Anchor Your Brand In Authenticity

Last week got my wheels turning quite a bit because I kicked off my first two Brand Coaching sessions for the year.

(Shout out to Yvonne and Alison for being so freaking awesome!) 

During our conversations, there was a topic that came up during both sessions, and so I suspect it might be something that you business owners/creatives out there might find helpful.

Every business owner wants to have a successful business where they get to do what they love without the fear that they’ll have to close up shop and go back to a job they hate, right? For the purposes of this discussion, success = freedom and flexibility. And joy, don't forget joy! 

But how do we get there? How do we make sure we're building something that will succeed? 

I don't believe there's any one blueprint or how-to manual, but there IS one thing I've discovered from my own experience that I feel significantly contributes to a successful AND personally fulfilling business (they don't always go hand-in-hand, even though they should.)

That one thing? Authenticity.

I know the word gets thrown around a lot these days all willy nilly like, so let me be specific. An authentic brand is one that communicates the WHOLE of who you are or who your business is. One that speaks to your contradictions, your personality and - most importantly - your true values. 

Authenticity isn't about putting your best foot forward. It’s putting both of your feet forward and owning those dang feet with all that you are.

The more of yourself, your personality, your values - those intangible and complex things that makes you who you are - the more of THAT STUFF that you can bake that into your business, the better.

Why, you ask? Well, here are just a handful of good reasons:

1. You get to work with people that “get you” from the get go. 

When you declare your values, you attract the people you want to attract and you repel those that would be a nightmare for you. Right there on the About page of my website, I communicate clearly and directly what I care about: 

If any of those things don't make sense to someone or if they get scared off, perfect. They won't ask me to design their brands and it saves me the risk of possibly working with someone that I don't jive with. 

I can genuinely say that the more I stick to these values and the more I consistently communicate them in everything I put out (including these emails), the more I get emails and project inquiries from people I would consider my dream clients. (And more quality project leads means more stable profit for my business, so that's a very great thing.)

If you’re wasting time on people that don’t get you, it will drain your energy and that will negatively affect every aspect of your business. 

2. You will build an engaged, passionate community. 

If you have your own business, as I mentioned, your goals are likely two-fold: 1) financial stability and 2) flexibility with your time. I can say confidently that after one year of being in business and clawing my way through the dark, I finally have a strong semblance of both.

But how did I do it? I did it by finding all of you guys. People whose values are aligned with mine. Positive, self-made, driven, creative people. If you signed up for this list it means something I was doing spoke to you. It resonated

And that's because I made sure that I had a clear vision of who I was and who I wanted to serve.

To further illustrate how authenticity is the root of a successful business, here's a handy dandy diagram I drew up (don't worry, we do diagrams differently around here... it's a flower!)

The takeaway?

3. You will stand out from the crowd. 

Here's what's hilarious about marketing: everyone is always trying to spy on everyone else’s paper, see what’s popular or what the best practices are for product launches, website strategy, copy-writing... literally everything. (And, listen, I get it, it can be tempting to try and “hack” the system by learning from those that have come before you.)

But the funny part is that, in doing so, you blend in with the rest of the herd. But on the other hand, the more you play to who you are and ignore "convention" or marketing to the middle-of-the-road masses, the more you in fact become marketable because you stand out. You become memorable.

A quick aside about this: when I was working on the branding for Made Vibrant way back last January, I intentionally baked in all the things that felt uniquely me: bright colors, lots of black and white, hand drawn elements, big, bold type.

But all the successful, popular blogs and sites I saw were minimal with tons of white space, muted colors, and airy, ethereal photos.

I freaked out. Are people going to stumble on my site and think I’m crazy? Am I doing this wrong?

But you know what, why did the Wall Street Journal reach out to me when they came across one of my blog posts? Why did Hilary Rushford, a busy lady with a successful business in her own right, agree to let me interview her for my self-made guide? BOTH mentioned that my brand and website made an impression on them and that's why they wanted to speak to me. I spoke clearly to who I was and what I was about and that stands out.

That is what I want for you to remember.

Don't be afraid to take a stand on who you are, because I'm telling you, THAT is what will guide you to a business that feels fulfilling and true to your soul.

This week your challenge is to write down five words that encompass the AUTHENTICITY of you or your business. 

This exercise is one that I do with all my branding clients so that we can discover five tone words that will guide the visual style of their brand. When you’re making decisions in your business, you’ll be able to look at these five tone words and use them as your filter, your guide post, your North Star. 

For example, the Made Vibrant brand is supposed to be approachablevibrant,empoweringcreative and soulful. (Not every brand element has to include elements of all five, but hopefully the full experience of the brand encompasses all five.)

I won't share all five of last week's coaching clients, but to give you more of an idea, some of their words included: gracefulfree-spiritedquirky, and energetic.  

So then, what are your tone words? Where does your authenticity come from? 

Your words might change and evolve, but I hope this exercise will give you somewhere to start. If you’re feeling especially bold, email me with your words and I’ll do my best to write back with clarifying questions and help you hone in on your own authenticity. That's basically some free coaching I'm offering here, so take advantage!! :)

Let's encourage each other to be who we are, and let's build some kick-ass business while we're at it. What'dya say? 

Happy Monday, friends.


P.S. Jason and I launched our February side project, a daily podcast about living together, working together and loving each other. It's called Sleeping With The Boss and we're still waiting for iTunes to post it, but you can listen to our first few episodes on Soundcloud or through our SWTB website. (Side note: truly sorry if the cheeky name offends you in any way, but as you can see, humor is a big part of who we are and in the effort of authenticity, we wanted to incorporate that in the podcast.) :)

P.P.S. The February Instagram challenge with the #BetterLetteringCourse is off to a great start. Follow along my daily posts on Instagram (@ckelso) to check out the progress!