I’ll say it: building a brand is whole lot bigger than throwing a website together and running ads to your products.
It’s not a popular opinion right now, I know.
Your gooroos are pulling out their beard hairs and cringing at my “old school” ways.
They love telling you that you can spend an hour on your site, 15 hours finding the right products on aliexpress, 20 hours on facebook ad building and you’ll be making passive income with 10 minutes of work a day so that “you can live the life you want.”
Honestly, that does a serious disservice to you and gives the word “entrepreneur” a bad rap.
A real entrepreneur wants to work on something valuable, something that serves them and others.
A real entrepreneur gets their power and lives the life they want by pushing their brand to its fullest potential. How do you do that?
5 Reasons You Need to Set Brand Guidelines
You already know what I’m going to say because you know my brand and because as per my SEO Best Practices guide, the heading made it really clear.
Regardless of who you are and what you’re building, if you’re going to build your strategy around content marketing (and you should), you NEED to put brand guidelines in place for your brand.
1 – You don’t have to think about it anymore. Brand guidelines give you boundaries and frameworks to work within so you can focus on what matters—the content.
2 – Your loyal readers know what they’re getting. Brand guidelines add weight to the most valuable thing you can be: consistent.
3 – Brand guidelines add to your branding. Anything unique that you do consistently will trigger that cue in your reader to think about you.
4 – They can be an inspiration for content. Read your guidelines while thinking about your ideal customers and you’ll come up with more ideas than you can count (oh-write those down).
5 – Brand guidelines add hella clarity to your business. If defining who you serve added an iota of clarity for you, defining how you speak and show up for them is going to bring you a well pool of clear thinking.
There are four important parts of your guidelines: values, voice, vision, viscerals. (Where are my alliteration hounds?)
Disclaimer: this is a decision making activity. Do it in your best time for decision making or it won’t make sense later.
We wrote an entire article about building your Brand Value System and incorporating it into every decision you make. That’s a great place to start here.
For brevity’s sake, defining your brand values means defining what it is you stand for. What do you value? WHY are you building your brand?
Then boil that down into it’s essence and extract three words that you can adhere to with every decision you make. It’s harder than you might think, but you can feel it when it’s right.
Your voice is exactly what it sounds like. It’s how you speak in your brand and to your community.
You should have two sets of “voice” – one for your customers and one for your branding.
The reason why I separate these two things is because as a brand, you need to command the authority in your niche so you’re going to speak at a higher level with more expertise in your content than you typically would with a customer.
When you’re speaking to a customer, be simple, meet them where they are, and don’t overwhelm them with niche information they aren’t asking for.
This is an important note. The way you speak as a brand should be built from the way you speak to your customers. Not the other way around.
A few questions to get you started on defining your voice:
What do you call your community members?
Do you swear?
Do you use hyperbole or pinpointed accuracy for your story telling?
What is your tone?
What phrases, words, or language do you use consistently?
Just like voice, your visuals need to be consistent—and this may be even more important in the short term because people are SO drawn to what they can see.
A bad visual, like a blurry image or inconsistent color scheme, can completely take someone out of the moment—which could be the moment of a sale.
Like with voice, take your ideal customer in mind, and pull in your Brand Value System. What do you want to communicate to them visually? How can you do that without being distracting?
A few questions to get you started on defining your vision:
Does your logo convey the “look” you’re going for?
What is my color scheme?
Do I want humans in my photos? (fyi – people tend to get more engagement)
What kind of images connect with my voice?
What kind of imagery connects with my ideal customer?
Viscerals is the intense words I chose to mean “the devil is in the details, honey.”
To stay consistent in your branding doesn’t have to mean that you notice when a shaded light box on your website is 1px off center (hello, fellow nit pickers), it just means putting some basic rules into play.
Don’t wrap yourself too tight, but this is really where “not having to think about anything but content” comes in handy. You will waste time by not having these visceral guidelines handy because you’ll always be looking at the last article for consistency, or googling the right thing to do for a heading.
A few questions to get you started on defining your viscerals:
What size do I want my images on each platform I operate in?
Do I care about spelling/grammar? How much? (maybe think about getting an editor if this is high on your list)
How are my headings written? MLA? Sentence Case?
What punctuation do I use for numbered lists (Courtney kills me on this one)
Do I have specific types of content that I want to format in certain ways?
How Guidelines Evolve
I don’t want to leave this out because so many companies operate in freeze frames of who they are and who they serve. Your brand is going to evolve—think about where you were a year ago (or if you’re not a year old, think about when you started).
Are you looking at the same beast? I certainly hope not.
Your guidelines need to evolve with your brand or one of two things will happen:
1 – your brand will outgrow its guidelines and you will find yourself back in dense forest with no horizon in site.
2 – your brand won’t grow because you’ve been too rigid with your walls and you’ve boxxed yourself in.
Just like you’ll know when to search for answers in your guidelines, you’ll know when they need a little updating—the most common symptom of needing to be revamped is if your questions aren’t answered by your guidelines.
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Photo by Andre Guerra