Most designers might say that you absolutely need a custom logo to build your brand. That you need the full package of branded business cards, letterhead, and doo-dads on top of an expensive website.
But the truth is, design is not the only way to build your brand. It’s not even always the best way.
Don’t get me wrong, design can do huge things for your brand. But only when your business is ready for that step. Only when it’s making enough money to cover the investment. When you’re absolutely sure you’re ready to level things up and take the next leap of faith.
If you’re just starting out, don’t worry. You’ll get there sooner than you think. Let me lift some weight off your shoulders and tell you that your pre-made logo is totally fine for now. That there are other things that will do so much more for your brand than pretty graphics alone ever could.
Every single entrepreneur I’ve ever worked with has started out with a foraged logo. And every single one of them has seen growth and built a business using less-than-ideal graphics. Obviously, amazing graphic design is not the one and only key to brand building.
And that’s good news! That means you can take action right now to start building an awesome brand that people love and talk about! Whether you have extra cash to dish out on a beautiful custom logo or not.
Here are 5 things you can do right now to start building a strong brand. All of them are either totally free or completely affordable.
1. Get clear
You can’t build a strong brand without first figuring out what you’re actually putting together. Before you do anything else to build or strengthen your brand, you have to pause and get clear about what you’re about and what you stand for.
Skipping this step will land you in a world of trouble. At best, you’ll waste a ton of time second guessing every single little decision. At worst, you’ll take your brand in the wrong direction and put your business at risk.
When you’re not clear about your brand, it’s just harder to tell what’s going to really work for your business. That’s how Brand Clarity sets you up for success. It keeps you focused and centered. It makes all those smaller brand building decisions so much easier to make. Because when you’re clear about your brand, you just know what the right choice is for your business.
2. Create an amazing experience
Colors, fonts, and logos are pretty powerful visual tools. But there’s something even stronger than all that: the experience you create for your customers and clients.
The experience you create has the most potential to leave an impression and make an emotional connection. It can turn casual buyers into your biggest fans and strongest supporters. It can keep them not only coming back, but also sending their friends your way.
This is going to look different for every single business, so you have to find what works for you and your clients. It might mean investing in nicer packaging or it might mean printing your client workbook instead of sending a PDF.
So, how can you make your process exciting for clients? How can you level up the experience? What can you do to make them feel special and taken care of?
3. Streamline your processes
If you want to build a strong brand, you have to embrace consistency. Not just in your colors and fonts, but in the core processes of your business. Having consistent processes will help you deliver the same amazing experience to every single client. And it has the added benefit of keeping you sane during really busy seasons.
Write down all your processes, no matter how obvious or small. Even if you don’t refer to them ever again, the act of putting them into words just helps solidify them and frees up headspace. Plus, when you’re ready to hire someone to help you, you’ll have all the information there and ready to go.
Write a list of the steps you take to prep and package your product or send contracts and deliver invoices. Make a list for your client intake process, your marketing, everything.
4. Connect with people
The fastest way to grow your brand and business is to put yourself out there and talk to people. Nothing will impact your growth like human connection.
Social media is great for making connections, but don’t ignore in-person events. Yes, they’re more awkward. Yes, they take more work. But real life events get you farther so much faster because it’s easier to connect with people face to face. There’s just a different magic that can’t be replicated across screens.
If you’re looking to connect on social media, Instagram is a great place for that. Start commenting on posts from your favorite accounts. Reach out to people and ask to buy them a coffee. You might be surprised at how willing they really are to connect in person.
There are tons of existing groups that you can just arrive and plug in to, as well. Check out the Rising Tide Society site to find a group near you or reach out to your local chamber of commerce. You can also search for workshops, talks, and seminars to find people to connect with.
5. Treat your cheerleaders like VIPs
As your business grows and you make connections, you’ll inevitably draw some die-hard supporters. These are the people who will read every single one of your newsletters, like all of your social posts, and show up at all your events. They’ll shout your name from the rooftops and send new business your way.
Treat these amazing people like gold.
Yes, send them a card at Christmas. But go beyond that, too. Put their birthday on your calendar and send them a gift. Give them first access to any special offers. Feature them on your site or Instagram feed. If they own a business to, send them good leads whenever you can and recommend their work at every opportunity.
Building a strong brand is about more than just your graphics. There is so much you can do right now, at whatever stage you find yourself, to create a brand that your people love.
Tell me, which of these are you going to try first? Let me know in the comments!