Branding is possibly THE most important part of building a successful business; get it right and your ideal clients will immediately identify and connect with you. Whether you’re at the launch stage now and are trying to work out the best identity for your brand, or have been running a few years and realised your branding no longer aligns with your business goals and target client, then getting clear on what you want to achieve is essential.
Today, I’m thrilled to welcome branding expert Fiona Humberstone, AKA The Brand Stylist to the Hive. In this interview she’s going to help up how understanding exactly what your brand stands for, how you’re different from the competition and how to communicate that in a clear manner can be a challenging but incredibly rewarding step forward for your business.
Can you tell us how you got started in the industry?
Completely by accident! I joined a print company after university and quickly discovered I was far more inspired by helping entrepreneurs with their brand than I was the technical side of print. It was the application that excited me. From then onwards I made it my mission to learn as much as I could about marketing and branding. I studied direct marketing, I read every book I could get my hands on: about design, branding and copywriting. And I practiced, practiced, practiced.
In 2005 I launched my own print and design company, and later, my Brand Styling company which I sold in 2012. We had a great list of clients, a fantastic process and a steady stream of work but I wanted to spend more time with my growing family. I took a two year sabbatical, wrote How to Style Your Brand and the rest is history!
The Brand Stylist is an amazing resource for any business owner, as well as helping clients on a one-to-one basis you also offer workshops and have just released your second book! How did The Brand Stylist come about?
I loved running my agency but I knew that when I returned to work after my sabbatical I wanted to take a different direction. I’d met so many entrepreneurs along my journey who needed to understand how branding worked that I wanted to set up a blog that would become a home for inspiration for creative entrepreneurs. It’s evolved and changed over the years but I guess my core vision for what I’d offer has remained pretty true – I’ve just thought much bigger and better along the way.
We all make mistakes in business, especially when starting out. What mistakes have you made, and what did you learn from them?
We do indeed! I’ve run my own business since 2005 so as you can imagine, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’d like to think I’ve learned from them and that I make less mistakes now than when I was first starting out.
I think one of the biggest mistakes that I probably still make is underestimating my own ability. I set myself incredibly high standards and I often think others are more capable of delivering something than I am. It took me several false starts on various design projects with external designers this year to for me to realise that I’m better than I think I am.
I think we all have a temptation to lose sight of what really matters and what’s the right direction for our business. I’m a big believer in following my instinct. I tend to evaluate as I go along with every project I do: whether that’s with a client or something I’m working on myself. I’m always thinking, how can I do that better? How can I add more value? Do I want to be doing this again?
As we get busier it’s easy to lose sight of that. When I launched my first business I took on far too much. I didn’t get my pricing right. I literally had to run just to stand still. Now I’m much more strategic and commercial and most importantly, I value my own skill and I make sure I work with clients who feel the same.
How did those lessons transform your business and get you to where you are today?
Well, particularly with the setup of my business, I was determined that I would create a business on my terms. When word got out that I was available for work again, I had several people offer me regular work at a rate that was well below what I knew I was worth. The implication was that I should be grateful that I had a job I could fit around the children. I could see I had more to offer than that. Setting up a business that started with looking at the value I could offer and building services out from there has been fundamental to my success.
Can you explain to us exactly what branding is, and why it’s so important in building a successful business?
We often think of branding as the visuals: your logo, colour palette, typography and so on. Actually it goes much deeper than that. Branding is everything your clients will expect, experience and remember about your business, and as an entrepreneur, you have the power to define that. Everything that follows, all the visual elements help you create the right impression, but first you need the focus.
What’s the starting point for creating a great brand?
Focus. Without question. Focus and confidence. You have to find that thing that you do better than anyone else. And you need to be confident in the value you offer. Very often that means dramatically cutting down on what you say yes to and only taking on those projects that fully play to your strengths.
You need to start by believing that you are the only logical choice for a very specific client group and then you can communicate that with flair.
What is the biggest mistake you see new businesses make with branding, and what tips do you have for them to avoid these common pitfalls?
Gosh, where to start? One of the biggest challenges I think for any entrepreneur is this feeling of being pulled in so many directions. Everywhere you turn someone is ready to give you conflicting advice about what you should offer, what they want from your business and where you should be headed next. It can be so hard to find that clarity and go back to basics. Think about what you want from your business. Create a business on your terms.
The hustle is not real. At least, it doesn’t need to be. Create a brand that puts you irresistibly, overwhelmingly first for a truly niche and rewarding bunch of clients. And stay true to what you do best. Of course you can evolve and change, but always keep in mind that you should be working from a position of strength.
Get this right and everything else will fall into place.
Your first book ‘How to Style Your Brand’ is a firm favourite at the Hive, and it helped us in developing our own brand identity. But what do you mean by ‘styling’ your brand?
Thank you so much! Well, once you have your focus, you can pull together an identity that sends out the right signals. Once you know you want to look, supportive, feminine, contemporary, for example, you can pull in elements like fonts, colours, patterns and so on that will help you communicate your message. It’s a lot like styling an outfit – you want to create a certain look so you use various accessories and clothes to create an outfit that looks and feels right. You can do the same with your brand.
You’ve just released your second book, Brand Brilliance. What is this book all about, and how will it help businesses develop their branding?
The main focus of the book is to help you elevate your brand and enchant your audience. It’s all about defining that thing that makes your business brilliant and communicating that through everything you do.
As a modern entrepreneur, you need an incisive vision for what your brand stands for and where it’s headed. You need to communicate that in a way that consistently enchants your audience and retain your focus in an increasingly noisy world. That can be tough!
The book guides you through all of this and will give you the confidence and clarity to create a business that really works for you.
Where can we get a copy?
We’ll be getting our copy today! Fiona will be joining us in our Facebook group Meet Learn Thrive soon to talk more about branding. Join us today! Meet like-minded wedding pros, get expert advice and watch our weekly interviews with wedding industry experts live at 7pm each Monday.