In our series Selfmade U, we’ll tackle the most common questions and pain points that come up for business owners with tips and tricks from Selfmade, a virtual business coaching program, founded by Brit + Co founder Brit Morin and sponsored by Office Depot OfficeMax. We’ll hear from Selfmade members and business coaches on what it takes to run a successful business and make it as an entrepreneur.
Creating a unique brand identity can help you stand out from your competitors and keep your target audience coming back for more when done right. “This identity includes the brand logo and color scheme but it’s also your messaging and the overall experience your customers have with your business. How do you want them to feel?,” says Selfmade coach Bex Moxley in her Branding 101 workshop.
When Selfmade member Amber Bogen was pregnant with her daughter, she found the selection of books for Black children limiting. “I wanted to build her a library full of books where she would feel loved, and seen, and empowered, and represented,” she says. “Unfortunately, I felt like I kept hitting a brick wall. There were some but I felt like there should be more.”
That set her on the path to write her first story, an affirmation poem that her daughter started to sing along with her. “She would light up when I would say the little poem to her. And it was just a cute little moment between us.”
Nearly 8 years and six books later, Amber has entered a new phase of her independent boutique children’s book publishing company that celebrates Black joy. “I am on this journey of formalizing everything and getting a professional brand aesthetic, website and all of those things ready to take it to the next level.”
Amber recently received an Office Depot OfficeMax scholarship to Selfmade, where she earned the top prize in the pitch competition and was able to hone in on her branding and reach new customers.
“Selfmade has truly been amazing for me,” says Amber. “When I joined I was just in the beginning stages of thinking about doing a complete rebrand. The coaches and other members in the community have helped me navigate that space.”
When Amber decided to officially trademark her business, she decided to rebrand the name to Little Bogen Books. “As a new entrepreneur, I understand now that I really want to make sure that I create my own lane in terms of my branding. This was more of a passion project before, and when I began the process of trademarking my publishing house, I ran into an issue.” Still, she says, her customer base connected with her brand aesthetic and the emotion she was trying to convey in her branding. “I’m going to stay true to a lot of that but just with a different name.”
Small business owners often make branding mistakes that can hinder their growth and success. Here are common branding mistakes and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: They lack a brand strategy: Before jumping into the branding aspect of your business, it’s important to know who your target audience is, what your unique selling proposition is, and what your brand values are. “I’ve been in business for a few years now, so I’ve been able to learn about my customer and what she needs,” says Amber. “In my line of business, I have two customers: the buyer who is the parent or adult and then I have the user who is the child, so I have to appeal to both audiences.” Take the time to develop a brand strategy that keeps your audience in mind.
Mistake #2: They ignore the customer experience: Branding is not just about logos and marketing materials. Pay attention to every touchpoint, from the first interaction to customer support post-purchase, so that you can make sure that your brand promises align with the actual customer experience. Neglecting to focus on the customer journey and failing to deliver a positive experience can actually hurt your brand.
Mistake #3: They lack consistency: You want to make sure your messaging, visuals, and tone are consistent across platforms. Look at the overall look and feel: from logos to colors to fonts to brand voice to make sure your marketing sounds like it’s coming from the same brand. If branding and marketing isn’t your strength, consider hiring a freelancer to help you create a consistent look and feel.
Mistake #4: They overlook brand storytelling: Stories can make a powerful impact on how people connect with your brand. Sharing your brand’s story, values, and mission can create an emotional connection with your customers and help you build a strong brand identity.
Mistake #5: They copy competitors: Small business owners can fall into the trap of imitating their competitor’s branding strategies. You want to stay informed about industry trends, but copying can make your brand appear unoriginal. Strive for authenticity and find unique ways to stand out in the market.
Mistake #5: They don’t evolve with the market: “Even if you think that your branding is pretty nailed down, it’s always good to review your branding because things change all the time,” says coach Moxley. “Business changes, society changes, our audience changes. We need to adapt and adjust as times go on.”
Amber says she frequently surveys her audience in email and on social media to understand what topics and trends they’re interested in. “I ask questions about their children’s experiences at school and their conversations at home to help inform my books,” says Amber. “I love keeping my audience engaged with behind the scenes content or asking them to vote on a cover design.”
Pitching her publishing company in the Selfmade pitch competition gave Amber the validation and confidence she needed to keep moving forward. “Having a really good opening statement is really important to spark the attention of the judges and the audience,” she says. And that she did, earning a $5000 grant from Office Depot OfficeMax to help propel her business forward.
“I got new office furniture and because I’m in the middle of a rebrand, I’m going to use the money to create retractable banners and marketing materials for my vending spaces,” she says. “Selfmade has helped to catapult my business even in just a short period of time.”
To learn more about growing your business, sign up for the Selfmade newsletter!
Illustrated by Daniela Jordan-Villaveces
Branding takes a creative approach to connecting with your target audience. Office Depot OfficeMax can help you organize & save time with a suite of business services & solutions to help you accomplish more – from signs, posters & banners to get your business noticed to marketing materials to help bring your brand vision to life.