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The new marketing and business strategy rule for soloneurs

Document your process.

That's it.

It's funny, if you have been in a Design school, you probably have heard from some professors that you should document your process. "No sketches, no max grade". Even though I've always questioned school (or basically everything), here's a valuable idea that I only got to apply 5 years out of Uni, thanks to a trigger by Gary Vee.

Documenting my process has made me believe more in my service, strategize and understand myself and my business better. It has also uncovered a lot of holes that I wouldn't otherwise have seen.

The benefits are endless and in truth, it's not that hard to go by. It's always harder to start doing something than to actually do the thing. You can go really superficial with your process documentation, and of course that has less benefits, or you can go truly in depth and cover all aspects. (Spoiler: do both).

 


The superficial

"Keep all your sketches, I wanna see them all!" and "Write notes, thoughts of the moment and keep a diary!" said my wood work teacher.

Everybody in the classroom rolled their eyes. "But that's boring and time consuming!"

I had a vague idea that it was "smart" and some sort of "standard" procedure to save my sketches, but no one had really told us why.

The what-it-seems-to-be superficial documentation, let's say, all the sketches, a timelapse or some sort of video, photos that you can put together later on form a visual path from the start to the finish line can all have iterative learning value for you later on. No only that, but you can save it for others that want to learn afterwards.

You can go back and "check it out", how did you do that thing, again? Most people think they've gotten it in their heads. Until they forget or aren't confident enough talking about it to someone else.

Capturing the essence of your solutions, why you went X instead of Y, or that small detail in the form of writing, videos or pictures can trigger your brain later on. Specially on the moments you are stuck, when your brain seem to have filed all the goodies in the unconsciousness realm. Plus, it builds brand equity.

Here is the kind of files I have at the end of branding project:

 

Process videos and photos

Once the Design is ready to fire, it all begins. Sketching on the iPad has made documentation ridiculously easy to be done. However, I have yet to create the habit of documenting on the desktop. Yes... You caught me on that one. (Screen shots count too!)

Pro tip: For Mac users, you can easily record your screen and audio with the built-in Quicktime app.

Typically, I will have:

  • sketches;
  • timelapse videos from Procreate and the iPhone;
  • mockups;

Specially at the beginning, the amount of sketches is ridiculous. I limit the note taking on the sketch "paper itself" (I work digital most of the time). That means I will make little notes to myself why that sketch is good/bad, what needs to be changed, what motivated me to pick a certain style of type, etc. This helps with the little bit of story telling that is necessary to include on the brand book as well as organize my thoughts.

If you are an illustrator, this might mean just recording while you draw. I have seen a few illustrators who like doing voice-over during their timelapses as well, explaining what's going on the screen. It's all valid.

 

Brand guidelines

I always get to know my clients, their brand and their audience before talking about any Design aspect. The conversation has more than just documentation value — I will use the information captured to craft a brand book later on — it also serves as a pre-pricing strategy.

I typically dig my way through my client's personal history, so I can better understand their lifestyle, thus how they make their decisions. Then their brand's history, values, mission and vision. Most of them don't understand the concept of unique selling point, for example, and to me that's when it becomes relevant that these "documentation" conversations I have with allow me to uncover gaps. They also realize there's much to learn about their own selves and brands.

The funny thing is, I wouldn't have that figured it out if it wasn't for the in-depth documentation.


The in-depth

Thought pouring, chaos in the writing app. Nothing made sense. Until it did. My process didn't exist until I finally wrote it down.

I've created the habit to write. Yet, not everything I write is supposed be good. And I expect it will be chaotic every time the intent is "trying to figure something out". The key is to embrace the chaos in the beginning and find the order later on.

The in-depth process documentation process has a twist: it's has nothing to do with capturing and captioning your sketches and elaborating on that. It has to do with the strategy behind your actions.

In a 12k words document I wrote about how my consultations would go, I outlined topics that I could foresee coming and how I could solve them. I had to write for each possibility a detailed walkthrough.

The in-depth documentation has made my work more valuable and understandable to myself. It not only made things clear as I kept writing, but it showed me that I had gaps in my process that needed to be fixed. I keep going back to that document and extending it, correcting it and well, using it to my favor. I sometimes read it for fun (I'm weird).


Do both

The truth is, you've gotta do both. I tell my clients that there are two levels of a business: the corporate and the perceptive. The corporate compromises the boring office life stuff your audience doesn't need or care to hear about. Management is only fun for managers. However, if these are outlined carefully, it can boost your productivity in a gazillion percents. That's also true if you work alone, like I do most of the time, and you don't have to share a "way of doing things" with anyone else. This discipline helps you build freedom within your own means, because you become more aware of your actions and decisions.

The perceptive level of a brand is where the sprinkles are at. All the timelapses, background activities that involve creativity are actually interesting for the audience. Telling an audience how the illustration was done or how the photo is taken give a sense of awe: showing how something is done is amazing and oddly satisfying. And here is the best part: it builds trust. You need an individual in your audience to trust you so they can buy from you. Bridge that gap. Always ask yourself: what can they get from this?


What I use for documenting

The initial document setting is done on Google Docs. That's right. No fanciness required. I share it with my client and we can both edit the document, even at the same time. This was personally a breakthroug when building a brand, when there is a lot to uncover. A lot that I don't know (but should), come out of that document. I pour what I've learned from them in text format, make headlines and little assignments, they complete them and add up to them. It has saved hours of mailing back and forth, plus it engages us both in the same mission (the psychological value here is immense).

For documenting my creative process, I use my phone on a clasp tripod attached to my desk and the built-in timelapse feature from its camera (you can also post-edit the video and speed it up in case you can't do that natively). I also use Procreate's auto generated timelapse videos on the ipad and Quicktime for the desktop.

I also like to visualize the Designs on Mockups — it is received better by most non-design or non-creative minds who can't "see" the final piece. These mockups, videos and process photos can be used later on a case study and the stills on the brand guidelines.

All in all, the documenting process has one purpose: clarity, both for yourself and your client. It's not exactly business planning, but maybe a foundation for it as long as you go in depth. Once you manage to uncover the gaps in your process or knowledge, you are able to bridge them and expand.


Holding your process back is not going to make you lose your skills, nor have it stolen from you. The amount of people who would in fact execute it is so slim, that it's better to deliver the value, gain trust, than hold it back and not benefit from the advantages.

Visual identity basic elements

Visual identity basic elements

Nothing speaks louder than... An awesome visual identity. Creating a brand requires many levels of action. It's not so much like a recipe, every brand is a brand.

A visual brand is not about a logo... It's about emotion. If you enjoy baking a cake (and eating it!), you know the joy of every single step until the magical moment of eating it. And then you repeat. This is how your audience should enjoy your brand.

Know your brand


Knowing your brand is the first step to thinking about the visuals.

It's incredible how many people ask for a logo that don't know what it takes to build a brand.

Be on an mission. Having a solid reason to pursue your business is much like going to war. Find a mission (a problem) and tackle it.

Your vision of world impacts how you will make decisions. However, your vision doesn't necessarily entice about your industry.

My idea doesn't solve a problem! Snapchat's Spectacles... What does your audience want and need from you?

Know your audience


Your target audience has a specific profile. How well you know them makes a huge difference: resonating through images require to understand what appeals to them.

Think about impact


When appealing to an audience it's important to think about how your actions will impact them to take action. What is your USP?

Personality


Every brand has a personality, just like real people. Your brand can be serious and clean, or fun and relaxed.

Brand personality is a behavioral aspect of your business, is your tone of voice.

Pick below the 5 most important aspects of your brand.


Colors

Colors have different impacts on the human brain. Finding a palette that matches your brand's personality and connects with your audience.

Your designer will know what is the best palette to choose -- the right tones that will market your brand correctly.


Typography

The typography -- or the fonts you choose -- are as important as the colors.

There are different types of fonts:

  • Sans Serif
  • Serif
  • Script
  • Mono
  • Slab Serif

They all have different heights, weights; therefore, the choice of typeface will convey certain types of personalities.

For example, a thin/thick contrast serif typeface will convey modernity and fashion. It's also really feminine. Just like Vogue's (notice how to the logo is still the same): 

vogue-vintage-50s

A script typeface is also feminine in most cases, thus more delicate.

adelicia - script font

Font legibility

Being legible is the most important aspect when choosing a typeface. Being legible is crucial for paragraphs, for example. Being legible means that it is easy to read. There are many ways that are font might not be legible:

  • too thin (specially in small sizes)
  • shaped weirdly
  • spacing between the characters
  • too small
  • choice of colors against a background

Understanding the choices that will be made is of course up to your designer and your own personal preferences; and what kind of feeling you want to convey.

Emotion


Talking about feelings; combining all these aspects with clever positioning will do wonders to building a strong brand.

Brand emotion is a marketing idea that appeals a brand to customer's needs, wants and aspirations.

The Logo


Your logo is the cherry on the top of your brand. It's what people will recognize you for without necessarily having to attach a name with it.

A logo that works is not necessarily a complex one. What makes a logo good is actually the story that revolves it. How that story is told, the emotions it causes on the people is what makes a brand memorable and the logo gets that emotional attachment.

Symbols

There is more to a logo than just a mark. Like we've said, it's an emotional feature deployed on a visual mark. A great logo is tattoo worthy because it represents a connection.

A symbol is a material object represented in a mark that conveys something abstract. A limousine is a wealth symbol, for example.

The logo is not a symbol, but the symbol is part of the logo. Logo is the the short for logotype, which is a word imprint (it comes from greek). We will talk about the logotypes in the next section.

A brand's symbol is what we usually call a "logo". Apple's apple is their symbol, Nike's swash is their symbol and so on. It's ok in 999 times of 1000 to call the brand's symbol a logo, but for the sake of explanation, we will call it a symbol.

The symbol is tattoo-worthy and T-Shirt Awesome

A symbol that works as a great identifier will work on any media, at any size. The designer must make rules on a brand book or brand guidelines, however, and you always need to be aware of the limitations revolving a mark and a logotype.

Logotype

The logotype is the combination of the symbol with the word mark. A brand is a complex being, therefore it is necessary to have consistent representations of it.

  • A symbol
  • The name
  • The logotype (there might be more than one version)
  • It's meaning

Here's the example from my brand:

Consistency


In order to be consistent, it's also important not to overwork the amount of fonts, colors and the kinds of image you use around your brand. The simpler you keep, the better chance you have to be recognizable.

Images


How are you representing your brand, products/services?

You can use stock images

One way to represent your brand graphically is to use stock images. You can either purchase, or you can use free ones. Where you want to get your images from, always read the license. Avoid trouble by carefully reading the license so you know how these images can be applied, whether they can be used on products you get revenue from or not, for example.

Stock images are great to illustrate your social media and your website, for example. Here is a list of my favorites:

You can (and should) produce your own images

This is the best part, but it takes more time and maybe more money. You don't need fancy equipment to produce great images. Most phones have a decent camera nowadays, so whilst you can afford a fancy DSLR or some other high quality cam, you can go for the machine in your pocket.

Product pictures or 3D renderings, videos

An obvious thing if you have products, I guess. You can produce images of your product in a backdrop or in use.

Videos, however, perform better in social media. You can illustrate your product in use or a fancy 3D rendering (or, well, get creative!) to instigate your audience.

In-house images

Your office and the background works are extremely interesting to your audience and people love to learn how things are made. We often underestimate the power of the basics.

Always document your process

I always tell my friends and clients to document and show the process, whether through social media or self-produced videos. You can iterate your process, learn from it and teach your craft.

"Document, don't create" - Gary Vaynerchuk

Videos

Like I said, videos perform better and you can touch your audience in a deeper level. The usage of words, music and of course, the imagery resonate more deeply with people.

"People connect with people, not brands."

The more you show of your people, whether it's you alone, an audience person... Put a face on it.

Why did I talk about all of this? There is a thing called Mnemonic Strategy. The usage of patterns, words, colors or anything that iterates the characteristics of your brand is part of a strategy to help imprint your brand into people's minds: the Mnemonic Strategy.

Having your designer work on this is a bonus to you to insert your brand into your market, connect with your audience and increase your sales.

The Stationery and extras


Stationery means what accompanies a brand, for example a business card, your website (some might not consider it so), a clothing tag, and so on. Stationery is part of the consistency and experience that a customer will have with the brand. And that's why they are so important to think of and be creative with. It all depends on your industry what a stationery (or extra, really) list will look like.


Here is the final list:

  • Know your brand
  • Know your audience
  • Mission, Vision and USP
  • Personality
  • Colors
  • Typography
  • Emotion
  • The logo
  • Consistency: imagery

 

If you have any doubts, make sure to leave a comment bellow.

Target Audience

How do you find your target audience?

A bird will feed itself always from the same berries, insects and grains. Each bird species has its own preferences regarding alimentation, migration areas and so on. Not all birds go to the same places, nor do they eat the same food: this is one of the ways nature has created to find and keep balance on cycles and resources.

In a modern market approach, the idea is the same. If your business was a tree (and I hope it is, because I want to see you grow!), the birds that would eat of your berries would be of a certain kind. Some would maybe get in touch with it and not even make a nest. In other to understand your target market, you need to deeply understand the people you are trying to market to. This is the only way you can communicate effectively with your audience in order to turn them into customers.

Finding your niche

Part of finding your target audience is finding your niche. A niche is a specific space in the market that you dominate.

Having a niche will narrow down the amount of people you market to, but increase the chances of you closing a deal. 

Who already is my customer?

If you have already started working, you will already have some people you can observe and assess.

You can ask yourself the following questions: - How was working with them like? - Did I fulfill the expectations of the project? - Did I overdeliver? - Did I underprice my work? - What were these clients like? To answer this question, follow this list.

Having successfully finished projects, you are able to assess the client profile you'd like to work with. However, you need to be aware that maybe these people might not fit in your target niche if you haven't thought of it before.

Customer profiling: what it is, why it's important and how to do it properly

In order to try to understand deeply your target audience — once you have found out your niche — you need to know your audience. Therefore, the customer profiling serves to strengthen your vision of your ideal customer.

It doesn't matter what industry you are in, you have an ideal customer. Maybe you already have worked with people that you would like to use as an ideal customer (at least to begin to understand). Who are they? Where are they? How do you market to them? How can you make them talk about your work to others?

Customer profiling

In order for your niche -- and your customer profiling to be truthful, you must avoid generalizations.

Age
Sex
Salary
Family size
Profession
Education
Hobbies
Personality
Kind of home
Music style
Gadget
Kind of car
Kind of dress
Food preferences
Free time activities

 

The next step is to find the people. There is no cutting corners: you need to go where they are at. You need to understand people in a next level in order to connect.

Using that knowledge to find the best communication channels

Can you come up with a social media post that would communicate deeply to your customer? Remember that, however large your audience, you can create a feeling because now you know how they behave. Understanding them this deeply will allow you to sell a better version of themselves.

Coca-Cola has done this beautifully. They know that at least a part of their audience might be having a bad day until they have a Coke. They understand their audience's behavior, therefore they are able to craft the perfect marketing content.

The next step is to start communicating

Create content revolving your findings. How can you connect the emotions of your audience with your products or services?

Conclusion

By knowing your target audience, how they behave, what they want and need, you can craft a perfect version of themselves revolving your product or service.

How does a Visual Identity add value to my brand?

How does a Visual Identity add value to my brand?

A Visual Identity is an asset. An asset is a product or service that you invest in in order to raise your sales and thus, your revenue. The added value has two different kinds of return: direct and indirect. The power of a Visual Identity lies in the power of influence and perception.

The Visual Identity's job is to make a brand recognizable. If I describe a brand, would you recognize it just by creating a mental picture? Let's try. A red background with a big rounded yellow M, "I'm lovin' it". A white background with a rounded black tick and a striking picture, "Just do it". There, how did this go?

A Visual Identity is one of the first interactions a person has with a brand.

That interaction takes place directly or indirectly. However it happens, it's a decision changer for the client. It is what will turn a potential client into an advocate.

A visual identity provides added value directly by boosting sales

The aesthetic part of your brand will allow it to resonate with a specific target audience. It’s important to notice that it’s an added value. This means that your products and services also need to be great, even though your image is what will ultimately sell.

The quality of your products and services will invariably reflect on your brand image, because it will create perception through awareness.

A visual identity provides added value indirectly by raising awareness

Awareness means to acknowledge a fact of a given object, individual, or situation. Self-awareness means that you are able to see yourself as you are.

Brand awareness means perception of a brand in its market. Ask yourself:

  • What is it that you are known for?
  • What is that you want to be known for? Do these two align?
  • How is your brand's perception in the market?
  • What impact are you creating in the world?
  • Is your brand a visual copy of another? Are you standing out?

In conclusion, a Visual Identity compiles the aspects of a brand in order to create a relationship between it and a target group. It makes a brand stand out from others. In addition, a great VI adds value to a brand  through marketing efforts.

If you could make a change in your branding and Visual Identity, what would it be? Maybe your logo doesn't reflect your brand's personality. In addition to a possible bad logo, it could be that your marketing efforts are not giving returns. Or, maybe, your branding is not cemented well enough. Probably your VI reflects that as well. Also, it could be that your whole idea of what your brand means is wrong in the eyes of the market.

The reasons why ads are bad

The reasons why ads are bad for your image

The reasons why ads are bad for your image

I am a big fan of YouTube (ops, exposed) and podcasts. And, man, isn't there anything more infuriating than ads that disrupt my experience! Same applies to websites and other kind of media. Once you get someone engaged with your content, an ad becomes and annoyance because it decreases the attention and thus the interest of your viewer/listener.

Here's a little piece of marketing history for you. When marketing started taking its form in the late 1800s, companies were production based. The belief was that the best way to compete was through product innovation and the reduction of production costs. A good product sold itself – nowadays we might even laugh at those "innovations". The product-oriented era of marketing lasted until the 1920s. This is when production became too much and the demand for new strategies grew.

From the 20s until the end of WWII, marketing was sales oriented. Which means that they believed that the products need to be pushed to customers. It makes sense that the next step was "so desperate", since the production was too high and people didn't have money because of the post war crisis.

But how do we call it from then to now? Some people say we are in the value marketing era or the one-to-one era. This means that the companies are trying to build relationships with customers.

The catch is that customers want value no matter the way it's delivered. Many companies don't understand that and haven't adhered. It's understandable since many have ingrained habits and company cultures.

But what happens when you are delivering value and then you interrupt it?

There is too much to consume everywhere, as we are all tired of hearing. There is just that much amount of time that someone is willing to listen or read your content. Whether it's a blog post, a video or a social media timeline, ads amidst your content is a sign of lower quality value – or no value at all, for that matter.

Reasons why users are blocking ads from their browsers is a sign that ads are being over used or displayed wrongly. Nobody wants to be interrupted by a commercial. You are associating your brand with a badly perceived value: annoyance. No one likes ads because it breaks their attention from what they are experiencing.

Ads in the middle of your content are a bad experience to your consumer. That's why I don't run ads on my websites, nor anywhere else, nor advise my clients to do so. I want you to focus on the value I have to offer you. If I placed a big banner ad in the middle of this section of the text I'd make you mad and feel like I have no consideration for you and your time. All you wanted was to read in peace. If I ran an ad on every page, for example, I'd slowly degrade my image in your eyes because ads create a perception of a low quality brand.

I don't want someone else's content in the middle of mine. Why would I want you to click away from my page to view someone else's product or service? Unless I think it's valuable to you, then yes. But it's under my control and I have curated a valuable resource for you to learn from. If I think there is a product or service relevant to you, I'd rather kindly recommend it than disturb your reading experience.


What should you do instead?

So the title of this post is: The reasons why ads are bad for your image. Maybe it should have been "how to leverage your image by not running ads in your content" but that wouldn't have caught your attention. I run ad blockers on my browsers. I absolutely hate when I go to websites that don't let me view the content because I have ads on. If you need ads as revenue, maybe you should double check your business concept and marketing strategies.

When you have a website or a social media profile with a lot of engagement but no revenue

It's a clear sign that what you are doing is not a business or you are seeing it from an angle that is not unique. Consider launching a product or service that will help your audience. Something that you really love to do that your audience would consume and that you can do better.

Typically websites that have no products or services to offer do that. And it makes it look bad.

Case Studies

3 ways case studies help bring in potential customers

Case studies are seriously overlooked by most business owners. Small, medium or large businesses should be able to write compelling content to help bridge the gap between the business and the customers. Whilst blog posts are interesting and educational material, case studies have a stronger appeal to the client: it focus on the process and research instead of only the final result.

Depending on the industry you are in, the traditional case study is meant to showcase an external project and your own study upon it. It's an intensive analysis of an individual, group or project, either way. Usually your methods or products have had an impact on the final result, which is an important asset to any brand.

Documenting

You might ask yourself how that is possible; "how does documenting help my brand?" In fact, a serious business look for equity, and documentation is part of creating a system towards that equity.

No brand comes with manuals, therefore making official documentation on your processes is a valuable asset to your brand's future. It also assures consistency in the process of creation and therefore, it supports your brand's image.

It's great to see people using quick video stories in the internet. That's a way of documenting a personal brand — and most people don't even notice it. That is personal brand building at its natural state. It's an error to any business owner not to think about the brand's future as well as its path. Documenting is the one of the ways for brand equity. How do you make an impact on people's lives? By documenting your journey: successes and failures. Patents are part of a brand's equity: documenting inventions, even if they never become real. People will resonate with you and feel closer to your brand when you show them what's up.

It also increases engagement (Facebook Lives, Instagram Stories, Snapchat etc) between your brand and the consumers of your content. It will make people more propelled to buy from you.

Leveraging your products/services

By creating case studies, you have the opportunity to show off how your services and products enable results to real customers. By bringing the key people in, you can trace down all the real experiences and combine it with your own documentated process. This is valuable information because you are able to asses the reality with clarity.

Building trust with potential customers

The external reason for creating case studies is to bring in new customers to your business. For example, creative workers such as Designers or Photographers are able to bridge the gap with customers by writing cases studies that show off the behind the scenes and the processes used to create an image or a logo or any other final product. It's social proof: if more people have used a product or service, it's more likely that others will too. By allowing reviews and testimonials, for example, you help potential customers understand the quality of the final result and what they can expect.

Referrals are a helpful way for potential customers to trust you. That's because they will be referred by people they already trust, which immediately makes you trustworthy. Again, that's social proof. We always look towards people that are close to us, like friends and family, people that we know, like and trust, for references. 


Quick wins:

  • Documenting for brand equity;
  • Documenting helps consumers resonate with your brand;
  • Document both successes and failures;
  • Documenting also increase engagement;
  • Document the process;
  • Case studies help leverage a business' products and services by showing real results;
  • Find ways to build trust with customers;
  • Testimonials and reviews help potential customers make a buying decision.

What to do now:

  • Blog, vlog and put out social media stories of what you do;
  • Write case studies that apply to your products/services and niche;
  • Ask actual clients to write reviews and testimonials and display them on your website;
  • Ask your clients for referrals — word to mouth is still the best marketing strategy.

 

 

The Branding Girl • Y-Tunnus: 2791209-3

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