by Elise Williams | Featured Contributor
One of the first things you should do when creating a new business is establish a brand. This includes identifying your target audience, creating a mission statement, choosing specific brand colors and fonts, and designing a logo, and forming a strong, recognizable voice and aesthetic.
But the work doesn’t stop there; from there on out you’ll need to maintain your brand and make sure it stays authentic in every project you launch, the content you publish, the people you hire, and the brands and influencers you choose to work with.
Create an Official Brand Guide
If you don’t want to start from scratch every time you hire a new employee, you need to write literally everything down—expectations, company goals, tutorials and best practices, and most importantly, a brand guide.
A brand guide should include everything I mentioned previously: your company’s mission statement, target audience (user personas are a fun way to really get specific), brand colors and fonts, a detailed illustration of your collective voice with examples, competitor analysis, the works. Not only will this make the initial training process easier as your business grows; it will ensure your company maintains its brand.
Seek Feedback to Grow and Improve the Brand
“The customer is always right” isn’t just a cliche; it’s 100% correct. No matter what industry you’re in, you should constantly listen to the feedback you receive—whether it’s from customers, clients, or social media followers. Seeing as your brand was built to attract your following, and in return they’re the ones supporting your business, it’s probably wise to give the people what they want.
And according to Sophia Amoruso—whose career has been a bit of a roller coaster, yes, but you can’t deny that the #GIRLBOSS brand is a force to be reckoned with—connecting with your customers is absolutely essential. “At most companies the person manning the Twitter and Facebook accounts is far from the top of the food chain,” she wrote for Business Insider back in 2014. “But at Nasty Gal, even though I’m not always composing every tweet, I still read every comment. If our customers are unhappy about something, I hear it first.”
Learn to Say No
When I first started my website, Earn Spend Live, I was so excited that anyone who reached out wanted to work with us that I ended up saying “yes” to pretty much every single pitch. Eventually I realized this tactic was NOT working. Not only is this a surefire way to spread yourself way too thin, but you can also compromise your brand’s authenticity in the process, causing your followers to lose trust in you.
Whether you’re collaborating with a brand or an influencer, both parties should want their brands, voice, aesthetic, and values to match up. It should be a mutually beneficial partnership. So don’t be afraid to cyberstalk, ask questions, negotiate, and even turn down potential opportunities.
Most importantly, keep your clients and your audience in mind. Would they benefit from this partnership? Would you really recommend whatever product you’re advertising to them? If the answer is no, then there’s your answer.
When it comes to sponsored content or affiliate marketing, it’s pretty common for publishers and influencers to feel the need to cover up the fact that they were compensated for their efforts—in fact, the FTC has been cracking down on celebrities and influencers in particular who aren’t fully disclosing their partnerships.
But no one likes being tricked, so this is 100% the wrong tactic. Your audience will appreciate your honesty, whether it’s advertising a product you received for free or owning up to failures as well as successes. As long as you tell authentic stories, you’ll build up the trust of your customers.
Neil Patel, NY Times best-selling author and co-founder of CrazyEgg, says that “being open about your business is a great way to gain people’s trust and loyalty. By sharing problems you may be facing, or by sharing your financial numbers (whether they are good or bad) you can help build a larger following.”
So how do you stay transparent? Share your business’s quarterly and/or annual numbers, blog about new projects and collaborations, include the proper FTC disclosures, join Snapchat to give your audience an inside look at your company culture. One of the most important aspects of building and maintaining a successful brand is for your customers to really feel like they’re a part of the conversation.
Featured image via Earn Spend Live
Elise Williams, Editor and Co-Founder of Earn Spend Live
Elise co-founded Earn Spend Live, a lifestyle website devoted to helping millennial women succeed in their careers, just two years out of college…but still manages to neglect her laundry most days.
By day, she’s an editor who works with a team to build the Earn Spend Live empire and maintain its brand on all social media platforms (find us anywhere @earnspendlive), mentor editorial interns, and she squeezes in writing time when she can. By night, she’s a wine enthusiast, TV junkie, and will show you pictures of her cat if you don’t stop her (follow him on Instagram!).
She also co-hosts a podcast, EVEsdropping, where she and the other Earn Spend Live co-founder get real about all things feminism, navigating the workplace, managing your finances, and of course—TV. Check it out on iTunes!
Connect with Elise!