On the blog today, Clare from Indie Retail Academy discusses branding. As I’m gearing up to open my Etsy shop shortly, her advice is going to be invaluable! Even if you are already an established business, she has some great tips and strategies to share, and her humorous approach puts a fun spin on marketing.
What the heck is branding, anyway?
Branding, huh? It used to be something unpleasant involving red hot metal and the hindquarters of a steer, now it’s taken over the world.
Branding is a word that’s been thrown around so much that it’s started to lose all meaning. You know, like when you say sausage fifteen times in a row and suddenly start to question whether such a thing even exists.
Want more customers? Sort out your branding. No-one’s signing up to your mailing list? It’ll be your branding. Wondering why that shop doesn’t want to stock your work? Let me give you a clue: it begins with “B” and ends with “randing.”
So let’s get down to brass tacks here.
What the hell IS branding? Why does your creative business need it? How do you actually, you know, BRAND STUFF?
Let’s have a think about this. Once you’re finished staring at that sausage.
The first thing we’re going to do is throw “branding” out of the window. It’s too vague. Branding is no more.
Look, it’s been eaten by a seagull.
Instead, let’s talk about your business.
More specifically, let’s talk about the lovely thing you make. Maybe you create screen prints, papercuts, ceramics, greetings cards or sculptures.
Whatever it is, get a clear picture of your product in your mind.
Now think about your customers. Not just any old customers – your ideal customers. People who adore what you make and are willing to pay for it. People who, when they look at your lovely thing, understand and appreciate it right away.
People who just naturally get it. Who get you.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any ideal customers yet, or any customers at all. Just get a picture in your head of what they might look like.
Now take a snapshot of them all. Maybe you want to put it on Instagram or something. Take out your imaginary phone, move back till you’ve got every imaginary person in shot, then click the imaginary button. Got it?
Now, tell me this.
When you look at that picture of your ideal customers, do you see everybody in the entire world?
Have another look at them. Is every person in the entire world squeezed onto your screen?
That’s brilliant! No business can make a product that appeals equally to everyone on the planet. It can’t be done, but when someone asks you who your target customer is, it’s very easy to answer “Umm, everyone?”
That’s no use because it’s so general. Believe me, if it were possible to make a widget that appeals to every single person in the world, Apple would have done it by now. It’s not gonna happen.
What you can do, however, is make widgets that appeal to large groups of people.
That’s extremely do-able. So let’s take another look at your particular group. At the moment we know one major thing about them: they think you ROCK. Let’s see what else we can find out. Have a look at the crowd in front of you. Are there more women than
men or vice versa? Roughly how old are your ideal customers? How many of them are there?
Hang on, it looks like they’re getting restless so let’s shake things up a bit. Don’t worry, it won’t be scary. They think you’re amazing, remember?
I’m setting up a little table and a chair at the front here. Go ahead and sit down. Here’s a black marker and a very large stack of glossy photographs of you.
You’re so pretty. You know that, right?
You’re going to sit here and your ideal customers are going to come up one by one and tell you something about themselves in return for a signed picture. You can ask them questions too. Ask them what their favourite book is, their opinion on wind farms or how
come they hate synchronised swimming. Ask them why they love your work so much.
Ask anything you like, starting now.
Gosh, that was fast. You don’t mess about, do you?
You now have a really clear understanding of who your ideal customer is. You know loads of stuff about them. You’ve got to know them as a group and as individuals. You know how they tick.
Now, it’s getting kind of stuffy in here. Let’s thank everyone for coming and let them go home now. Then we can talk about what all this means for your business. While drinking margaritas.
Here’s the important bit.
Your job as a business owner is to get your ideal customers and your lovely thing together.
Get them in the same room and magic happens. The problem is that your ideal customers are scattered all over the place. They don’t hang around in a mob. It’s probably just as well. The queue for the bathroom would be horrendous.
You now have a pretty good idea, however, of stuff your ideal customers like. You know what kind of colours they dig. You know their style, their taste, their outlook, what makes them laugh and what turns them off. You know why they like your lovely thing so much.
Here’s an idea.
Why not use all this information to help your ideal customers find you?
They’re stumbling around out there in the fog, looking for you to light up their life as only you can. I’m not joking. They might not know it, but your right people are looking for you at this very moment. So why not send up a flare to show them where you are?
- Choose colours for your packaging, website and logo that you know they’ll be attracted to.
- When you’re writing your About page, use the tone of voice they’ll respond to best.
- Design a mail signature that will pique their interest and make them want to know more.
- When you’re hanging out on twitter or facebook, post stuff you know your ideal customers will get a kick out of.
Branding (don’t say it too loud, there are seagulls EVERYWHERE) is simply about making yourself visible to your ideal customers.
It works in two ways. First it attracts their attention, then it gives them a reason to take a closer look.
Branding is like saying, in as many different ways as you can, “Hey guys, I’m over here! And guess what, I’ve got ENCHILADAS”.
If I was one of your ideal customers, that would certainly make me beat a path to your door. Our daily lives are a cacophony of brands shouting “I’m over here!” You can hardly turn over in bed without seeing an advert or getting an email from some company you bought a hoover from back in 2003. We tune most of this stuff out.
This is why any old branding won’t cut it. If you want a thriving business, the messages you send out into the world must be designed to attract people who love what you do and who are willing to pay for it. The more specific and tailored your messages are, the better they’ll work.
That’s branding. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some hungry seagulls to run away from.
Clare Yuille is an indie retailer and writer. She founded Indie Retail Academy, a site designed to help artists and makers sell their work to shops. She aims to take away the eeeek! and replace it with aaaah.
Check out her free Indie Retail starter kit here: