1971. Chicago, Illinois.
A bootstrapping young startup, Blue Ribbon Sports, is set to introduce their brand new line of running shoes at one of the largest industry trade shows of the year. They’ve spent years perfecting the look, feel and performance of their high-quality sneakers.
As they begin to setup their booth, they discover there’s been a huge mistake. The manufacturer has screwed up their first batch, and this defect can be found in every single one of their shoes on display.
With no other choice but to make the best of this gut-wrenching situation, Phil, the CEO and founder of Blue Ribbon, helps his team to focus on selling the product.
The first mob of salesmen makes their way to the Blue Ribbon booth, and begin to poke and prod at the new merchandise.
“The heck is this?”, one salesmen says to another.
“Heck if I know”, the other replied.
The questions keep coming.
“What IS this?” The salesmen asks Phil, holding the new shoe up to the light.
That’s a Nike, Phil replies.
“The heck is a Nike?”
It’s the Greek goddess of victory.
“Greek what now?”
Goddess of vic-
“And what’s THIS?”
That’s a swoosh.
“The heck is a swoosh?”
Phil hesitated. He had never really thought of this before. Then, the words suddenly flew out of his mouth as if he had been preparing for this question for weeks.
It’s… the sound of someone going past you.
The salesmen liked that. They liked it a lot.
Phil and the team at Blue Ribbon sold every single pair of their spunky new Nike shoes that day. And I don’t think I need to remind you that Nike is now easily one of the world’s most recognizable brands.
This is the power of a great brand. A brand that crafts a story. A narrative that people can, want and even need to connect with. A brand with vision and purpose. One that goes beyond simply making money.
And we’re going to take the next 2,000-words or so to figure out how you can do the same thing with your brand.
The B4: Bulletproof Brand-Building Blueprint
B4 you start digging holes, laying foundation and erecting walls, we need to have a complete blueprint of our overall plan. (HA, see what I did there? B4? Eh? Eh? ????)
A successful brand has 5 key elements:
Let’s go through each of these one by one.
“The first step to resonating with customers is to stop pretending and have a clear sense of our own identity.” – Bernadette Jiwa, Author
Human beings never grow tired of good stories. We constantly consume them through every form of media imaginable.
Even though your brand doesn’t exist yet, it still has a backstory. Because you have a backstory.
That became my backstory. I made an animated video detailing exactly who I am and why I was starting this new business.
You have a story to tell as well. Your life is full of experiences, successes, mistakes and decisions that have lead you here.
Tell that story. Write it down. It will form the backbone of your entire brand.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti – Philosopher
You’ve heard the old saying that brands are people, right?
You, as an individual, are made up of a set of core values. And since your brand needs to be treated as a person as well, it needs to have its own set of values.
Just as your personal values guide your life choices, these brand values will provide direction on which path your brand should take.
So, how do you determine what your brand’s values are?
Here’s a little cheat for you:
I chose my core values for RapidWebLaunch and they influence every aspect of my brand. Especially when it comes to writing blog posts and making videos. Consistency is key.
“If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be nothing like you’ve ever felt.” – Phil Knight, Founder of Nike
Always start with “Why?”
Why are you starting this new business? Why are you building a brand? Why is your product/service needed? Why will customers love your brand?
Building a business from nothing is hard work. You will have many moments of frustration and self-doubt. The answers to “Why?” will keep you grounded and focused.
And this purpose isn’t just for your future customers, it’s primarily for you. What is the purpose of this business for you?
What’s the purpose of RapidWebLaunch?
- Why am I starting a business?
- To create a location-independent, modest income that allows me to spend more time doing the things I love.
- Why am I building a brand?
- A solid online brand will help me improve my SEO rankings, sell more of my services, and share my core values with anyone who is willing to listen.
- Why is my service needed?
- It is still too difficult and confusing for small business owners to get online. RapidWebLaunch will help small businesses get online fast and affordably.
- Why will customers love RapidWebLaunch?
- My web design services will be refreshingly fast, affordable, transparent, honest, and human.
This is just an example. It can be as simple as that. There’s no need to write a 5-page manifesto like you’re Apple or Walmart.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” – George Harrison, Lead guitarist of The Beatles
What does success look like to you?
So many people get into business without having any clear goals in mind. They build successful businesses over years of hard work and are still unhappy because they never took the time to define what success looks like. They let others define it for them.
Don’t make that mistake. Clearly define your short and long-term goals.
It will make future decisions so much simpler. When you feel overwhelmed and bogged down from an endless array of options, it will all come down to this:
“Will this get me closer to or further away from my vision?”
Boom. Decision made.
My personal vision for RapidWebLaunch is, as mentioned earlier:
- “To create a location-independent, modest income that allows me to spend more time doing the things I love”.
Every decision I’ve made, and will make, points me to this end goal. It’s my brand’s guiding compass.
“If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it. – Scott Adams, Creator of Dilbert comics
Now we get down to the nitty-gritty.
Your story, values, purpose and vision all come together to create a clear plan of action. What specific steps do you need to take to make it happen?
Here’s what my overall strategy looked like when I started RapidWebLaunch:
- Create a brand
- Build a website
- Get my first clients
Yep, that’s it.
But the devil is in the details…
If we dig a bit deeper, we start to see a clearer plan of action:
- Create a brand
- Choose a name
- Determine messaging and style
- Design a logo
- Build a website
- Get a domain
- Choose the right design tool
- Optimize for performance and search engines
- Get my first clients
- Target a super-specific niche
- Engage my current network
- Design a funnel for inbound leads
Now we’re getting somewhere, right?
And from there, you dig even deeper. You get the idea.
Designing appropriate visuals, graphics, and content
Now that we have the B4 clearly laid out and defined (oh you bet I’m trying to make that a thing), it’s time to get into the specifics of visuals and content.
Remember that bit about your brand being a person? Well, people talk. And so does your brand.
What are your brand’s:
- likes and dislikes?
- strengths and weaknesses?
- style of speech?
Your messaging is probably the most crucial aspect of your brand. You can have the coolest logo and sexiest website but, if your message is boring, you will lose people fast.
Think carefully about who your target audience is. Hipster millennials and senior baby-boomers connect with very different styles and language.
Pick 2 or 3 colors that will be the core of your entire brand. These will be used in everything from your logo, to your website, to your marketing materials, and everything in between.
Choose wisely. Nobody likes to do a complete rebrand after only a year or two in business.
I chose red, black and white because red and black are my favorite colors. White is just a nice contrast to those two. Yep, simple as that.
If you want to get real deep into the psychology of branding colors, you can choose your colors based on your values with a guide like this:
Via The Logo Company
Your logo may not actually be as important as you think.
If you’re building something where it will be prominently displayed at all times, like a clothing or car brand, then it’s pretty important. But outside of that, don’t get too hung up on it.
If you have the cash, have a professional graphic designer make for you. But if you’ve got nothing in the piggy bank, like I did, you can make your own logo.
This is what my original (awful) logo looked like:
After I had some steady income coming in, I paid a graphic designer friend of mine to make a nicer one:
Much better, right?
Make sure that your logo will look great no matter where it’s placed. Like social media channels, for example. (as you can see by the square format, I made that a specific requirement of my new logo)
Make it simple but catchy.
Mine? Fast and affordable web design. Guaranteed.
Time to get started!
Building a new brand is challenging, but doesn’t have to be daunting.
Using the B4 strategy (I won’t give up on making this a thing) will give you a clearer sense of your overall plan.
The beautiful thing is that this is all free. You don’t have to spend hundreds, or even thousands, on expensive brand consultation. Just bootstrap it and build it with your own two hands. The reward is even greater that way.