Ever take a stab at Facebook ads, whether at $5/day or $100/day, and then shut them off when you start to realize they "don't work"?
How about sponsoring an event, or worse doing free work to get your logo on the banner, and then not getting any clients from it. That never seems to "work" either, right?
There’s a reason so many service-based businesses spend money on marketing, experience little to no success, and then believe that marketing “doesn’t work.”
The answer is probably right in front of you because you inadvertently skipped the most critical piece that all else relies upon.
Badass Branding (surprise!)
Thought I was going to say sales or something lame like that? 'Course not! As someone who builds Badass brands for others, (and invests heavily in my own brand and marketing), I’ve experienced first-hand the cause and effect of branding in marketing and I know how frustrating and ineffective marketing can be… without branding.
We actually started as a graphic design business and organically developed into a branding company out of our own experience needing to brand. Once we made the switch, it was like reversing the water flow from outreach to inbound. We learned this very important lesson through experience:
Branding isn’t just a nice-to-have when it comes to your marketing campaign; it determines its success.
Any marketer worth their salt will insist on having clear branding before ever touching marketing. They know—whether they’ll admit it or not—that they can't do their job well without it.
When businesses focus on marketing before really figuring out what they are marketing and why anyone should care, they struggle to find new clients. On the surface, marketing early makes sense. I need business. Therefore, I need to do things that will get me in front of more potential clients.
But, without a clear brand to drive that message, marketing is like yelling in the middle of a forest and wondering why nobody hears you.
Now, it's not that skipping the branding piece never works. In fact, there are plenty of people in Facebook ads (maybe you've seen them?) saying you can get clients and build a high-profit business without branding or content.
It’s quite an attractive idea. Curious myself, I’ve spent the time and money learning those strategies as well. You know what I learned? You know how they do it?
They become salespeople.
Not necessarily the sleazy, conman “Always-Be-Closing” kind, but the impressive, “take someone from cold prospect to close in one phone call” kind. If you can take someone from lead to close in one or two conversations with no branding, hats off to you, seriously.
But, the vast majority of us aren’t like that. Or, don’t want to be. I know I don’t.
Great salespeople are incredibly skilled, thick-skinned and tenacious. It is not for everyone.
For the rest of us, branding is the key to closing clients without all that slick talk.
Badass Branding Is like Dating
If you want a brand that helps your business grow, you can start by thinking about who you want to attract...like when you're looking for a mate! If you’re going out to meet that special someone, I've always said you want someone who likes the you that you like best.
To do that, you have to communicate your personality in some subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Maybe you wear something that makes you feel great. Maybe you go to specific types of places. Maybe you engage in certain kinds of conversations. These are all cues that tell the other person who you are and what you’re all about.
If deep down, you hate what you’re wearing (OR don't believe in what you are saying, OR don't like the work you're selling), you’re going to attract people who literally like someone you’re not. They only like this false version of you that you’re projecting. This is how service providers who don’t put enough thought into their branding get themselves into trouble with “bad clients.”
This is powerful stuff.
If you hang out at a museum to meet someone “nice”—even though you hate museums—you're going to attract somebody who appreciates the arts. Or worse, no one at all because it’s not authentically you people can tell.
Then you’ll end up saying things like, “there are no good men/women out there anymore.” You’ll get frustrated and give up.
Too many of you are doing the equivalent of this in your business, projecting what you think your ideal clients want instead of who you truly are. And it’s not working well for anyone.
When you take the time to figure out who you are—and present yourself that way—you attract more of the “right” clients, the ones who are looking for someone exactly like you. These are the people who value what you do for them and pay handsomely for your specific expert service. This is the match made in heaven we all want!
But you can’t buy the right clothes (i.e., marketing) until you understand that. This is how you define your brand, and you can’t do that confidently until you fully grasp what the entire package looks like.
Consistent Touchpoints Build Trust
Your brand is the basis for consistency. When a potential client follows the breadcrumbs— all the tweets, Facebook posts, website copy, and other published content—back to you and has a consistent experience across all touchpoints, you build trust.
They’re seeing the same images, same design, same messaging, and getting the same feeling, no matter what they’re looking at. That trust is the key to getting them to buy your services. All of this comes from your branding, not your marketing!
“But Pia,” I hear you shouting right now "What about my logo, photography & design?”
To which I say, these things are important, but they’re your visual brand, just one small piece of your holistic brand. Starting with these things means you’re building a visual brand before you’ve even made a decision about the personality of your company. You're like a teenager still trying to figure out who you are, bouncing from the nerds to the freak hallway to the cheerleaders. We want to achieve that confident age where we know who we are, why we're badass so we attract the right people. While a logo can feel like low-hanging fruit, it’s the least of your worries right now.
First, answer, Who are you for? What are you offering? Why are you special? How are you different? Your design and logo are a visual representation of those core answers.
Say Something Meaningful Or Stay Home
Get the brand right, and it will give your marketing efforts POWER.
Take networking as an example. Too many people treat networking as its own thing, but it’s not. Networking is marketing. And because they think of it as some separate entity, they never stop wasting time at networking events.
You should never go to networking events if you don't have a brand first. If you meet twenty people and don’t know what you’re about, you’ll be forgettable. Don't waste your time.
I’m not saying networking doesn’t work at all. It can. For people who have their branding dialed in, that is. Networking can be a great way to get the word out quickly and start closing clients.
But it's also the most labor intensive, lowest ROI thing you can do for your business in the long term.
This is why so many people get stuck in the networking world for years; when you don’t have a brand or haven’t built one online, you are forced to network all the time to keep potential clients coming in the door.
Evolve Your Sales Process
To make a sale, potential clients must know you exist, that's obvious. Next, they have to build a relationship with you—learn to like and trust you. After that, they have to understand that you are the best person to solve a problem or challenge they know they have.. Lastly, they need to be able to buy it.
This process can happen over the course of one conversation, or over the course of years. But, one way or another, all these steps will all need to happen. Lacking a clear brand means you’ll spend time to experience all these steps every single time.