My breath came out in short huffs after jumping around the room for fifteen minutes.
It was early October of 2014, and I was checking my inbox when I noticed an email pop up from a CreativeLive production coordinator. The email said that I was selected to be one of the studio audience members for a course by April Bowles-Olin. The production coordinator asked if I would be there (um, heck yes!) and she also asked me to answer a few questions.
I could hardly contain my excitement, and I probably gave my husband a heart attack with all my excited yells and rambunctious jumping around.
After I caught my breath, I sent a quick reply letting them know that I would be there and that I was so pumped.
BUT then it hit me.
I’m not ready for this! My website’s a mess, I don’t have an email list (that April keeps saying everyone needs), and I don’t have much of a following.
I needed to make changes stat. Honestly, I felt like I needed a business reboot, but my list of things to change was far too long, and I didn’t know where to start. I only had one month before I’d fly out to San Francisco.
And at the time, I seriously didn’t know what I was doing. I had been in business for two years already, but I had zero business sense (I’m still working on that three years later).
I only knew that I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my business.
And yet, I decided to wing it. (Not the best Brand strategy.)
I quickly revamped my website and added a form for people to subscribe to my email list. I didn’t think about what I was doing, though. I threw everything together and caught my flight with $100 in my pocket (I was making it rich, y’all).
April met with the studio audience the night before we went live, and I confessed my fear of being on camera in any capacity. April was so sweet and reassuring that it would be awesome. And we had a great time. I learned a lot while I was there, but my business didn’t grow much.
I think I gained ten new subscribers on my email list (when you’re in the CreativeLive audience they will flash your website up on the screen when you speak up), so my lack of a plan resulted in little success.
You see, having a plan for your Brand is essential.
In fact, if you haven’t explored your Brand much yet, you probably aren’t bringing in a lot of sales, and you’re likely wondering why you started your business in the first place.
Click to Tweet – “Winging it won’t move your business to the next level.”
You can’t just go off a hope and a prayer, friend. That’s not what will move your business to the next level. Winging it will only keep you stuck in the same place for longer than you’d probably like (take it from me).
One of the best things you can do to keep your business going and to move it to the next level is to make a Brand plan.
A plan will help you:
1) Gain the trust of your followers,
2) Sell with ease,
3) Post consistently on your blog and social media because you always have something to say, and
4) Stand out from the competition.
All of these things are important to your success in small business. In fact, if you wanted to start a brick and mortar business (where you’d need a loan from a bank to get started), you would not be able to get a loan without a solid business strategy.
If you’ve ever watched the show Shark Tank, you’ve probably seen that a solid business plan is needed to make it there too.
Now, I know you’re probably not starting a brick and mortar business and it’s even more unlikely that you’re about to star on Shark Tank, but the truth is you need a plan, plain and simple.
Here’s how to make a plan for your Brand:
I betcha thought that I’d tell you that you need a plan and then run away to read a new book or add some new stickers in my Hobonichi.
Nope! I want to give you at least an idea of how to go about planning your Brand. Here are the things that I think are necessary to get started…
First up, know what your Brand mission and values are.
Look, when you work for someone else, they tell you what the mission is, and they inform you on how you’re supposed to act (which pretty much add up to what they value as a company). But when you work for yourself, you don’t have anyone to tell you these things.
YOU need to figure out what motivates YOU.
Are you motivated by creating art, because art makes a dark world a more beautiful place? Or are you motivated to teach others how to paint so that they can feel happy and wind down after a long hard work week? Whatever the reason, you need to figure out why you do what you do.
When you figure that out, you’ll be able to focus on what your mission and values are.
Your mission is how you want to help the people you serve. Your values are the things that you hold to be important and true. Both of these things shape how you’re going to go about working each day, so you gotta start here.
Next up, you need to figure out who your ideal customer is.
I feel like this step is always skipped over in the beginning.
Or we just do the bare minimum, because we don’t really know the answers.
Listen, this is so so so important. You have to know who your ideal customer is and what they’re struggling with. You need to know how you can serve them and why you’re the person to solve that thing they can’t solve on their own.
Click to Tweet – “You have to know who your ideal customer is and what they’re struggling with.”
If you don’t know who your ideal customer is, you’re not going to be able to easily talk about the things you offer. You won’t be able to easily sell your stuff, either.
Personally, I like to look at real customers. People who have purchased from me in the past. By looking at real people, you’re able to get very nuanced in what makes them tick. Fake “customer avatars” won’t really help you to figure this one out because you’ll always second guess yourself and it won’t relate to the people you want to help the most.
Look at a real live person who has purchased from you and then hammer out the details.
Haven’t had any sales yet? Then put your product or service out there on social media and ask questions. If you have friends, one of them is bound to need/want what you have to offer. Keep asking until you get a bite. Then you can learn more about that person (if you don’t know them well already) and use their answers to KNOW your ideal customer.
And then, one of my best pieces of advice is to plan out one solid product or service line until you know what it is that you offer.
I mean, work on a plan of what you hope to offer in ONE line only. From start to finish. From your free opt-in to the baby offering (a product that costs under $20), to your mid-sized offering (from $20 to a couple hundred dollars), and finally to your signature offering (from a couple hundred dollars upward to a couple thousand dollars).
Of course, you might have a bunch of lower priced items that you have for sale in an online shop, but do you have your freebie completed and up on your website to get people on your email list? What about an offering that will bring in a higher amount of money? Can you think of any way to offer something that might cost a couple hundred dollars?
When I first started my web design business, I charged a ton less than I do now. I realized, far too late, that I needed to increase my prices if I wanted to make a living from my business. You typically need to have some higher priced items or services to help you when sales aren’t rolling in. It is definitely a lot easier to make one sale of $1575 for my coaching packages than it is to sell 24 spots to my Membership Site.
Think about how you can offer different things for one customer’s journey.
For example, I have my introductory course for WordPress called WordPress Made Easy that I sell inside my Creative Biz U membership (which is $67 for one month). When the students are done with that course, they can continue to learn what I have inside my membership site, or I can work with them one-on-one through coaching. Finally, I offer the people who have gone through all of that the service where I do it for them (after they’ve moved along in their business a bit and started making money).
So, as you can see, I have several offerings in what I would consider “one line” because it’s all centered around web design. Those aren’t the only things I offer, they are just all a part of one line that makes a logical progression for my students/clients.
Hopefully, you can see through my offerings that your customers/clients can start with a small offer and work their way up to a bigger offering. You don’t need to offer services to do this, though. You can have a one-of-a-kind painting or hoop art that you’ve made that you sell for a higher price than the other products that you recreate often.
Sit down and think about how you can do this in a way that makes sense to your business.
And finally, you need to know your Brand’s Personality.
I know I talk about this a lot, but if you want to stand out you need to work on your Brand’s Personality. You can work through my Brand Personality Workbook and figure out the different components of your Brand.
Have you made a plan for your Brand? Are you stuck in one of these areas? Let us know in the comments below!
Great tips! I especially love focusing on one product and then thinking about what you can create for other parts of the client’s journey.
Amanda Creek says
I emphasize this with my clients a LOT because I feel like we often move so quickly from one thing to another and don’t plan out the path from beginning to end. Now that I’ve had the chance to map out one entire journey, I see my clients benefitting a lot more. :)
Glad you stopped by!
Bonnie Lecat says
Great advice, Amanda! Thanks for all of the wisdom and resources:) Your brand personality workbook and challenge have taught me so much! It all starts with understanding your customer and your brand. Once you understand that it helps you build a strong foundation for your biz, which makes everything else so much easier.
Amanda Creek says
Yay! I’m so glad that you’ve gained so much from the challenge and the workbook. I’ve loved seeing you grow and do more and more with your business. I can’t wait to see what happens for you in the coming years! <3
Catherine Pascual says
Awesome advice Amanda! I love your tip about following your customer’s journey. I sell art to new moms decorating their nursery. And sometimes, if I am lucky, they will come back for another one for the next baby or a friend’s baby. So thinking about that journey of the mom would be very helpful for designing other products or for writing blog content etc.
Amanda Creek says
Yay! Yes, you want the people who purchase to continue to purchase, because those are the easiest people to sell to…the ones who already know, like, and trust you.
Anita Van Hal says
Great post Amanda! I like how you demonstrated a progression of products/services you offer that are all related…I need to do some serious brainstorming and make a “doable” to-do list…I’m trying to get into the habit of having a notebook handy to jot down ideas so I don’t forget them…thank you for all you do and share with us!
Amanda Creek says
Awesome! I’m so glad that this was helpful for you. I feel like most people don’t reveal their progression of products/services and that not sharing that with others makes it hard for people who are just starting out or who are in the messy middle.
Amanda, you are so talented and versatile in what you do and offer. I have enjoyed watching April and all of her audience on Creative Live. You also seem to be a genuinely nice person of integrity. I am sure that makes people want to trust you and become your clients. I wish you all success and happiness as you continue to grow your business. I am 78 years old and have an Etsy shop. When I started my little business I had a website hosted by Volusion. It was created for me by a nice young man who is a graphic designer most recently hired by a prestigious firm in Manhattan. I kept the site for about a year but realized I was spending more money each month paying Volusion than I was taking in. No one was talking about WordPress at that time. My photographs are not good. I had been very ill before I started the business and have continued to be very ill ever since that time. In addition to my major incurable health problems, most recently I have had Shingles for over two months, Pneumonia, 2 UTI’s, and three very bad falls with ambulance trips to the ER. My daughter lives with me and watches over me like a hawk since my spectacular falls. If I get well again I still have hopes of making my shop successful and finding my customer. Whether I will get well or not I just have to tell you how much I enjoy hearing from you, about you, your website, your blog, and about how well you are doing and how wonderful you are as a designer. I watch April’s success with enjoyment and read all of her emails, her blog posts, enjoy her photographs and her live teaching. Between you two I remain hopeful and inspired that one day I will have another website and a successful shop with a brand that becomes known for unique items, soft adorable baby clothing, handknits as well as sewn woven goods. God Bless You and you take care of yourself so you don’t work too hard and burn yourself out.
Amanda Creek says
Marian! Thank you so very much for sharing your story. I really hope that you are feeling better! You’re such an inspiration to still want to make your dreams come true at 78 years old. I love that you’re not giving up even when things have been pretty tough for you lately. Take care of yourself. Thanks for stopping by. <3
Firi kamson says
This is pretty cool. Love the advice as I am just beginning my business and everything is all jumbled up. I now know that I had better do good with prizes and multiple streams of income. Checked out your site because you liked my post on Instagram. Thank you for that.
Amanda Creek says
Glad to see you here on my blog, Firi! I’m so glad that you found this helpful. :)