishing out thousands of dollars for a professional to do the heavy lifting for you?

5 reasons your messy beginning may be the answer to your branding debacle as featured on the Belong Magazine blog for the female entrepreneur, lady boss, woman in business or creative

The work starts first and foremost with you.

Frankly, all of the advice, courses and tools out there won't do much without a deep understanding of these three pillars:

  1. Who you serve

  2. Why you serve them

  3. What uniquely qualifies you to serve them well

Because the key to purposeful branding isn't about creating something you don't have, it's about amplifying the beauty of the unique gifts you already possess. No bells and whistles necessary.

YOUR STORY, YOUR JOURNEY IS ENOUGH.

And although it might be surprising, the very guidance you may be searching for exists in perhaps the most unlikely of places-- your humble beginnings. Yes, I know for many of us thinking about those start up days often warrants awkwardly cringing about our first logos or consistently praying that our Instagram audiences aren't scrolling all the way to the bottom of our feeds. 

The truth is that many of the experiences we first encountered as business owners were perhaps some of the most insightful.

Without the hustle and bustle that typically comes with the increase of clients and fueled by a bold departure from your previous professional life, you likely envisioned a business that unapologetically spoke to your dreams and core values, even if you did so unintentionally. In the absence of client reviews, you sold your services based on raw passion. In the absence of Instagram or blog stats, you created content that spoke directly to a world and community you hoped would come to fruition someday. 

And although now, yes, your taste and tactics have both matured, perhaps even your product might have changed, harnessing the pioneering spirit of your business is going to resonate with your audience (and with yourself) far greater than any fabricated emotion ever could.

So whether you're jumping into the branding process for the first time or have found yourself going through a 4th round of logo re-designs, my hope is that this article helps you find focus and peace in whichever direction you choose. Your business is too valuable to leave something as important as branding to chance. Take this time to reconnect with your story: the people, emotions and milestones that have all guided you to exactly where you are now.

1 / every customer was a BIG DEAL.

In the beginning, there was no such thing as a waitlist. There was one list and it was the list. The list of clients who were excited to work with you and, even better, pay you for your hard work. They were your first followers, and you cherished each and every one of them.

Sure, you might have had some run-ins with difficult personalities but I'm also sure that a large majority of your initial clients absolutely blew you away. You loved working with them. If you didn’t, you probably still wouldn’t be in business. And if you're a sentimental junkie like me, you might even revisit some of their initial "I'd love to work with you!" notes as a source of inspiration on particularly tough days.

BRAND REFLECTION QUESTION:

Who did I get into business to serve? Why were these clients so important to me then and how has my business benefited from their support over the years?

2 / You had space to be a little selfish.

While I whole-heartedly believe in running a business that serves my customers well, in the very beginning, there's room to be a little selfish without sacrificing your customer experience.

I remember spending hours each day tweaking my elevator speech-- a 5 minute spiel about who I was and the work I valued most. And with each new business pitch I made to potential clients, I could feel myself quickly growing into the vision I had set out for myself. Sound familiar?

Before our dreams were forced to share space with ROIs and financial bottom lines, there was a North Star for our business—a guiding force toward a larger life objective. It was all about inspiring other people to see the beauty in the world that we so admired.

BRAND REFLECTION QUESTION:

What was the North Star of your business? In other words, what was the big unapologetic dream you set out to make a reality? How did you hope to help others see the beauty and/or value in the work that you loved so fully?

3 / innovation trumped hard habits.

Remember a moment in your business' history when you had the time and space to innovate freely? In the early days, my open schedule allowed me to test new ideas, tweak my offerings from week to week, and experiment with flexible definitions of professionalism without having to set everything in stone. However, as we grow, consistency becomes the name of the game. We may find ourselves sinking into habits that don't always allow us room for connecting new dots or thinking outside of the box.

As useful as habits can be in driving productivity and efficiency, how you innovate is exactly what sets you apart from others in your category or line of work. So let’s take a walk down memory lane!

BRAND REFLECTION QUESTION:

What environments (workspaces, activities, work partners etc.) defined the creation of your business? How did they challenge you to see the world differently?

4 / no one took your word for it.

...particularly if you jumped into a brand new career with no prior experience. Before testimonials or portfolio samples, you had to sell and you had to sell hard. Perhaps you offered free consultations, proposed trades of services or even offered to meet your clients in person to tell them just how big of a difference your products or services could make in their lives.

You had to describe the work you did with the intangibles. It was real, it was genuine and probably a little emotional but every sale felt like pure gold.

BRAND REFLECTION QUESTION:

What factors did you sell people on earlier in your business-- before you had the background to back it up?

5 / it was all about the little wins.

Whether it was reaching your first 100 followers on Instagram or seeing your first blog post published in an online magazine, you celebrated every second of your wins because you worked so hard to make even the smallest of victories happen. Often times, it's easy to overlook these moments as inconsequential or silly, but understanding why those milestones meant so much to you can continue to help you dig more deeply into why you were able to build the incredible business that you have so far.

BRAND REFLECTION QUESTION:

What little win made a world of difference to you back then, that you may be taking for granted now? Why did it impact you so deeply?

What can this tell you about not only why your business has grown but how it has grown in recent months or years?

______________________

I hope you've found a new sense of comfort and guidance from your messy beginning! Everywhere we are going, everywhere we have been serves a purpose. Sometimes we just have to dig a little deeper to understand just how. Best of luck on your new branding venture. I can';t wait to see your beautiful vision out in the world!


Amina Taylor is the founder and innovation consultant behind The Amber Orange.

When she’s not helping creative founders and CEOs drive innovation their own businesses you can find her sifting through someday-recipes on Pinterest or continuing her search for the best tea house in Chicago.

 Instagram @theamberorange | Website 


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