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#049. 5 Big Mistakes You’re Making with Your Brand

March 3, 2021


FREE DOWNLOAD: How to Create Your Brand Positioning Statement


Shortly after I started my wedding photography business, I started looking for ways to educate myself for free – through podcasts, fellow photographer newsletters, free downloads and courses – basically, anything I could get my hands to to help me become a better photographer and business owner.

One topic that seemed to come up in a lot of different circles was branding – this idea that you are are your brand, and you need to be clear on who you are as a brand if you want a regular client base. Well. I soaked all of that up as fast as I could and followed a myriad of advice on the topic.

To be honest and also to be fair, the education I consumed was a mix of great, OK, and terrible advice on the topic of branding. It wasn’t until I got serious about my business strategy that I learned what it really means to have a strong brand. And I might ruffle some feathers with this episode today because it’s not what I hear a lot of other educators saying. However, what I do know is that my own strategy for building a strong brand comes from tried-and-true strategies that major brands have used for years and years and years – these are proven concepts that nearly every success brand has followed.
So today, I’m hoping to set you on the path to creating a lasting brand that makes an impact and grows your business in the direction you want it to. I’m sharing 5 major mistakes that small business owners and wedding professionals make all the time when it comes to building a strong brand and then I’m sharing how to avoid those mistakes by doing it the right way. Let’s get started!

As you probably have heard me share before, I started working with a business coach a few years ago and it dramatically changed the course of my business. In fact, this podcast is a result of some of the hard work and business-building strategies I planned with my business coach!

Something we worked on very early in coaching was developing a brand positioning statement. I remember when my coach first brought this up, I thought, “oh, I actually have already done that” and assumed we could just skip right over that exercise.

However, when we actually started digging in and doing the work to create this statement, I realized that I didn’t actually know what it meant to have a strong brand OR how to create one.

I’m so grateful that I was able to get input from the outside world of business – if you didn’t already know, my coach is not in the wedding or create entrepreneurship world at all. This outsider perspective made me realize I was missing the mark, and so were a lot of other creative business owners, both in and out of the wedding industry.

I’m excited to share with you today how I developed my own brand and also how you can create a strong brand that stands the test of time and truly defines you as a business.

Before we begin, a few things:
First of all, you already know that I have a free resource for you so that you can dive right in and start working on building your brand. You can download my free guide to writing a brand positioning statement at HannahBjorndal.com/brand.

The second thing I want you to know is that your brand is just a small part of the larger picture of your business strategy. Brand alone won’t bring you clients, make you money, or ultimately, give you satisfaction and fulfillment in your career. If you are stuck in your business – if you know you need a change but don’t even know where to start – you need to reevaluate your business strategy as a whole. This is something I’m passionate about and would love to help you with, so if that sounds like you – you’re stuck, you know you need a change but you don’t even know where to start – send me a message at info@hannahbjorndal.com with the subject line “I’m Stuck” and we’ll set up a free 30-minute consult to talk about where you’re at in your business and how you can start moving forward.

SO – let’s get started on those mistakes!

Like I mentioned before, I got mixed information about branding when I was a newbie business owner. It wasn’t all bad, but it also definitely wasn’t all good. So the mistakes I’m sharing today? A lot of them have partial truth, but they’ve missed the big picture. Keep that in mind as I share, and of course, I’m going to tell you the right way to approach each mistake.

Mistake #1: My hobbies, interests & likes should be the basis for my brand.

If you’re like me, and you love consuming free education in as many forms as possible, I’m going to guess that at some point, you’ve heard of this branding strategy:

Pick a few of your favorite things that *also* may be the favorite things of your ideal client and then use these items as the basis of your brand. Does that sound familiar?

I’ve actually heard this from several places, and while it isn’t necessarily all bad, the application by many business owners often totally misses the mark.

So, here’s the thing: your likes, hobbies and interests are mostly surface-level things, but potential clients? They are looking for something deeper.

A truly great brand connects with clients and customers on a core level about the things that matter most.

For example, as a wedding photographer, my clients don’t actually care that I love Sauvignon Blanc wine. Yes, it’s my favorite and I drink it often, and sometimes I even mention this on social media or in person to clients! However, what they really connect with is the fact that I love hosting people and having meaningful conversations over a glass of wine on weekend nights. The care that a core value of mine is extravagant hospitality – and that hosting a wedding is the ultimate opportunity to play host to the people you care about the most.

So yes, my love for a certain type of wine is a surface level indicator of a larger value, but it doesn’t really get to the heart of what matters to a client.

So, rather than starting with the surface level stuff, you need to start with values.

What are your values, and how can you connect with your clients on that deep level?

The bigger the investment a client makes, the deeper you need to go. So especially for us in the wedding industry, it is super important to connect with your couples on a core value level.

It’s great if you’re able to translate some of those core values to more surface-level things, but this shouldn’t be the basis of your brand and it also shouldn’t necessarily be at the forefront when you market to your clients.

So mistake #1 is that your hobbies, interests and likes should be the basis for your brand. That is not true!

Mistake #2: My brand is the style or look of my work.

Especially those of us who are, in some way, creative artists – photographers, florists, designers, event planners – our work, our art, is very personal to us and also crucial to our businesses. We are proud of what we produce and ultimately, we hope the quality of our work attracts clients.

It is therefore very easy to assume that your “brand” is simply your style of work. For us photographers, “light and airy” or “dark and moody” or “fine art” or “true to color” are ways I’ve heard photography described. And those describing words might fit your work perfectly and be really helpful as clients are looking for a photographer. These style words, however, are not your brand.

Like we talked about in mistake #1, your brand should not be surface-level. I think that style is definitely a little deeper than something like your personal hobbies or interests, but it still isn’t as deep as your values.

Your brand is your business’s identity. And your business identity should be like your fingerprint – there is no other brand like yours. It is totally unique. And yes, we as artists also want to view our work as totally unique (which, yes, it is!). However, your style of work – what makes it distinct – is only a small piece of the branding puzzle.

So my answer to mistake #2 is this: the style or look of your work should first, be able to be described in a totally unique way, not using buzzwords or keywords (even if that is an element of your style!) and second, can be an element of your brand, but should not be the sum total of your brand.

So mistake #2 is to believe that your brand is the style or look of your work.

If you are kind of struggling with mistakes 1 and 2 and want to get clear on your brand position and even craft a unique brand position statement, that is what that free guide that I mentioned at the beginning of the episode is all about. Definitely check that out if you want help on developing a strong brand that is distinct from any other brand! You can download it at hannahbjorndal.com/brand.

Mistake #3 If I have the perfect branding, my ideal clients will just come to me.

So let’s say that you’ve nailed down your brand positioning statement – you know your brand inside and out. You feel super confident about it. What do you do next?

Well, for a lot of people, sometimes the answer might feel like “nothing.” You’ve done the work, you’ve put it out there on your website and social media, so clients should just come!

It is a huge mistake to think that your brand will be communicated automatically to your potential clients.

While being clear about your brand online is an excellent way to gain traction, actually getting a client to book takes a lot more work.

Your brand should be communicated all the way through the process of attracting and booking clients. And the most important time to communicate your brand is when you actually have a conversation with that potential client.

If you’ve listened to the podcast for a while, you know that I believe the very most important thing you can do to book a client is to have a real-time conversation with them. That conversation is your opportunity to convince them that you are the right person for the job! And so if they were initially interested in you in the first place because your brand attracted them, then it is crucially important to follow through and emphasize your brand in that initial conversation, paying attention to the specific elements of your brand that they connect with the most.

If you do this well – if you clearly communicate your brand from start to finish – then your ideal clients will want to work with you.

So don’t make mistake #3 – make sure you have a great process for communicating your brand from start to finish in working with your clients!

Mistake #4: My business isn’t unique enough to have a truly unique brand.

Ok, has anyone else struggled with believing this is true? That you are not different enough, that there isn’t anything distinct about your business, so you will never have a truly unique brand.
That is a huge mistake!

And I know what you might be thinking – “but Hannah, you don’t understand, I am a newer business and haven’t really established myself. I really don’t have anything unique about my business!” EVERY business, no matter how new, does have the ability to create a unique, distinct brand.

Here’s the thing – creating a unique brand is hard work. And it also takes time. It is not, however, an impossible task.

We creative business owners actually have an advantage in our businesses, which is that our brand is intertwined with our personalities. As artists, we are reflected in our work, even if you don’t realize it. So being distinct is a possibility for every creative entrepreneur because you can use that unique personality of yours to create a brand that really is true to you and distinct to you.
Something I want to point out here is that another mistake you could make is assuming that you ARE the brand. For some influencers and certain types of professionals, this is the case, but for us small businesses owners, I’d actually say your business’s brand should be different that just YOU as a brand. Even if you’re like me and the name of your business is your name, you do want to create a brand that is distinct from you as a person.

This is a little tricky because your values and core beliefs – those important things we’ve been talking about – interact with your brand and influence it, but your business should still have its own identity. So use your personality as an advantage to differentiating your brand, but don’t like your brand BECOME your personality.

Again, if you’re interested in developing that unique brand positioning statement, I’ve got a free guide for you at HannahBjorndal.com/brand.

The last thing I want to say about making your brand unique is this: creating a brand is a process. If you are newer or even if you’ve been in business for a while but you’re just in a rut, this is going to be a process. Your first attempt will need to be refined and refined again and again. Dig in deep to that guide – ask yourself those hard questions and put your blinders on as you do, so that you aren’t influenced by your peers or other people in your industry (because this only will confuse you more!).

Be patient with yourself and also, as cheesy as it sounds, believe that your business can and will be a unique, distinct brand that truly represents what you do as a business.

Ok, finally . . .

Mistake #5: I don’t need a formalized brand statement.

So HOPEFULLY, if you’ve been listening the entire episode, you are excited to create a formalized brand positioning statement or refine the one that you already have!

However, if you feel like you already have that brand created in your head, and you don’t actually need to put pen to paper, I’d like to encourage you to take some time to actually write it out formally. See it in writing. Consider the impact that that statement should have on your business, and how you work, and how you attract ideal clients.

Think about if that statement actually aligns with the way you are working now. Are you where you want to be? What could you do to better align with the brand you want to be? What action steps need to be taken?
If you don’t have a formalized brand statement, you’re not really going to be able to see things clearly. You’re not going to be able to actively work towards being the brand you want to be. It’s super important to have a statement created so it can act as your guiding light to all decisions that you make when it comes to your brand.

I’ve got that free guide for you if you’re stuck or don’t know how to create a statement, so I really do have you covered – when I talk about a topic that is difficult, I never want to leave you hanging without the resources that you need, so download that for free at HannahBjorndal.com/brand if you need some help creating a brand positioning statement.

So that’s the list! All 5 of those mistakes are mistakes that I’ve made, in some way, at one point or another. Hopefully this episode helps you avoid those mistakes or correct the mistakes you’ve made so that your brand can be strong and powerful in building the business that you dream of!

Like I said at the beginning of the episode, a great brand alone won’t bring you clients, make you money, or ultimately, give you satisfaction and fulfillment in your career. If you are stuck in your business – if you know you need a change but don’t even know where to start – you need to reevaluate your business strategy as a whole. This is something I’m passionate about and would love to help you with, so if that sounds like you – you’re stuck, you know you need a change but you don’t even know where to start – send me a message at info@hannahbjorndal.com with the subject line “I’m Stuck” and we’ll set up a free 30-minute consult to talk about where you’re at in your business and how you can start moving forward.

I love recording this podcast, I love helping my fellow creative friends, so thank you so much for tuning in today! If you love this podcast but haven’t left me a review yet, I would love to hear your honest feedback! Leave me a review or send me a direct message on Instagram @HannahBjorndal or you can email – info@hannahbjorndal.com.

I post new episodes every Wednesday, so if you haven’t already subscribed, make sure to do so so you never miss an episode! See you next week!

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