I’m breaking down the process to building a personal brand into 10 strategic steps. Whether you’re starting from square one or working on your existing business, these strategies will help you level up.
You’ve probably already read a lot of articles with tips and strategies to grow your brand but always end up feeling overwhelmed. The goal of this post is to take away your doubts. I’ve put in the hard work so you don’t have to.
Because you know what? Nailing your branding doesn’t have to be intimidating. With a roadmap and specific actionable advice to follow building your brand can actually feel totally achievable. And the payoff will absolutely make the effort worthwhile. Investing in your brand is a surefire way to scale your business and create more meaningful and profitable relationships with your audience.
So here we go. Download your free Brand Building Cheat Sheet which breaks the brand building process down into 10 manageable steps and we’ll walk through each right here together. When we’re done you’ll know exactly how to turn the business of you into a brand that clients crave. Ready?
10 steps to building a personal brand
01 Get to know your audience
Building a brand is about creating a community with the people we serve. In order to do that, we need to understand how to relate to them. That means getting to know them as friends, not just as a set of stats about their age, gender, and occupation. What’s the most important thing in their lives? What do they lose sleep over? You want to learn exactly who your customers are, what they like to do, what motivates them, and how they want to engage with brands like yours.
Customers with an emotional relationship with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value and will recommend the company at a rate of 71%, rather than the average rate of 45%. (Motista)
Here are the 4 steps I recommend you take to start getting to know your audience.
Step 1: Review your analytics
If you’ve launched your business, the first place I recommend looking into is your analytics. Dig into your website and social media to see what insights you can uncover. Google, Facebook, and Instagram all have data detailing who is engaging with your brand online.
Step 2: Conduct free research
Next I recommend conducting free market research. You can use your social media feeds to poll your audience. Ask easy to answer questions like “do you prefer A or B” or “In the comments tell me your favorite thing about X”. It’s real time feedback at your fingertips. You can also scan the comments in blogs, Amazon books, and social media profiles that you believe share a similar audience. See what questions people ask, what complaints they have about the content, and what things they are blown away by.
Step 3: Capture and organize your data
Data is only useful if you can make sense of it. I like to use a Google spreadsheet to keep track of the information that I collect through my analytics and research. I’ll create one tab to copy and paste direct quotes and comments that I find. I’ll use a second tab to categorize critical demographic and psychographic information. The goal of getting organized is to help you spot patterns that create a clear picture of your audience personas.
Step 4: Create Client Personas
Which brings us to the final step – taking this data and turning it into client personas. This is really just a fancy way to talk about writing characters for each of the types of clients you’ve identified. Give each a name and write a bio that describes who they are, what they like, dislike, and hope to achieve. When you can do this, that’s when you know you’ve really gotten to understand your audience and can begin to serve them in the best way possible.
02 Write your brand story
Storytelling is a part of human nature. We’re curious. We like to know the history and reason for things.
Believe it or not people really do care about the story behind your business. It’s why we love podcasts like ‘How I Built This’ which reveals the journeys founders have taken to launch some of our favorite brands. It’s also why people can’t get enough of the Kardashian- Jenner clan. We know their stories so intimately we feel like we’re a part of their lives.
When you share your story people are able to develop a trusting relationship with you. Think about it, would you rather work with someone you know nothing about or someone you know, trust, and like? I think we’d all vote for the latter.
Writing your brand story doesn’t have to be hard. Tell it like it is and fill in the who, what, how, and why for your audience.
- Who are you and what’s your background?
- What was the catalyst for your business?
- Why did you feel compelled to see it through?
- How did you do it and what challenges did you overcome along the way?
The biggest key to success is just to be honest.
Once you’ve drafted your story there are three places I want you to start using it. First, add it to an “About” page on your website. Second, include it on a separate sheet in your media or press kit. Third, write it into your brand book. The point is for this to become a tale that is shared and repeated. Your goal is to reach a point where your followers, partners, and clients can tell your story as well as you can. When that happens you know you’ve got them hooked.
03 Establish your brand mission
One of the things you’re going to uncover as you’re writing your brand story is your brand “why”. That is, why do you do what you do? Why are you building your business in the first place?
The answer to that question often manifests as your mission statement. I like to think about your brand mission as the most important promise you will make to your community. It is a declaration of what you’re going to do for them and how you plan to make it happen.
Your mission is also where you begin to introduce your brand values. It’s an important opportunity to reveal what you care about and will deepen the emotional bond you have with your core customers.
Let’s take Brit + Co as an example. Their brand mission is to “Ignite the creative spark in women”. Wow! Right? Doesn’t that make you want to be a part of their community? I mean, I for one want my creativity sparked!
Try using this formula to write your brand mission statement:
My mission is to (what you do) by (how you do it) for (who you serve) in order to (value you deliver).
To bring it to life include it in your website both on your “About” page as well as in your “Hiring” page.
04 Get crystal clear on your brand equity
People don’t fall in love with brands because of what they sell. They fall in love with what a brand promises to do for them and how that brand makes them feel. In marketing lingo this is often referred to as a brand’s equity. It’s what a brand stands for in the hearts and minds of its community.
So how do you begin to stand for more than what you sell? Great question. It’s about delivering on your mission statement through your words and actions. It’s how you talk to your clients, the content you put out in their social media feeds, the bigger impact you have on the world, and ultimately every little interaction someone has with your brand. As an example lets look at Jen Gotch’s* brand Ban.do.
Their equity is really encapsulated in this idea of inspiring joy and spreading happiness. Ban.do sells office supplies and desk accessories that deliver on this promise through quirky patterns and catchy quotes. They also keep the vibe alive with bright colors and graphics in their social posts and a generally playful vibe wherever they pop up.
Okay so let’s get to it. To figure out what your brand equity is I like to use this 5 step framework:
- List the tangible products and services your brand creates or provides.
- Write out your brand’s unique points of difference – the reasons someone would choose you over someone else.
- Decide how you want your brand to make people feel – joyful, safe, energized…
- Describe your / your brand’s personality – their defining qualities, tone of voice, and style.
- Summarize this all in a short statement that describes what your brand stands for.
Going through this process should help you see how the different parts of your brand all come together. You can then use this framework to evaluate whether something like a new product, partnership, or even a social media post helps or hurts the equity you’re working to establish.
05 Create a brand design that wows
Research reveals that we make a subconscious judgement about something within 90 seconds of seeing it (source). Meaning, like it or not, we can’t seem to stick to the old adage “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. As human beings we’re prone to make decisions on subliminal cues or “unconscious bias” as the author Malcolm Gladwell puts it. That means we need to make an awesome first impression every time someone encounters our brand. It may be our only chance to establish trust and validate our credibility with potential clients.
An awesome first impression begins with your brand design. It’s the outward expression of your equity that brings to life your brand’s personality. Great design can help create an immediate sense of trust and authority while poor design can detract from even the best brands.
You want to be strategic as you set out to design your brand. At a high level these are the 3 steps you’ll want to take:
Step 1: Create a Mood Board
The first step in developing your design theme is to create a mood board which is a simple visual aid for bringing to life the look and feel of your brand. An easy way to build one is with Pinterest. Create a new board and then begin to pin pictures that you feel reflect your brand personality.
The mood board sets the visual tone for your brand. Reference it when you’re selecting images for everything from your website to an Instagram post. Your mood board is also where you can draw inspiration for the core elements of your brand design.
Step 2: Choose your Colors & Fonts
Next, choose 4-5 colors that compliment each other. Tip: I like to use Mac’s Digital Color Meter tool to pick out colors directly from the images in my mood board. Then choose 2 – 3 font styles that you see repeated in your pictures. Font Pair is another great tool for picking out fonts that go together.
Step 3: Hone your visual style
Lastly, you’ll want to gather visual assets to fill your website and social feeds. Consider elements like your brand photography, illustrations, videos, and animations. You’ll want to keep a cohesive styling across them. This is where filters and editing tools can really help!
Once you select your elements, stick with them and use them everywhere your brand shows up. To help drive this home I recommend documenting your choices in your brand book.
06 Find your authentic brand voice
Of course, visuals are only way one to communicate with your customers. The other is through your words. Seems pretty straight forward but for a lot of people finding the perfect tone of voice is actually one of the most challenging parts of the brand building process.
So here’s my easy hack. Imagine how you’d talk to your audience if you met them at a party. Then, read out loud as if you actually are talking to them while you’re writing. I find that doing this really helps your words to come out more naturally.
Another trick I like to use is to come up with a handful of signature words and sayings. Think about how Sophia Amoruso coined GirlBoss and the word caught on like wildfire. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. The reason this trick is so powerful is because a shared language builds community amongst you and your followers. It creates a sense of belonging when someone recognizes and adopts a signature saying you’ve created.
To develop your authentic voice start by brainstorming all of the words that reflect the brand equity and personality you’ve created. Write them down on whatever’s available to you whether that’s a whiteboard, Google doc or a notebook. When you’re done, pick out the ones that really jump out. Aim to have a few words, phrases, and hashtags in your mix. I also recommend adding these to your brand book. Sensing a pattern here ; )
07 Create a consistent brand experience
Why do I keep harping on documenting things in your brand book? Because the real secret to stand out branding is consistency.
90% of consumers expect the customer experience to be consistent across all channels and devices used to interact with brands. (Source)
Consistency makes your brand memorable. It also builds trust. Both are critical when cultivating a loyal audience. Remember, you’re in your brand every moment of every day. Your clients are not. Even though you might be growing tired of how your brand looks, talks, or feels, chances are it’s only the first time someone is coming across these things. When they see you a second time, you want to make sure there’s no confusion about who you are.
A brand book is a tool that helps you document and share your brand choices so that everyone who creates something on behalf of your brand does so in the same way.
Now would be an excellent time to conduct an audit of how your brand is showing up on and offline. Are you using the same brand name everywhere you show up online? (logo, website URL, social handles, email address)? Have you picked a color palette and are you sticking to it? Have you picked specific fonts and are you using them consistently? Are you using the same or similar explanations for every brand bio?
08 Develop original brand content
First things first, get your house in order. Your goal is to answer “yes” to every one of the questions above. From there, you’re ready to take what you’ve learned and apply it to the creation of original content e.g. blog posts, emails, social media posts – anything your brand creates and shares with your clients.
And why is creating original content so important?
Creating original content helps your brand extend beyond the services you sell. It gives you a way to show your audience that you actually care about supporting them.
Bearing that in mind, before you get started creating content, your first step should be spending time to understand what your audience is interested in. Good news! You should have this in hand from step 1 where you created your client personas.
09 Attract your brand tribe
At this point, you’ve identified your target audience, you’ve got a brand designed to delight them, and content you know they’re going to love. The next step is to find and attract those people to your brand. Here’s how you’re going to do it.
Step 1: Find your audience
The first step is to find out where your audience is already hanging out online. An easy way to do this is to create a list of brands similar to yours. Then, scout out where they have attracted the largest following. If for instance, they all have fans on Instagram and none on Twitter, it’s a pretty good indicator that Instagram is where your audience is too.
Step 2: Engage the audience
The second step is to become an active, helpful, and engaged member of the communities you identify. Regularly read the content that these other sites are posting, leave comments, join their Facebook groups if they have them, and share your favorite posts of theirs.
Step 3: Convert the audience
The third step is where you can begin to introduce your brand. You want to do this in a way that is helpful and not spammy. That means leaving a thoughtful comment and at the end of a blog post mentioning that you have a service or your own blog post that you think they might be interested in. You’re subtly bringing people over to you.
10 Grow your brand awareness
Finally, the last step I want to leave you with in this post is about growing your brand awareness through partnerships. I want you to build relationships with the people behind the sites you’ve been supporting. You’re going to do this in order to drum up opportunities for you both to continue to support each other and help one another grow. It’s really a big love fest in the end.
Go ahead and direct message these other brand owners through Instagram or shoot them an email. Introduce yourself, let them know how much you love their brand, and suggest a partnership. Moreover, try and be specific here in order to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. You could cross promote each other on social media, host a joint giveaway, create a video together, the ideas are endless. The aim is to do something that each of you and your customers will benefit from.
Partnerships are the not so secret trick of the trade for building a stand out brand. Don’t think that you need or should be on your journey alone. The more people you can involve the faster and bigger you’’ll see your brand building efforts pay off.
To wrap it up
In conclusion, when you take time to build your brand you’re making an investment that will take your business to the next level. You’ll stand out from the crowd. You’ll find and attract your fan club. And you’ll feel completely confident that what you have to offer is awesome.
And while there is a lot packed into that tiny word “brand” the process of building your brand doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s all about taking it one step at a time.
Ready to dive in? Download this free Brand Building Cheat sheet and use it as your guide to become the boss of your brand.