Branding is a topic that stops people in their tracks when they're getting started in their business, because we ultimately think that it's about fonts and the aesthetics and creating mood boards. Which are all very important, but what I loved about the conversation with Kelly today is that we talk a lot about using core values in your personal brand.
These core values are the foundational work we have to do internally with ourselves, when we think about what we want our business to stand for, and what we want our brand to stand for. We need to ask ourselves how we can show up and represent that through our branding.
My guest for this episode is really frickin awesome. Her name is Kelly Whitman, and we're going to talk all about branding today.
She is a Minnesota native brand strategist and designer who loves helping service based businesses create effective brands, through intentional strategy and thoughtful design. When she's not collaborating with brand branding clients. You can find her working on a home renovation project alongside her husband and documenting their progress on their blog, North Country Nest.
She's just such a Down to Earth soul. I love those kinds of people, because it feels like I've known them for a lifetime.
- Brand Resource Library: https://wittandcompany.com/resource-library-access/
- Website: http://wittandcompany.com/
- Brand services: https://wittandcompany.com/branding/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wittandcompany
- Instagram North Country Nest: https://www.instagram.com/northcountrynest/
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmVSqkiSIZszpQHH-Kt4ahA
- Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thebrandbuildingcollective
Witt and Company
Kelly and her husband started their home renovation blog, North Country Nest, four and a half years ago. Kelly’s background is in marketing, so she started utilising that offering marketing services to other bloggers. The idea for Witt and Company was born from there. She fell in love with branding after creating a logo for an acquaintance who was starting his own company, and decided to learn and educate herself as much as possible about the whole branding process. Eventually, Kelly pivoted full time into offering brand strategy and design for services based businesses.
How to create a brand?
You've got this business, so how do you then create a brand? All of our businesses are our babies and want it to be successful and have an influence. But how do we get from point A to point B?
What Kelly teaches her community and clients is this idea of just setting up a foundation, which you 100% can DIY. She has worked with people who are right out of the gate, and they have a brand new business and we do all of the professional strategy and design from the get go. And she has also worked with people who have done it themselves, and now they're ready to pivot and update and upgrade. It's a personal decision on whether or not you want to work with a professional branding expert right from the beach. Kelly says you 100% have permission to do it yourself, especially when we're just getting started.
Kelly usually will get started on your brand strategy. Your strategy is different from your identity or your design. A brand strategy is your plan for communicating your brand in a clear and consistent way. It's essentially all of the elements when you think about a brand, which is how someone thinks, feels, and acts in relation to your business. Your strategy is who is your ideal client? What is the client transformation or what is the solution or result that you're delivering to them that's unique to you? What are your brand values? What do you stand for and then how have you positioned yourself against your competitors? The purpose of positioning your brand is so that you can figure out where is the gap in the market that you can fill, so that you can attract the right people.
Where people get stuck
When people say brand, they automatically might think of just a logo. Kelly says that's where we get caught up. There's so much more that goes into your brand, specifically that strategy piece. That's a lot of where that Point A of being a new business, to getting to that point B of having that recognisable brand that can influence, is the strategy. So get crystal clear on that ideal client, how you're positioning your brand, what you stand for. Because all of what the strategy does, is that it tells you how you communicate and how you show up.
The visuals, so your logo, your fonts, your colours, a fun pattern, your photography, that is just the one of the roadmaps for communicating what your strategy wants to say. You can use those visuals to tell the story that your brand strategy is laying out. That's the place that a lot of people miss.
It’s okay if your brand evolves
It’s a limiting belief that you have to get your branding right immediately. At the start of her business, Kelly targeted bloggers, but pivoted after a year. She’s only gone up because she realized that wasn't a good fit for her. And that's okay. The point is, you actually have to take an action and move forward in that direction until you realize that it's not right. You can't just sit here and think about it. You might spend an entire year ‘targeting the wrong person’, but you learn from that experience.
Kelly learned so much about how she wants to work with people, about who her ideal client is, how she can start attracting the right person. So even if you go down a certain path specifically for your brand, it's not a wasted effort, because you're learning what you don't want and then you can update your language, update your strategy, and update your visual. So start attracting the right person for you, and then you can pivot again if you realize it's still not resonating. But the whole point is you have to act.
Give yourself some grace, because whether or not everyone is going to admit it, none of us know what the F we're doing. We're all just trying it out, everything is an experiment. And if people tell you otherwise, it's a lie. Give yourself some grace, and you have every right to change your mind. That's why we have this business in the first place, so that we can figure out what we want. Give yourself permission that it's okay for your brand to change. We can't expect our business to grow if we're going to stay where we are, if we're not going to move.
The goal is consistency
When you think about building a strong, recognizable brand, you need consistency. However, you need to experiment to figure out what is the right fit for you. There's a lot lost in translation between the first thing that we decide has to be the thing that we stick to for the next 25 years. When in actuality, when you finally get to that place of consistency and a brand that feels good for you, you won't want to change it. You'll make little tweaks here and there, but it feels good. You show up differently. That's the whole point of building a brand that you're actually excited to share, because then you show up for your business in a completely different, more motivated way. And then you won't feel the need to tweak and update and change your font for the 17th time, because no one gives a shit what font you have on your website.
We’re busy with thoughts and colours and logos and all of that other stuff that we think is going to make the impact, when in actuality it's getting really clear on the values and the ideal client what’s going to make the difference.
Get clear on your core values
There's no hard and fast rule of where to start when defining your core values.But a lot of times we have to think about where you envision your business being in a year from now? Five years from now? What is your vision?
Your answer can change. However, if you know from the get go that your vision is to maybe grow a team, and you don't always want to be the face of the brand, then I would think about your brand as its own personal entity and operate from that perspective of what is going to be most important to our brand. Versus if where you're standing today, you envision being the face of your brand for the foreseeable future, you can align it more towards you. The whole point is going back to the brand values, as they guide every single decision that you make.
Also important to tie in, is who is your ideal client? And what sort of aspects will resonate with them? That's how you can decide how much you want to share online in that digital space. And then make some rules for yourself about this is something that I will talk about, and this is something that is off limits.
Figure out your brand values
There's a lot of different ways to figure out what your brand values are, and it's not something that is a rushed process. Kelly always likes to start with just a simple question on why did you start your business? Oftentimes when we think about what was the reason for starting, there are little breadcrumbs of what we value as a person, as a brand, as a personal brand.
And then thinking about what inspires you most about this business that you're building? This is essentially why you keep going. That helps you figure out again, what do you value? Why are you continuing to come and show up day in and day out?
The third question that Kelly would encourage you to think about, is what's the most important about the way you run your business? When we think about that, it really forces you to focus on how you actually want to show up.
The last question Kelly would encourage you to think about is why do you care about the work that you do? Why does it matter or why should it matter to others? These are all different ways of figuring out that core why, and from there you'll start to see some trends and patterns that will emerge.
Make it all come together
The common theme that Kelly hears working with clients is ‘shit, Kelly, you made me make a decision’. What a professional does is they hold your hand through this process. That being said, 100%, you can do this on your own, you just actually have to do it. That's the whole point of getting clear on your brand strategy specifically, asking the hard questions. They're simple questions, but they're not easy to answer because they force you to make a decision. And then you actually have to own that decision and move forward. Building a brand, and having that strong foundation, and having something that you're excited about, and that resonates with you, it takes work to get there. But when you get there, it's so cool. That's why Kelly loves what she does, to hear that everything feels so good. It feels like me. It feels so aligned. It all came together.
Resistance is normal, and the Gremlins are going to come up and tell you that your ideal client is everybody. You serve everyone, you stand for everything and you can do it all. The whole point of doing this work is so that you can get clarity, so you can turn into that excited person who's like ‘hell yes, I'm so proud of all the work that I'm doing’. And just know that your brand is this living, breathing entity that changes and that's okay. But you have to take action and you have to do something. You've got to start from somewhere so that you know what direction to go, and what the next right step is for you in the process of building and growing, and figuring out what it means.