A couple of months ago we got an email from Brené Brown asking if we’d like to see her speak in UCLA the following week – she had extra tickets and it was an extra special event that was being filmed for Netflix! The stars were aligned and we didn’t have any meetings, so Tara and I (Kathleen here) booked a quick trip to LA and for the first time since working with Brené got to see her speak live – and y’all, she crushed it.
When we first took Brené through the Braid Method* (in 2013) we asked her: what’s the ONE thing you want to be known for? And she said “I want to start a national conversation about vulnerability.” Well, mission accomplished. Through her decades of research Brené redefined vulnerability as the kind uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure and leads you down a path of love, belonging, joy, and wholehearted living.
* We’re often asked how we landed a client like Brené Brown – it started when our book review of Daring Greatly crossed her path and she dug a little deeper into the work we do here at Braid Creative. She was about to go on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday for the first time and wanted her personal brand and website to authentically reflect who she was and her vision for where she was going next. To say we were excited to help Brené with her evolving brand is an understatement. These days we continue to work with her team on The Daring Way brand that certifies and trains helping professionals with her work.
Brené Brown’s TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability followed by her bestselling books like Daring Greatly and Gifts of Imperfection have undoubtedly struck a chord. And now her work is becoming even more accessible with her new 1-hour special, The Call to Courage on Netflix April 19, 2019. Brené shares her insights and research on vulnerability, courage, connection, and shame with the humor, wit, and personal stories that make her so relatable.
Brené Brown: the Call to Courage | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
Earlier this week I had to go to the secretary of state to get a new driver’s license.
Hang with me here, I promise this story has a point that is related to branding.
Kathleen here with a confession: I moved from Oklahoma City to Detroit, Michigan over a year ago and as of earlier this week still had not taken care of getting a Michigan ID. Getting a new driver’s license is a lot like going to the dentist for an overdue cleaning or filing yearly income taxes – it’s just hard to get the motivation going to make it happen.
Except with a driver’s license you’re not only taking care of a mundane task, you’re also getting your picture taken – so you also have to will a good hair day into the universe and throw on some concealer and lipstick while you’re at it.
So, I head to the secretary of state and walk into a setting that felt a little like the Netherworld waiting room scene from Beetlejuice.
Let me paint a picture for you: a room with a hundred folding chairs full of people who would rather be anywhere else; multiple lines that weren’t moving; and overhead lighting that would make anyone look like they had the flu.
To be fair, this is pretty much on brand when it comes to what you might expect from a government agency, and I get it – creating a pinterest-worthy space just isn’t a priority. I took a number and got in line to have my documents verified. When it was my turn, the woman helping checking to make sure everyone has their proper paperwork in order was kind, patient, and informative. I expected her to treat me like I was dumb for not knowing the process – nope! She acted like she had my back and all the time in the world to answer my questions. She told me exactly what I needed to proceed and exuded warmth. Then when she told me the wait was going to be 1-1.5 hours I WASN’T EVEN MAD because she was so freaking nice about it. She even explained that I could leave and as long as I got back in the building before 5PM they’d be able to help me.
I was completely surprised.
During that wait time I popped over to the post office to get my passport renewed (it was a very adult-ing kind of day) and by the time I returned to the secretary of state it was my turn to stand in yet another line to finally see someone about getting my new license.
The woman who helped me next checked my vision, gathered my signatures, and verified my documents. She was also incredibly helpful and kind, and even let me take a second photo when my first one came out looking a little like … well … beetlejuice.
I’m sharing this story because I was surprised.
It would have been on-brand for everyone working at the secretary of state to be as harsh as the fluorescent lights – but instead I was surprised by the wonderful customer service I received from every single person I encountered.
Because my profession is branding, the whole scene got me daydreaming about how I would rebrand the secretary of state, from the generic identity to the cold interior space, to match the actual experience I received. Or perhaps, maybe it’s actually better that I was expecting one thing and surprised by another. The experience got my gears turning about brand disconnects – especially the ones we can’t seem to help – like working within budget constraints, and what we can do to accommodate the gaps between brand perception and customer experience.
SOMETHING THAT SURPRISES PEOPLE ABOUT MY BUSINESS…
When we’re taking our clients through the Braid Method one of the exercises includes a fill in the blank ad-lib style activity. One of the lines in this brand exercise is:
“One thing that happily surprises people about my business is ______.”
What happily surprises your dream client about your brand and business? I’ll take it a step further if you’re having a hard time thinking about how to answer that questions:
One thing that happily surprises people about my business is …
once they work with me the discover _________.
they hire me for ______ and in addition to that also get ________.
a little detail, like how I _________.
that I go above and beyond when it comes to ______.
Some examples of these fill-in-the-blanks might be:
once they work with me the discover that I’m incredibly communicative and punctual.
they hire me for coaching and in addition to that also get a lot of practical next steps.
a little detail, like how I send my deliverables with thoughtful packaging and a little meaningful gift so they remember our work together.
that I go above and beyond when it comes to reflecting back to them what they say so they know I’m listening.
Try it for yourself – how would you fill in these blanks?
YOU CAN’T ALWAYS BRAND THOSE SURPRISES
There are things about the Braid Method that surprises our clients. With every customer we hear things like “I had no idea how much business clarity I would get in this branding process!” or “Wow! I feel like this was such a collaborative effort – like we were on the same team!” And everytime we get feedback like this I think, how can we get more of that experience into our own brand positioning?
But the thing is… there are going to be some things about your brand and business you can’t (and probably shouldn’t) quite articulate. There are some things that just have to be experienced and received by your dream customer as a delightful surprise.
THE SURPRISES ARE WHAT GENERATE WORD-OF-MOUTH MARKETING
You can’t brand the fact that you write really informative and bulleted emails, and you can’t position yourself as an expert in being warm and kind. Heck, you can’t even market the fact that people are raving fans and really truly love you once they experience your offering … because they have to experience it!
But that doesn’t mean going above and beyond or paying mind to the little details are all for naught. These surprises are the things that get your dream client who has actually worked with you, or purchased your product, telling all of their friends and family about the experience they had.
HOMEWORK FOR YOU:
Take stock of your brand surprises. Try asking your past clients what they loved about working with you and what surprised them about the experience. Take note of how those surprises reflect your core values and try to embody them in every interaction you have with your customers.
A really surprising thing happened and I want to tell you about it:
we grew our list by thousands of subscribers by going against the grain of everything being taught right now about list building.
Email marketing is an important and effective tactic. It allows you to cut through the noise and sell directly to new customers and potential leads who actually want to hear from you. A popular way to build your list is to offer content upgrades (like free courses, worksheets, and ebooks) and enticing incentives (like exclusive offers and discounts), and earlier this year we decided to ditch this very method of growing our own email list. We made every single branding exercise and worksheet on our site available for direct download without the exchange of an email address.
It goes against the grain of what all of our peers are doing and to be honest, felt like a big risk when it comes to growing our brand online.
So imagine our surprise when our email list, which had plateaued at around 13,000 subscribers for over a year had attracted 2,000 new subscribers within months of removing all opt-ins and content upgrades. That’s a 15% growth rate in just a few months without any focused effort or strategic tactics for growing our list.
This bump in subscribers confirmed our hunch: building a trustworthy brand with no strings attached is a strategy worth trying.
So in this article we’re going to talk about how to build a trustworthy brand that will engage your dream customer and turn them into loyal fans and brand advocates. Below are just a few examples and we encourage you to brainstorm more ideas that you would like to try.
It’s about the service first
If you’re number one concern is about clicks and conversions you need to shift your focus back to what you have to offer. How is your product or offering genuinely helping people? What problem is it solving? How could you make it better? How can you generously share your expertise whether or not someone buys? When you can answer these questions you will be able to market what you do and attract your dream customers from a solid and authentic foundation.
Be who you are
The word “authentic” has received so much attention that it’s almost lost its meaning but it’s another way of saying be who you are. But first you have to know and define who you are – otherwise you’ll be swept away by all the trends and start looking and sounding like everyone else.
A great place to practice authenticity is in the content you create. In your next social media post, blog article, or podcast interview practice being as honest as possible by saying what you mean, telling your true stories, and bringing a little bit more of your personality into the work you do.
The more specific you can get the more people will engage in and trust what you’re saying. Whether that’s the nuances of your customer’s challenges and how you helped them, the details of how you’ll work together and what they get, or even sharing behind-the-scenes processes of how you work.
When you’re first starting out, it’s easy to want to say “Yes, we can do that!” because any business is good business and you genuinely want to help everyone. But sometimes you’re being more helpful by not saying yes to something that will leave you feeling frustrated at the project or resentful of the person who hired you.
Using industry terms can make you sound really smart around your peers, but being able to translate what you do in easy-to-understand ways will make your potential customer feel more confident in hiring you to help.
What can you offer that will nurture your community in spite of the return-on-investment? Is it generously sharing your gifts of knowledge in your content? Is it engaging with your community by supporting a local event? Is it buying a round of lattes for everyone at your favorite coffee shop? Get creative with ways you can invest in people.
Trust your gut when it comes to trends
There are a lot of trends when it comes to marketing and you’re consultant / agency / friend isn’t wrong for recommending them and you’re not wrong for wanting to try them. However, if a new tactic or strategy feels misaligned or even just gives you a funny feeling in your gut dig into why it might not be right for your business and the audience you serve – will it break the trust you’ve worked so hard to build?
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“What do you know about launching? I need to do a proper launch … and I have no idea how to do it!”
Kathleen here and this is an actual cry for help I received from a Braid Method client. You see, what we’re best at is providing our clients—who are multi-layered organizations to purpose-driven businesses to creative entrepreneurs—a brand platform. This brand platform includes messaging, positioning, copy points, and a brand identity that they can then use in their marketing, advertising, and packaging. And as the name suggests, a platform is the place from which you launch – but you still gotta make the dive! So in this article, I will be detailing how to launch and create a marketing strategy for your new brand, product, service or offering.
By the way, this is a long and comprehensive post, but don’t get overwhelmed! Read through it and then download the launch checklist PDF I’ve made for you at the end of this post. No email required! But if you want to be sure to get these resources when they’re made available, we’d love it if you’d join our newsletter.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SELLING
Before you launch your business or offering, you need to make sure you know what you’re launching. The easiest way to do this is to go back to the “who, what, when, where, and why” you learned in grade school:
WHO – who is this business or offering for? Who is the dream customer that will benefit most from what you have to offer?
WHAT – what are you selling? The more specific you can get about what you’re offering, the better.
WHEN – When will your customer receive your offering? And if you’re offering has an incentive or limited time offer, when is it available for purchase?
WHERE – Where do people buy it? Where will people receive the product? Where can they find out more information?
HOW – How does it work? How will your customer receive the offering? How will it solve their problem?
The more clarity you have around what you’re selling, to whom, how it works, and what they’ll get – the easier it will be to launch.
SET A LAUNCH GOAL
Before you start to hammer out the logistics of your launch, it’s important to set a launch goal. Your goal needs to be specific so you know if your launch was successful. So it might look like a certain dollar amount, conversion rate, or number sold.
Your launch goal is also important because it will help guide some of the marketing decisions you make moving forward. For example, if your goal is to only sell ONE thing, then your launch might include a lot more high-touch efforts—like sending personalized videos or hosting 1:1 kickoff calls to warm prospects. If your goal is to sell LOTS of things, you might integrate an affiliate campaign or social media advertising into your plan.
MAKE A LAUNCH TIMELINE
Developing a marketing timeline for launching your offering is a bit of an art form. There is no one right way to do this so I’m going to share a general launch timeline, but you might adjust according to what works best for you. Also, be sure to think about the seasonality of your business and which time of year might be best for launching your offerings.
First, determine when your offering will be delivered and work backward from there based on how long your want your promotion period to be for. A lot of marketing professionals refer to this as a “cart open to cart closed” timeframe.
For example, let’s say you want a two week long marketing plan for your launch:
February 1 – offering is delivered to customer
January 31st – cart closed, offering is no longer available for purchase
January 30th – last chance to buy
January 20th – 30th – cart open, offering is available to everybody for purchase
January 18th-20th – early bird sale, offering is available to select groups for purchase
January 11th – soft launch to very select groups
I gave a two week example because I think it’s an ideal time frame. You give your customers enough time to consider your offering but it’s not so long that they get fatigued with your marketing. With a limited time window, you create a sense of urgency around purchasing your offering. Be sure to keep in mind that you’ll get most sales on the first and last days your offering is available for purchase – so make sure when you develop your marketing plan to really focus on those days. Also, be sure to leave lots of space in your own calendar (don’t overbook meetings or other deadlines) so you can be available for customer service, like answering questions for anyone who is interested during your launch.
By the way, if you have an evergreen (always available for purchase) offering, you can still have launch windows where you incentivize your audience with added value, bonus offerings, or discounts. Or maybe you’re simply doing a two-week long “push” around an offering, service, or product that is always available – where you’re focusing all of your marketing efforts around making your audience aware of how to buy you.
Finally, when it comes to your launch timeline, if you are able to build enough of a following and year round engagement in your brand, you can potentially get away with shorter timeframes down to 1-day long flash sales. You know your offering and audience best and context matters when it comes to your launch.
START WITH A SOFT LAUNCH
Before you begin shouting it from the rooftops, you should start with a soft launch. A soft launch is when you make your offering known or available to a select group, and I always recommend starting with the inside out.
Here’s what a soft launch might look like:
Let your existing clients know first with a personalized email or video message – it’s easiest to sell to people who already know and trust you and the quality of your work. The more you can individually reach out to people the better – this might look like a personalized email or even a quick video message letting them know about your launch. They might be a good fit or know someone who is – no matter what be sure to end on a clear call to action. Whether it’s telling them to “stay tuned for more information,” to share the launch with a friend who might benefit from it, or to buy it themselves.
Ask your peers to share – another way to launch from the inside out is to ask your inner circle of trusted peers, colleagues, or mastermind confidants to share the launch with you. The best way to do this is to create graphics and social media swipe copy that is all gathered in one place for easy sharing. Be specific about when and how you would like them to share. If you’re doing an affiliate program you could offer it to these folks as well.
After you hold a soft launch by letting your inner circle and existing customers know what you’re up to and now it’s time to get more eyes on what you have to offer. Now it’s time to make a splash!
MAKE A MARKETING PLAN
Once you’ve established the timeline of your launch now it’s time to make a marketing plan. A marketing plan is where you map out all of your marketing efforts across all of the places your brand shows up in a specific time frame in order to make an impact within the marketplace.
1. Gather your assets
The first thing you’ll want to do is gather all of the assets that you have and think about how your promotion will apply to each asset.
For example asset gathering might look like this:
Newsletter: I will send a series of 5 emails to my entire list during my launch Signage: I will do a custom display in my storefront during my launch
Instagram: I will do a post a day plus interactive Instagram stories + chats during my launch
Community: I will do a live workshop in the Facebook Group I’m in during my launch
You can also market or advertise on other people’s platforms during a launch. This could include social media advertising, traditional advertising, and PR such as speaking gigs and podcast interviews. You will need to have quite a bit of lead time in order to buy space (if you’re doing some traditional advertising) or pitching for PR so be sure to account for that when it comes to your annual planning. For example, right now podcasts are really great way to reach new audiences and create new fans, but most podcasts record quite ahead of schedule and typically need between 2-4 months lead time to get you scheduled and recorded, in order to publish your episode in tandem with your launch.
2. Implement the plan
At this point you’ll want to implement the plan by writing the emails, nailing down the logistics, prepping for production, and tasking out the projects and delegating accordingly.
Who is writing the copy?
Who is designing the materials?
Who is in charge of production?
How is each piece being installed or published?
What are the deadlines for all the components?
A marketing plan can be as simple or complex as you desire. If this is your first time to launch something, you might start simple and focus on your most effective assets. Then each time you launch your offering, add in one more marketing asset and see how it does. For example, if you’ve never hosted a webinar or a social media challenge AND this is your first launch you might be tackling too much.
3. Refine & replicate the plan
The great thing about a marketing plan is you can repeat it over and over again! Next time you launch you might layer in new tactics or eliminate ones that didn’t work but in general you can work smarter and not harder by replicating your previous plans. Be sure to consider how often you want to market your specific offering: monthly? Quarterly? Annually?
REMEMBER THAT YOU’RE A FARMER, NOT A HUNTER
It’s easy to go into a launch expecting to come out of it a millionaire – or at least a six-figure-aire. Now, I don’t want to burst any bubbles or be a Debbie Downer here, but I do want to manage expectations: those six-figure launches are typically the exception and not the rule – no matter how many Facebook ads you see promising that you too can get rich quick.
When you are launching a new offering, know that you are planting the seeds for many future launches and the more you can be consistent, learn and improve as you go the more you will see compounded returns on your investment in the future.
ENGAGING BETWEEN LAUNCHES
There is a time to sell and convert, and then there is a time to engage and share. In between your promotional periods and launches, it’s important to engage your audience, build their trust (and at the same time build your list). You can replicate your marketing campaign with a focus on engagement and growth – and while it’s not directly affecting your bottom line it’s an investment in your market that will reap the rewards when it’s time to sell again.
If you’ve been following the Braid blog for awhile, you probably understand the reasons why it’s important to have a cohesive brand presence – it makes your business look polished and professional, it attracts your dream customers, and brand consistency builds trust with your audience – just to name a few.
Yet, from experience we know that our own branding clients like to change things up. A major pitfall we see our own clients fall into is wanting to change up their brand platform too soon and too often. And we get it! You want to liven things up – but if you keep rebranding yourself every time you get bored you will, at the very least, diffuse your marketing presence and at worst, confuse your customers.
So what’s the answer to keeping things feeling fresh? A promotional campaign!
A promotional campaign is a marketing drive that highlights a specific offering or product for a limited amount of time. For example, let’s say you’re a rockstar – your promotional campaign is your newest album release. Each album you release has cover art that looks and feels like you, but at the same time is an opportunity to try something a little new. Now, I know you’re not Beyoncé (unless you are! Holla!), but your brand is the rockstar of your business so let’s dig in to a few questions you might have.
Here are the steps you’ll take:
Decide which product or offering you want to highlight and promote – maybe you double down on a product that is already working well for you or perhaps you’re giving attention to a service that hasn’t been easily selling itself. Or maybe you have a new offering that you want to share!
Determine a launch date and timeline to run your campaign – a promotional campaign typically has a short marketing window – it’s not evergreen like your brand platform. Decide when you’ll begin and end your marketing efforts for the service or product you want to highlight.
Design and produce your campaign tactics – this is an opportunity to freshen things up across your marketing channels and catch the eye of your dream customer!
Launch! – roll out your promotional campaign all at once to make a big splash.
How do I make my promotional campaign consistent with my brand platform?
If you have solid brand standards, then your logo, colors, fonts, imagery, messaging, and tone of your brand are already well defined. With a promotional campaign, try changing up just one or two of your brand ingredients to freshen things up while staying consistent with your existing image. For example, maybe you layer in new headline typography and fun imagery while your brand colors and secondary typography remain the same. Or perhaps your typography remains the same but you pop in a new accent color to make your promotional campaign stand out.
You can let the product or offering you are highlighting help set the tone of your promotional campaign. For example, if you’re a university running a recruitment campaign, this is a fun time to get a little more playful and trendy with the look and feel of your materials. Or if you’re a leadership coach launching a personal development offering, your promotional campaign might feel a little more personal, human, or inspiring. Apple is a great case study – they are consistent with the brand we all know and love, but have fun with their look and feel when they launch a new product like the iPod or iMac.
You can also check out one of our own Braid case studies. These are some promotional campaigns we’ve created for a credit union that financially empowers their members. While their overall brand is typically more human-focused, lifestyle and relatable, we had some fun with their home improvement (what would Chip and Joanna do!?) and a summer auto loan (think road-trip, wind-in-the hair!) seasonal campaigns. Some common elements we kept from their overall brand are: their colors, some of their typography, and an underlying sentiment of informing and empowering their members to achieve their life goals. But we mixed it up with expressive headline fonts, cool music, animated elements and stylish details that captured the feeling of the promotion vs. the overall brand.
How often should I run a promotional campaign?
In our last blog post, we shared more details on how to bring the seasons into your marketing by plotting out annual events and typical busy times onto a physical calendar. If you have the budget and bandwidth, a quarterly promotional campaign is enough to catch the eye of your customer without fatiguing, confusing, or overwhelming them with all the bells and whistles that come with a new launch. But even if you have just one major event a year that you amplify with a special branded campaign, you’re sure to see a boost in engagement and sales.
Also, think about how long you want to run your promotional campaign for. If it’s a holiday campaign it may last from late October through the end of the year. Or if your promotional campaign is centered around a specific event or date it may only have the lifespan of a week or two.
What marketing tactics should I include in a promotional campaign?
Your promotional campaign can utilize all of the same marketing channels as your brand platform. Consider your physical space, digital and online presence, as well as out-of-the-box places especially for your promotional campaign – like a pop-up shop, special event, or brand collaboration so you can get in front of new faces. Think about really doubling down your efforts in just a few places if you don’t have the bandwidth to make a splash across all of your marketing tactics.
We believe you should always launch from the inside-out. That means letting your internal team or staff in on the campaign and teach them anything they need to know once it is released to the public. Don’t forget your current or past clients and customers are also an “inner circle” audience, as well. Then think of the ripples going out to your prospects.
We hope this gets your gears turning on where you can start to integrate a promotional campaign into your marketing plan. And if you need help executing and implementing a branded launch of your own drop us a line.
It’s fall and everyone’s excited for sweater season and pumpkin-spice-everything! Us too!
But latte cravings and wardrobe-layering aside—as professionals, marketers, and communicators, isn’t there something comforting about knowing what to expect from a season?
Whether promoting our own business, or the organization we work for, how can we get more intentional about bringing the seasons into our message and marketing?
Make a Big Picture Calendar. (That’s Actually Big!)
We all intend to plan ahead, but too often let the day-to-day minutia get in the way of making a calendar for the year.
Sure, you can’t know every detail to anticipate. Heck, you can’t know half the priorities that will pop up in any particular month. But you can plan for big picture seasonality, busy-times, and events.
Do this… plot out the next three months. (And make it big. On a big whiteboard, or roll of butcher paper). There’s something about having a big, visual calendar that everyone can see that helps you remember the very things we can take for granted.
Don’t get bogged down with every little XYZ. Instead, try focusing on what you do know from past experience and the timely cues of the seasons:
What is a naturally busy time for your business? Fall, late spring, the new year? How can you promote your most popular product and services during this season? What’s your best mix of fun + practicality, or inspiration + advice?
What is a naturally busy time for the customers you serve? Where you want to help, but also recognize there’s a lot of “noise” out there competing for their attention? Back to school, holidays? How can you acknowledge the stress in their lives and bring them encouragement with a confidence-boosting quote or a service or product that can help them manage this busy time?
When is there typically a lull for you in business, where you can have a little more fun? Summertime? Vacations? Sometimes just planting seeds (even fun ones) can help keep you top of mind leading into the busy times? It can be as little as celebrating National Popsicle day or sharing your favorite road-trip tips – it doesn’t always have to be serious!
When are there annual events that always happen as a part of your business or organization? Annual planning for the new year? A time you always give back? Are you taking these events for granted, or can you share a behind-the-scenes with your people?
You can plan a whole promotion or campaign around a seasonal event, or you can just remember to layer the season into small things: a social post, a physical mailer or postcard, or an email to your customers.
Whether big or small, consider how your photography, design, headlines, or even just a famous quote or lyric about the season can make its way into your message, imagery, and content.
And remember to balance your brand voice and your business purpose with the flavor of the season. Too much “pumpkin spice” (though some of you may disagree) can overpower what makes your core ingredients so special.
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Kathleen here and lately I’ve been receiving a lot of emails from creative entrepreneurs who aren’t sure whether they need a business coach or a brand platform.
The short answer: you’re going to need both.
You can get a lot out of both a business coach and a brand platform, but the timing of where you invest your time, energy, and money for maximum impact in your business vision can be a little tricky.
So where do you begin? Do you hire a business coach? Or a branding agency?
Let’s dig in.
WHAT A BUSINESS COACH DOES
Tools & Resources
YOU MIGHT NEED A BUSINESS COACH IF…
A business coach can help you through many stages of your business—from helping you launch a new business or project off the ground to helping you hurdle over a plateau. Here are a few reasons why you might want to hire a business coach:
You know you want to work for yourself but have no idea what business idea to pursue
You know exactly how you want to make money but all the details of actually starting a business are overwhelming
You’re stuck and need someone to strategize and brainstorm with
You’ve plateaued and need help growing (or leaping!) to that next level in your business
You’ll get the most out of working with a coach if you have awareness around what your goals are and where you’re feeling stuck. A business coach will help you clarify exactly where things aren’t working, prioritize your goals and ideas, break those goals down into actionable next steps, and hold you accountable for getting it done.
But please remember: a coach cannot do the work for you. You will want to go into a coaching engagement with a certain amount of enthusiasm and commitment to doing the work—and the more clear you can get on what you want out of working with a business coach, the more success you’ll have in not only finding the right business coach for you but working together to actually reach your goals.
WHAT IS A BRAND PLATFORM?
Brand Identity & Standards
A cohesive tone, look & feel that you can apply to:
Your website & social
Your pitches and presentations
Print & advertising
Messaging & copy that explains:
Who you are
What you do
And for whom
YOU MIGHT NEED A BRAND PLATFORM IF…
Branding is how you use words, story, and design (color, images, photographs, and typography) to give your business a memorable identity that is attractive and meaningful for your dream customer. A brand platform might typically include:
brand standards (rules or outline for colors + typography)
All of these “ingredients” of a brand can show up in a variety of places—from your website and social media to your business cards and in-person conversations. The more consistent you are across those platforms, the more polished you will appear— giving your dream customers confidence to hire you. (Here is a free and comprehensive branding checklist.)
It’s a good time to invest in a brand platform when:
You are becoming known for the work you do but feel like your brand doesn’t authentically reflect your talent, personality, or expertise
You experience “website shame”—that feeling when you’re embarrassed to send people to your site because it doesn’t look or feel as polished or professional as you’d like
You are clear about your offerings but need to attract more dream clients and close more deals
You do lots of things and want to integrate multiple offerings under one cohesive brand
You are ready to be more visible and position yourself as an authority in your field
A brand is not a business model, but for the creative entrepreneur, it can greatly impact your business vision and the kind of clients and projects you are known and hired for. And when you work with a branding agency like Braid Creative, you are guided through a collaborative process (we call it The Braid Method) that will give you brand clarity, confidence, and actual tactics (the words and designs) that you can begin to implement in all the places your brand shows up.
WHO TO HIRE?
Not all business coaches or branding agencies or freelancers are the same. So you’ll want to make sure whoever you’re hiring is a good fit for you. Ask for recommendations, take a look at the work, have a :15 minute conversation where you can ask about the approach and make sure it’s a good fit before you dive into any engagement with someone you’re looking to hire.
Kathleen here. The last article I posted was about the future of email marketing prompted by the new GDPR laws calling for more transparency in selling.
And now it’s got me thinking about the future of educational online courses and digital products. As a course-creator myself, I’m thinking about it through the lens of what’s next for our Braid Method Branding ECourse. My intention for this post is to give you a peek behind the curtain of what goes into making a strategic business decision that doesn’t come easy.
This is a longer article where I’m going to be telling you why we created an online course in the first place, why we’re shutting ours down, and what’s next in digital products (for you and for us).
WE CREATED THE COURSE TO REACH & HELP MORE CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS
The Braid Method Branding ECourse was created as a way to help creatives who weren’t quite ready to engage one-on-one with us but still needed some guidance to develop a personal brand that not only clarifies and articulates the work they do but actually feels like them.
Our packaged up expertise has served our customers well—with our course we’ve helped over 1,000 creatives who weren’t quite ready to work with us one-on-one to DIY their positioning, messaging, and brand & business vision.
Our ECourse has served us well too. More than just being profitable, it kind of served as an anchor for our expertise—a place where we could focus and gather all of our best branding knowledge, tips, and tactics. It also taught us how to scale and market in new ways— blending the work we were doing offline with how we share online.
But if you want to keep growing, you can’t always do what you’ve always done.
So, we’re closing our branding course and probably for good.
WHAT GOES INTO MAINTAINING A DIGITAL PRODUCT
A lot goes into creating and maintaining something like an ECourse. There is the developing, writing, and recording the content and curriculum itself. Then there is the marketing, processing, and delivering of the course. Plus, many courses—our included—have ongoing community and customer engagement.
Our marketing over the past six years has started by building trust and credibility with our free articles, email and social strategies, affiliate marketing, and webinar funnels. Plus the actual delivery of the course requires a certain amount of web maintenance, systems, and customer service that we have to stay on top of.
So, every year I like to zoom out and really see what I could do to improve our course – from the content itself, to the marketing and delivery. I’ll send out surveys and even individually chat with our customers to see what’s working and what isn’t. I’m keeping our finger on the pulse of marketing and content trends to try to be more seamless and effective—all so that we’re selling a course that our customers actually complete and implement.
WE’RE SHUTTING DOWN THE ECOURSE
I was looking into how we iterate and deliver the next version of our ECourse – which included a sophisticated drip marketing campaign so we were selling only to the most qualified potential customers and then getting the content into a third party platform that would better guide our students through the content …
I got tired.
Here’s the deal, as a creative entrepreneur I like the challenge of scaling and evolving. I don’t mind the work that goes into creating and marketing a digital product. I love pulling in other experts and talent to help make it do.
But with a gut check whispering that maybe the ECourse no longer fit in our business vision – followed up by an audit of our own resources, talent, and energy – the numbers just didn’t add up. I had never even considered closing the ECourse – this project has been a big part of my focus at Braid and I didn’t know what it would mean for both our business and our customers to not offer it anymore. So I did some analysis.
WHAT WE’RE BEST AT
We know for ourselves and the clients we brand that when you can narrow in on your core genius and double down on that—both in what it is you’re actually doing all day alongside how you’re positioning what you do—that you’ll have more impact both for your dream customer and in your own business.
So I took a look at what we’re best at and it’s taking our dream customers, from solo creative entrepreneurs to multi-layered organizations, through the Braid Method to clarify and articulate their positioning, messaging, and identity. As a team, our talents and efforts reside primarily with our one-on-one clients through consultation and actual implementation of brand and marketing tactics.
When we take a client through the Braid Method, we’ll often ask them: if you could do just one thing what would it be? If you could stop selling one thing what would that be?
Personally, I’ve made my job description include taking that expertise and sharing it in our articles + newsletters and on the Being Boss podcast. I love giving it all away for free and that generosity has proven to be a profitable business decision as well. If I could do just one thing all day it would be writing and podcasting to connect with our potential customers in a meaningful and helpful way. When I ask Tara the one thing she would do all day it’s working one-on-one to guide a client through The Braid Method – that’s where her genius is and that’s where she feels the most valuable.
If we could stop selling or doing one thing what would it be? This is a hard but necessary question to answer when it comes to weeding out distractions and figuring out what’s no longer working. For us, it’s the ECourse.
WHAT WENT WRONG? (WHO KNOWS)
I crunched the numbers on sales and over the past year they’ve been on a slow decline. There could be lots of reasons for this: maybe it’s that keeping the cart open and removing a sense of urgency among buyers has kept them from literally clicking “buy”.
Perhaps the market truly has become saturated with digital products – or maybe the way our dream customer is engaging with online courses is changing across the board. I know even looking at my own pursuit in continued education involves more investing in attending conferences, executive masterminds, and specialized training – and a lot less DIY courses.
Or maybe it’s the fact that our attention has been with growing our business in other ways and we haven’t been pushing it very hard. This is just another illustration how some products can make you money in your sleep but aren’t truly passive.
THE FUTURE OF DIGITAL PRODUCTS
It didn’t help that as I was weighing the decision of what to do with the Braid Method ECourse I heard Seth Godin on a podcast share that his previous courses had an 80% drop-off rate – and that’s Seth-Freaking-Godin. It was discouraging to hear, to say the least.
Because I don’t just want to create a course that people buy – I want to create a course they complete.
The way I see it, the future of effective digital products is going to require innovation, high-touch interaction, and loads of accountability.
Digital products as we know it will not be a passive-income project that you can throw together on a whim but will require a large chunk of your bandwidth and creative thinking in curriculum development, marketing, and resources. Gone are the days where you can dip your toe into creating a course and seeing how it does – you’re going to have to jump all the way in.
Together at Braid, we’ve chosen to jump all the way in with our clients – and that feels right for us.
IN PERSON IS WHERE IT’S AT (AT LEAST FOR US, FOR NOW)
When I think about what could replace our ECourse, I think about the in-person speaking we do on branding at conferences and retreats. Giving a keynote or facilitating a workshop with real human beings who are taking notes and having a-ha moments – that feels good. We’ve given talks at credit union conferences, creative entrepreneur conferences, and more niched retreats like Brené Brown’s Courage Camp. In August I’ll be sharing branding insights and actionable tactics with Whole30 Certified Coaches at a retreat hosted by Whole30 co-founder Melissa Hartwig.
In person speaking and workshopping is the next best thing to working with someone one-on-one, plus the completion rate of a talk or workshop is 100%. It’s always followed up by real conversations and people who are excited to make changes in their brand. And that feels freaking good.
Kathleen here trying not to freak out about the future of online business. You too?
If you’re a creative entrepreneur who does business online, you may have heard about the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
This new regulation, as I understand it (and it’s been really hard to wrap my head around), means that you need to be fully transparent when it comes to collecting emails and explicit about what you’ll be doing with those email addresses. So for example, if you collect emails with an “opt-in incentive” or “content upgrade,” you’ll also have to receive consent to add that email to your general list.
This means that lots of businesses who have opt-ins or lead generators that put a potential customer into a fancy sales funnel are freaking out right now…
All of this has me thinking about the future of email marketing.
But first – let’s do some reminiscing:
Here at Braid Creative we didn’t even have a newsletter list until THREE YEARS after becoming a business that primarily found it’s customers online.
We created a newsletter because it seemed like a convenient way to deliver our weekly blog articles to you. The intention wasn’t to sell but to connect.
We were giving away PDFs and worksheets on our website as a direct download without even collecting an email address. I didn’t know “content upgrades” or “opt-in incentives” were even a thing until a creative peer told me!
We didn’t have an auto-responder sequence (with the standard formula of information, soft sell, information, hard sell, information) – you just got the most recent broadcast that went out as we sent it.
We had no tagging system, triggered actions, or sales funnels
We never relied on our email list as an explicit way to make income (and we’ve managed to be profitable and sustainable for the past seven years)
Most of the bullet points above were out of our own lack of skills, knowledge, and/or awareness. And while we’ve become slightly more sophisticated in some of our email systems, the strategy has remained the same: our email list is about freely sharing gifts of knowledge with our subscribers, exploring content-creation in a new way, establishing our position as experts in branding, and connecting with our audience in a (more) meaningful way.
And of course we want you to hire us and buy our stuff – but not for us … for you. And that has always made selling feel really easy. By openly sharing our expertise in our articles (and all the other places we show up for free) we hope you’ll think of us when you’re ready to invest in your brand.
But let’s get back to the future of email … the GDPR is forcing all of us to reassess our email marketing strategy. I think this can be a great opportunity to do email marketing in a new way.
Which, for us, looks a lot like the old way of doing things.
THE FUTURE OF EMAIL MARKETING:
Newsletters will be used to sharing useful information more than selling products
Transparency will be rewarded with trust
Clear intentions will convert avid consumers fans of your content into loyal customers
The size of your list will not determine the success of your business
The more generous you can be with your gifts of knowledge, the more you will see (cash money!) compensation
So if you want to join our general mailing list scroll down to subscribe. We’ll send you an email every time we write an article like this and every once in a while we’ll tell you about a product or service we’re offering. But trust, you’ll never feel pressured by us to buy.
We work with a lot of coaches. Coaching (life coaching, leadership coaching, wellness coaching… the list goes on) is only picking up speed, and that’s why it’s more important than ever that—as a coach—you are able to clearly articulate what you want to be known for, who you best serve, and what your dream clients can expect when working with you.
One of the first life coaches we branded over five years ago had to spend a lot of her brand footprint on educating her potential clients on what a life coach even is. Now that the industry is a little more mainstream, we think it’s really important that a coach is not only able to explain their expertise, but they’re able to confidently and authentically differentiate themselves in a crowded market.
We’re typically branding coaches at two different stages of business:
The “newbie” coaches: These are coaches who are just starting out and need their brand to help clearly articulate and share what they do. These might be professionals who have a lot of experience and have been natural helpers their whole lives—the person their co-workers, peers, and friends always turn to when they need solid insights or a non-judgmental sounding board.
The coaches who are ready to scale or narrow in: These are coaches who have been doing this for a while. They know what they’re doing, and now they are ready to have a brand that not only matches their experience and what they’ve been able to create, but they could also use some help in better framing up their approach, process, or content they are ready to share on a whole new level. Or perhaps they’ve been coaching enough to really know where they best help their dream customer – they want to narrow in on their speciality, niche, or dream client so they’re not spreading themselves so thin.
Our goal when branding a coach is always to help them get clear and get authentic. That means we are going to help them say what they mean without confusing their customer and do it in a way that feels wholly integrated with their values and personality. Because we get it – it can be hard to grow a career around something like coaching when the results are powerful yet sometimes intangible. When you’re not selling a product that you can see and touch you might run the risk of coming across as vague. Or if you’re using the same fluffy jargon that seems to be working for that other six-figure coach you’ve been following, you may come across as disingenuous.
Today I’m going to share one of my favorite branding exercises that we guide our one-on-one clients through for getting more clear and for putting more of who you are into the work you do:
BEFORE AND AFTER
With a service like coaching, it can be difficult to really explain how you help your clients. The deliverables aren’t always obvious, which can make your offering a hard-sell for customers who are on the fence. So this exercise will help you better describe the shifts, transformations, and evolutions you help guide your client through.
First, draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On the left side write “BEFORE” and on the right “AFTER”.
Now describe your dream client before they work with you:
What is their biggest challenge?
What kinds of thoughts are holding them back?
Describe their behavior.
Where are they most stuck? Why?
What are they not seeing clearly?
What do they desire or want most?
Now describe your dream client after they work with you:
What kinds of goals do they have?
What is their attitude like?
Describe their behavior.
What kind of changes are they gaining momentum on?
What are some small (or large) successes they’re seeing?
How are they overcoming their hurdles?
What do they desire or want most?
Extra credit: Now that you’ve mapped out their before and after how would you describe your coaching process and how it helped them bridge the gap?
Want more branding exercises? Download our free eBook: 7 Ways to Brand You and What You Do.