4: How to create a powerful brand for your business, on the cheap


Hi everyone, welcome to Episode 4 of Your Social Media Journey. Today I will talk about branding, why you do not need to spend money on it and why it is important that you think about it. 

Branding is not about logos, colours, fonts or fancy business cards - though they are fun to create and shop around for. Branding is about how you are perceived by your customers. How do you come across? Do you customers see a bit of themselves in you? Do your clients see YOU as the person who will solve a problem they have?

Think about it. If the price were the same, what would make you choose a particular vendor more than others. It’s how you perceive their business, their ethics and their values. For example, say you were looking for some cocoa powder to bake a cake. In a supermarket, there are two cardboard boxes, side by side. One says COCOA, in big bold letters on a plain background. One says, Cocoa, but in a swirly font, says where the cocoa comes from, if it is Fair Trade or not, has a little recipe on the pack to bake an excellent cake and a website address where, perhaps, you can go and check out their company even more. Assume that the price is exactly the same. Which would you choose? Option one, or option two? That tells you what YOU prefer. If you as a business prefer strong bold lines, a no-nonsense branding system -  then that is exactly what you should do. If, however, you prefer the sound of Option 2, where the customer is given a fair few options to interact with the company, then that is perhaps what you should be chasing. BE YOURSELF. It will be a very difficult business journey for you if you start off on the wrong footing. 

Your next question is probably - but what if my customers want Option 2 and I am more of an Option 1 kind of person. Yes, there is that and there are ways you can address it. You do not have to strip your business of your own personal brand. I firmly believe that that is a bit of a recipe for disaster. Branding is a very personal affair. The reason that social media has become SO popular in recent years is precisely this - people have been able to find other people, online, of a similar taste. We can discuss the broader societal impacts of social media and this particular aspect of it in another episode, or perhaps another podcast. But here, we will focus on business. Back to branding. If YOU are a business owner and you are the one looking after social media for your business, I would not start trying to be someone else. 

I will give you my own example. When I first started my company, Fair Cake, I was very excited. I was busy figuring out how fonts work on websites, how they print, colours for my new website, designs of cakes, choosing colours or no colours on my cakes etc. etc. etc. I desperately wanted to be the Cool Girl selling cake with kooky and quirky designs. Well, guess what. I was not cool. I was on the edge of uncool. Try as I might, I just could not come up with funny and quirky captions for my products, or my website. I was Plain Jane. I figured out that I liked making sugar roses. I did not WANT to like making sugar roses, they looked and seemed dated to me. But not only did I like and enjoy, perhaps secretly, making sugar roses, I was very good at it. So I gave up fighting with myself and gave in - to sugar roses. The more I made them, the better I became. The better I became, the prettier they looked. The prettier they looked, the more demand there was for them. And that is how my customers found me, they were looking for MY style of roses - not anyone else’s style. MY style. And that soon became my brand. 

In the last eleven plus years, I have spoken to a lot of other business owners. We geek out, us people in business. We bond over HR, we laugh about trends, we complain about banks. It’s riveting. The longer a person is in business, the more experienced they are in sorting out nonsense from stuff that actually matters. And I can tell you one thing for sure, aside from sheer grit, THIS is what sets them apart. Understanding what works and what does not. Fancy logos, fancy card stationery, fabulous ribbons and pretty boxes for products - they can come with time, when your business can afford it. Plunging money into all this at the very start will eat up precious resources that you have. Instead, if you have clarity about your values, your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and your style, you will go a lot further. 

By the way, if you happen to have a giant cash injection - say you are a start-up and have just raised a million pounds in your first round of funding - get in touch with me, I can sort out social media for your start up, like nobody else can ;)

This is how I built my brand - I called my business Fair Cake. It was a pun on fairy cake, which is a British term for cupcakes. I looked into getting a logo designed, but soon realised that it would cost me a fair chunk out of the £1000 I had set aside for starting a business. Anyway, I decided to not have a logo, but a fancy font. And that is exactly what I did. I used the same font on all my communications, my website and even as a little strip of text underneath pictures of my products. And it worked fine. I decided I needed some business cards and I did get some printed, before realising, very quickly that a majority of my clients found me online, so there was no need for business cards whatsoever. And then I got some very fancy leaflets designed. I paid someone to design A4 size leaflets that were folded into thirds. I then proudly displayed these leaflets just outside my workshop in London in a little perspex box. Well, my lowest point came when I went to the local pub, its called Cutty Sark, and right outside in the bin, the bin, was my leaflet. So someone had picked a leaflet up, walked 100meters and threw it in the bin. I spent around £700 on the whole designing/printing thingy. Right. Literally, in the bin. Oh and that perspex box outside my workshop that housed all the leaflets? That soon got filled wiht mini-cab cards. So other people were using my box to advertise to me. I am going to move on from this story, it is not fun!

{Has a cup of tea and chocolate}

Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that leaflets and business cards work fantastically for some people. They did not work for me. Not one, not a single client of mine ever said that they had a business card or a leaflet of mine. They ALL found me online. I make it an absolute point of asking every single client where they found me. So if everyone was finding me online, why on earth was I spending money on leaflets and business cards?! 

So how does this affect you? You need to decide WHERE you think people are finding you. If you have a website, people will find you on Google - as long as you have an attractive website and are speaking clearly on the website about what EXACTLY it is that you do and what can people expect when they do business with you. So here is how you can build your brand, without spending much money -

1. Be consistent with colours and fonts throughout your business - on your website and your social media channels, so that a visitor can see that it is the same company. Be sure to link your website to your social media channels and vice versa. 

2. Be authentic - I tried to be cool, but I clearly was not. As soon as I realised that, I was able to channel my creativity positively and business boomed. The beauty of social media is that you WILL find people who are into exactly what it is that you are selling, you just need to find them! And by creating content that is true to your personality, you will not only succeed in doing that, it will be infinitely easier for you to do so.

3. Think about how you want to come across - If you are in the wedding industry, but you want to shake it up a bit, perhaps you won’t be using super cursive fonts. If you are in the restaurant industry and are offering healthy eating, perhaps you will be considering bright colours, clean looking food plates and an artful chicpea, casually sitting atop a wooden platter. If you are in the make up industry and specialise in theatrical makeup - you probably will not have a no-makeup look model on the homepage of your website. 

So, how do you do all this on a budget. Well, there are several free tools online that you can use. 

1. For fonts, I love the website www.dafont.com - it has thousands upon thousands of fonts, some free, some paid but all awesome. Trawl there and find one that you like the look of. Hand this to your web designer, or, if you are a web designer yourself, use it. Of course, if you ARE a web designer you are already using a website similar to this one, aren’t you?

2. For colours, I love the Canva. It is an app that I use frequently on my phone. The same company has a webpage where they list 100 brilliant colour combinations. This is a great starting point to find out the look and feel that you like the most. You can pick up the colour codes from here and use them every single time you make graphics for your business, I will leave a link the show notes. By the way, the transcripts for all my podcasts is always available on my website, www.yoursocialmediajourney.com forward slash episode number. So since this is episode 4, it will be www.yoursocialmediajourney.com/4  https://www.canva.com/learn/100-color-combinations/ 

3. If you are a product based business and you make your own products to sell - such as a cake maker, there is a clever way of defining your style without making every single cake - Pinterest! Link your website to your Pinterest page where your potential customers can see what YOU like. For example, if you like making pale pink wedding cakes, make a Pinterest board of pale pink wedding cakes. If you are into bright and vivid colours, then your Pinterest board can show exactly what you like! 

4. Once you have clarity in exactly what it is that you are selling, make sure that ALL your online presence is consistent - and that you stay true to it. And, if you do decide to change from pale pink to bright and vivid, change it all at the same time. Imaging the shock of someone wanting a pale pink meringue of a wedding dress, who found your website, only to come to your Facebook page and see your posts about brides in biker shorts and leather jackets - the poor bride will faint!

This, of course, is just my perspective, how things worked for me and my friends who have businesses. I will soon try to bring other perspectives to this podcasts, though I was laughing out loud this morning over a cartoon I saw on Twitter about podcasters. If you want to see this, head over to my Instagram or my Twitter account, link is on my website. 

And, as always, I would love to hear from you - if you agree or disagree with me. If you agree with me, leave me a good review. If you disagree with me, perhaps do not leave me a review, but send me an email, or a DM and we can talk and debate. Until next time, bye for now…