Brand Consistency

Brand Consistency

Brand consistency is a topic I’ve been reading about a lot lately. Basically, when a business (or even a blog) keeps certain elements the same across their site and various platforms, people are more able to recognize the business, become familiar with it, and eventually start a relationship with the business by following them via social media or email, and by buying their product or service.

There are three aspects of brand consistency that businesses can use in varying degrees.

Visual Consistency

This is what most people think of when you talk about branding, and it’s the easiest one for potential clients and customers to spot. It’s also where my focus has been for the past month or so as I build my own brand’s visual components and study how to create them for others.

Every business should have the basics, such as a consistent logo, fonts, and colors. Photos are one area that can get tricky, since new ones may need to be added constantly for some businesses. I know some businesses use the same photographer for all of their main photos. Others use the same Adobe Lightroom preset or the same Instagram filter to achieve a cohesive look.

When I was selecting my new header image to go along with my new logo (please, leave a comment letting me know what you think of it!), I bookmarked the page with all of that model’s other images so I could have some variety while maintaining a very consistent look.

Also, in my blog’s theme, Divi you can set up every single blog post to have a different look, if you want. But that doesn’t make a site look like it belongs together. Instead, I set up a global header that I can add to every post, and if I decided I need to change it as I refine my brand, I can go to one place and it will be updated everywhere.

Tone Consistency

Not only should the visual elements of a business be consistent, the tone of the business should be as well. This applies to not only the written words, but spoken, if a business is holding webinars, doing a podcast, or even has a simple welcome video on their site. Writers talk about “finding their voice” and a business should have a distinctive voice as well, especially if they produce a lot of words – like bloggers, content writers, podcast hosts, and online learning instructors.

If you are blogging or wanting to start a solo business, the advice is often to “just be yourself”. While I agree that authenticity is key (and you may be found out quickly if you add in audio or video and who you are doesn’t match your writing), being yourself could meanĀ about 50 different things for one person. We are all a bundle of contradictory traits.

A lot of branding says to “pick three words” but doesn’t give you much help as to deciding which three are best out of the dozens you could use to describe yourself or your business. So let’s try it this way:

 

What are 5 things you like about yourself? Think of things that would make you happy if people complimented you about them. Make sure that the compliment would feel genuine and make you think, “Yes, I am stylish”, or organized, or creative.

 

Now think of your potential audience, or customers, or clients. Which three of those five words would make them more prone to trust you, or like you, or consider your work high quality, if they knew that about you? If you need to, you can add one word that is more related to the business instead of to you specifically, or something you aspire to – but make sure at least 2 of the 3 words are firmly grounded in who you are.

 

Keep those three words in mind as you produce any content for your brand. Try to bring out those aspects of your personality a bit more, in a way that feels genuine. If you do that, you’ll be well on your way to having a consistent voice!

Content Consistency

This covers three areas – frequency, format, and subject matter.

Frequency is pretty basic – find your sweet spot for how often you can create excellent new content. As I’ve discovered, posting once a day with my current schedule leads to posts that only scratch the surface of topics I want to explore further, and takes away too much time I should be investing in other areas to build my business. So I’ll be trimming things back to around once a week in June, and see how that goes. Bottom line, people should know when to expect new content from you, not matter how frequently you decide to share.

Format can tie into some visual components, and it’s best to not have every type of content have the exact same format (all top ten posts, all video how-to posts, all review posts) unless the premise of your business relies solely on that format of content. But each similar format should have the same structure – not having some top ten lists in a slideshow and some in a list, for example.

Subject matter will depend on how narrow the focus of your content. Lifestyle bloggers can have a very broad area of subject matter, while a camera review site would have a more specific area.

 

Those are a lot of areas to consider when trying to build brand consistency (though I have seen FAR more extensive lists). One important thing to remember is not every business will focus the same amount on each of those areas. You can have a little leeway in one area if you make sure the others are strong. Some examples:

A lifestyle blog can talk about everything under the sun, as long as it has a very strong tone and good visual consistency.

A model train company can hire a few different hobbyists with very different tones to blog on their site, since the subject matter is so narrow, and can use formatting and visually to maintain consistency.

A designer can let the visual component of her business speak for itself, and focus less on her words.

 

Which area of brand consistency is most important for your business? In which area does it need the most help?

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Consistency vs. Unpredictability

Consistency vs. Unpredictability

Some view consistent people as boring and unpredictable people as fun. Others have an opposing option, viewing consistent people as reliableĀ and unpredictable people as irresponsible.

I’ve heard of people using only one filter on Instagram to achieve a unified look. And designers cull their portfolios and only display projects that fit their overall aesthetic.

When building a business, you need to have some level of consistency. But as a creative person, doing the same thing day in and day out will stifle your inspiration.

I know I’ve always been more consistent at things when I force myself to do them daily. Whether it’s journaling or learning a language, some things just need daily tasks to add up to something great.

Other things, not so much. For example, you may have noticed that I have been blogging every day in May. I wanted to get back into blogging, and I knew a daily task would keep me accountable toward doing so. I also wanted to see what types of blog posts I enjoy producing. And while topics have varied, I have tried to keep them consistently aimed at creatives who want to work remotely, possibly in other countries. I have been successful in those goals.

But other goals related to this idea have been less successful. I really would have liked to provide more long-form, in-depth content for my readers. But when I require myself to churn out a post a day, there isn’t time (not that short-form content can’t be valuable – look at Seth Godin – but I have shortchanged many topics this way).

Also, because I work fulltime, blogging has taken away from the time I wanted to spend working through Bucketlist Bombshells’ Design Skills course. You may have noticed my last review post was of their logo design module – and I still haven’t completed the mini projects for that module. To be fair, it is a complex subject, and I have spent several hours in Illustrator playing with different logo designs and techniques. But my goal of launching my business would be a lot further along if I wasn’t blogging every day.

I do plan to finish the month (since I am not working the next four days, that will give me some time), but after that, I will likely be cutting back my blogging schedule to once a week. Still consistency, but a type that will give me more freedom to be unpredictable in other areas of my life, and better at providing quality content for you.

And maybe that’s the key for creative work inside a business – finding the level of consistency that works for you. If you’re visiting a new country every month or two, maybe having your work be a bit more rigid will leave you more energy for adapting. If you’re working from your home every day, maybe try something new with your business.

There will always be someone who thinks you are too unpredictable, or too consistent. Find the balance that works best for you, and seek out clients within the same range who will appreciate the exact blend of creativity and structure you provide.

Want to hire me as a Pinterest Designer and Manager to help you get more traffic, leads, and income for your blog or business? Check out this page to see what I can do to help you grow!

On Saying No to Clients

On Saying No to Clients

This week has not been a great one at my day job. (I was going to say 9-5, but I work 8-5.) And it has been almost entirely due to one customer making sudden paperwork demands that I have been required to meet.

Is there any benefit to me in meeting this customer’s demands? Not at all. I don’t get any bonuses or commissions. Yes, the company has a better chance of retaining this customer, and appreciates my efforts, but it has been a whole lot of stress for nothing.

This situation has really made me long for the days where I can be in control of my own business, and choose which client requests I will meet, and how much I will charge them for my extra work.

I’m not a person who naturally says no to people (though I am better at it than some people I know). But saying no to clients is a crucial part of any functional business. Otherwise, you will be overrun, overworked, and underpaid, as revisions and requests eat up valuable time and energy.

However, how do you combine saying no to clients with being a great team player and an asset to your client’s company? With boundaries and expectations.

A clear onboarding process and/or contract is vital to making sure your clients don’t ruin your life and business. Outline exactly what you will do for them, and set limits. If they want to exceed those limits, set a price tag. Because most of the time, you would be completely happy with the additional requests if they made you additional money. It’s not telling your client no, it’s saying, “Yes, if . . .”

Build an escape hatch. Imagine your worse possible client. How would you protect yourself if you had to work with these types of companies? First, you should build something that would make it so you won’t have to – a vetting process to screen out the truly incompatible, a non-refundable deposit to prevent clients that don’t pay, and a time limit so WIP projects don’t keep going for years.

Next, go through your workflow process (don’t have one yet? Write down all the steps you take for each type of project, and continue to edit and refine – it will be super helpful, I promise!) and think of how a terrible client could ruin each step. What could you do ahead of time so that won’t happen? Build it into your contract.

Yes, you will know more about how to set up strong contracts after you’ve dealt with a few difficult clients. But you can relate your other experiences to your business to think of possible scenarios your contract can prevent. Like with my experiences with my day job’s difficult customers. If a client makes a request that will cost me time and effort outside of the scope of their project, I want to be able to refuse it or charge them a fee.

Obviously, you are not going to want to nickel and dime your clients with constant fees. So one thing to do is build some buffer time into any contract, because there will always be unknown things that happen. If it helps, track that “extra” time, because little things can add up, and it will help you budget that in future contracts.

What is the worse experience you’ve had with a customer or client?

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