The Surprising Answer to “Should I Brand My Business?” - Christine Kane

Whenever a solo entrepreneur asks me whether or not to brand her business, I rarely give an answer.

Instead, I ask a question. It goes something like this…

What are you avoiding?

Here’s why I ask:

Many, if not most, of the people who ask me if they should brand their business are using the idea of branding as a way to avoid taking some kind of action. Usually it’s action that makes them feel uncomfortable. They need to go to that networking event, send a note to their referrals, write some copy for their next marketing campaign, hire an assistant, do that follow up phone call, or even get their first client…

…and in the mind of the oh-so-creative-and-distractible entrepreneur, all of those things feel less exciting than the idea of a kicky new logo.

Admit it. The tedious stuff is just so … tedious. So “branding your business” becomes another bright shiny way to convince yourself that you can’t possibly do the tedious stuff until you have a matchy-matchy website or a tagline to die for.

So let’s say you’re good with all of the above. Clients are beating down your door. Business is thriving. You have support. You’re growing. And you really do want to think about branding. Fabulous.

In this case, my answer is this:

It depends. It depends on what you mean by branding, what you hope to achieve, and how much money you are willing to invest.

Here are three things to consider when it comes to branding your business:

1 – Branding your business is not about your “look.”

Many people think that branding is about a new logo and some hip new colors on your website.

Branding is NOT about your look. It’s not about your color scheme or your cool mark or even your tagline. If you just want a logo, then you can just go to 99Designs and getting something fast and inexpensive.

When you do it right, branding is every bit as intense and deep as the first three modules of my Uplevel Your Business™ Program.

It’s a deep exploration of your ideal client, of yourself, and what you do and why you do it. It will connect you with your WHY, with your message, with your point-of-view. It will force you to face your scattered, covered and smothered product line that confuses everyone.

When I went through a branding process, it took months to work through, and months more to begin implementing it. It continued to be an on-going task for my team.

Also, it was hard. It forced me to face some tough issues and let go of some of the splatteredness I had unknowingly created as I built this business.

So, are you ready for this level of focus? Or do you need to do some of your own clarity work before you invest a heap of cash hoping someone else will just “do it for you?”

2 – Branding (or re-branding) your business is an investment.

Look. You want to invest some money on this. You want to work with someone who knows how to do it. Depending on your revenues, that can be expensive. And it will be a waste of money if your business isn’t ready to get a return on that investment over the coming years.

The business highways and by-ways are littered with branding expenses that never got a return because the business changed, the entrepreneur went in a different direction, the ideal client wasn’t right, the branding process was too hasty or was started too early on in the business’s growth. Give this some consideration.

3 – Everything is branding. Take some simple steps on your own first.

Here’s what’s great about marketing (when you do it authentically and with service):

You can ‘brand’ yourself without spending a dime.

Three places to start:

• Positioning

Positioning is clarity about all aspects of your service, credibility, results, offer, client, message, solutions and perspective. This is contained in every touchpoint of your marketing.

• Point of View

Your point of view is your unique voice and your message. Make sure it shines through in every single thing your prospect reads or hears or sees about you.

• Testimonials

When your prospects see the kinds of customers you have worked with – and reads their stories – they will feel connected and “related” to those previous clients. That feeling of “relate-ability” is what branding claims to create. You can create it by systematizing how you collect client success stories and using them to position the results you deliver.

start branding

See? One of my Uplevel Your Business students got clients from her great testimonials alone! No branding needed!

So, should you brand your business?

Sure, at some point, you should brand your business.

But first, have all the clients you need, make sure your marketing and messaging is as clear as you can get it on your own.

Then, hire the finest branding expert you can and see it as a long-term investment.

  • Cecile

    Then what do I do meanwhile? I do freelance translating and tutoring and voice-overs, and call it “Cafe Lingua – language services à la carte”. Do you suggest that we just use our own name with the activity before we decide on a business name? ‘Like: Jane Doe – language services a la carte” ? Is giving the “business” a name considered branding?

  • Hannah Baston

    I’m going through the branding stage at the moment. This advice has been central in how I have been creating my platform. And it’s working!

    I’m an author and by focusing on my ideal readers instead of a fancy design, I’ve increased sales and getting great feedback that they like the site.

  • Linda Goldsmith

    People often get lost in the words. They need clarity.
    When you started your article people asked “Should I brand my business?” Another question was needed. What was their definition of Branding? Branding is everything that you do, including the look and logo. In the end they are one. If branding is done well all you need to see is the logo and your peeps know what you do, what makes you unique and how you are differentiated from your competition (like Nike) because of all the great work you have done. It is true all the great work you do does need a name, symbol and look that is identifiable and reflects you, the sooner the better. But you will know when the time is right. If the mark is done well it will not need to be changed and it will stand the test of time. I create successful branding, marketing and graphic design. Branding is the umbrella.

  • Susan

    Thanks Christine. This is a well needed perspective. Having worked in Fortune 500 companies for 20+ years and seeing how excited everyone is about getting t-shirts, jackets, and other logoed stuff feeds into the need/desire to have a kicky new logo. The truth is I need more systems in place to ensure I keep my current clients happy as they ask me to expand my services. I’m excited for June to learn more!

  • Susan

    Thanks Christine. This is a well needed perspective. Having worked in Fortune 500 companies for 20+ years and seeing how excited everyone is about getting t-shirts, jackets, and other logoed stuff feeds into the need/desire to have a kicky new logo. The truth is I need more systems in place to ensure I keep my current clients happy as they ask me to expand my services. I’m excited for June to learn more!

  • Karen Lynn

    Hmmmm… sounds kind of familiar…. I’ve recently realized that I’ve been so focused on a new website, expanding into teaching art online, that I’ve been neglecting marketing the art workshops I give here (Napa Valley). Oooops. I’d better go get the cattle and feed them….

  • Fiona

    Oh, how did you know that at this very moment I am re-branding? This is my third incarnation and it has been born of a deep realisation that I was splattered and confusing! I have felt so bad that I needed to change my approach yet again, but slowly I came to understand it’s all part of the process of building my business and I am not there yet, and that has to be ok. I am still building my clients, clarifying my services and all the while honing my skills. Thankfully I have not paid someone huge amounts of money for a “look”, I am still doing it all myself, this time it will be simpler, quicker and clearer so I can get on to the real business of being in the community and offering my services directly to the right people. Thanks to this article I know I am doing the right thing and still in the building stages. And it’s a good place to be!

    • Christine Kane

      Great Fiona!

      And let me be clear.. i LOVE the person I worked with. He helped me go deeper and called me out when I wasn’t clear, and picked apart the confusing stuff. It was worth the money! (But it wasn’t until I was already established that i took on this process!) Good luck to you!

  • Laila Atallah

    This is fantastic advice, Christine! I’ve never seen anyone mention the part about branding being a way avoiding the “tedious” stuff. Love how you talk about the deeper aspects to the process and financial investment, as well. I’m in the process of refreshing my brand, and you’ve confirmed why I’ve been feeling like it’s a major project, and that I really need to have a chunk of time and space to do this.

    • Christine Kane

      Laila, the best advice i can give when you are going through this is what one of my clients says (he’s a branding expert)…

      Branding never stops.

      In other words, there isn’t a “rebrand” that you are done with . That’s just the starting point. Everything is in process after the rebrand.

  • Colleen

    Branding is the EXPERIENCE a client/customer has engaging with/using your product or service, and that is expressed through many modalities. The process of branding should begin with a very clear definition of who your company is as a brand–what’s its personality? What does it believe? All “look and feel” and messaging trickles down from that somewhat in-depth exercise, that, in some cases (mine 🙂 can become a full-on identity crisis. But, when that’s clearly laid out, the right clients come, because they resonate with your authentic “voice”.

    • Christine Kane

      True that, Colleen! You sound like a woman who has lived this shit! 🙂

  • Wendy

    This is huge for me because I absolutely spend way too much time thinking about how I “look” before I get out there! Thanks for the swift kick, Christine! Love the business journal prompts!

  • Deborah Henson-Conant

    So … you’re saying, like: get the cattle first, feed them well and then worry about the brand design?

  • Alle L’Eveille

    Since branding is my business, I agree with everything you’ve said above—except calling what you get at quickie cheap “logo” companies a logo—it’s a spot illustration exactly because of what you’ve pointed out. Building brand identity, personality and value are a long, engaging, ongoing process that a business invests in. It’s not a one-and-done. Brand is a living entity.