Believe it or not, the saying IS true.
“New levels, new devils,” is a popular quote that references how with each new level you advance to in life, expect a WHOLE new set of problems to be waiting for ya!
But when it comes to knowing ‘how to build a brand’, how does this quote apply, exactly?
Well, different stages of business require different amounts of branding investments. You wouldn’t spend as much to support your brand as a 1st-year entrepreneur as you would a 10-year veteran. One because practically speaking, you can’t afford it. But also, because it’s just not a smart use of your money–no matter what the Internet gurus tell you!
Have you ever wondered “How to build a brand?”, or better yet, EXACTLY what you should be focusing on–in an effort to figure out “how to build a brand”, during each stage of business growth?
In this post, I aim to provide you with those answers and a few visuals to make it plain!
You Need Branding, Just Not As Much As You Think
I often hear new business owners totally intimidated by the thought of investing in their brand. On the flip side, I get to listen to experienced business owners sound a little bitter about failed branding investments. Both entrepreneurs’ feelings are valid! And if you fall into either of those buckets, I hope this post will take some of those old stings away!
Firstly, branding is without a doubt important for your business at EVERY stage. However, I want to put a controversial stake in the ground with this statement.
You don’t need as much ‘branding as you probably think.
That’s right. You need to invest in branding at every stage of business, yes. But if you’re at all confused about “how much” at each stage, stick around! I’m going to reveal just “how much” branding you actually need to move the needle in your business according to what stage of business you’re in.
Secondly, you should base your branding investments on your current biz goals and needs. You should never decide to invest in some branding campaign or new designs, just because someone online said you need to do it for your brand to “grow”.
What ends up happening when you make poor branding investment decisions is one of 2 things.
You either invest too much, too soon and feel like you wasted your money. Or you invest too little, too late, and have to play a bit of catch up with the competition. Both leave some entrepreneurs with a bad taste in their mouths towards branding, and it breaks my little heart, lol.
You see, I LOVE branding. Duh, I do it for a living, lol! But besides loving strategy and pixels in Photoshop, I love educating people on branding, because there’s so much bad information out there! Let’s quickly explore what happens when you fall into one of those 2 categories mentioned above.
What Happens When You Invest Too Much, Too Soon
When you invest too much money into things that you think will help build your brand, TOO EARLY in the development of your business, you’re actually wasting money.
You would be surprised at how much GROWTH happens in the 1st & 2nd years of actively running a business. You learn something on Monday and by Friday, you’ve thrown it out the window. Three times, lol.
There are SO many moving parts in those first 2 years of business, it would be downright foolish to commit a lot of revenue into branding. And more than likely, unless you’re a business strategist, what you’re thinking will grow your brand–most likely won’t.
In this post, I shared the REAL definitions of a brand, branding, and brand identity. I clarified how your audience actually defines your ‘brand’. You just help influence their definition through strategic branding actions and authentic brand identity.
But in those initial years, you simply don’t know enough about who your business TRULY is! Not because you’re not an expert at the service you provide, but because you don’t have enough DATA. Data only comes from TIME spent IN the business, testing things and seeing what works!
During those early years, you’re still learning things like:
- How does your audience respond when you post certain types of content
- How do clients react to your package and offerings?
- Or even, what processes you like implementing that help predict your income
Spending a lot of money on brand identity and branding strategies too soon in your entrepreneurial journey will do more harm than good.
It can do things like:
- Distract you from the basic principles of running a business that you need to focus on to make more money
- Stir up resentment towards making big investments that linger when it’s actually TIME to spend money on branding
- Leave you feeling stuck and clueless when you stare at a folder full of deliverables that you have NO clue what to do with!
- Set you back financially because you need to account for every penny earned as a new entrepreneur
sidebar: If you have a sponsor of some sort who can fund you spending a lot of money on branding, I STILL don’t advise it early on.
This is because you WILL evolve! I suggest taking that donation and hiring a brand strategist instead! They will map out a plan that guides your branding investments, as they relate to your specific goals. worthwhile over the years to come! It’s chess friends, not checkers!
What Happens When You Invest Too Little, Too Late
When you invest too little money into things that you think will help build your brand, TOO LATE in the development of your business, you kinda abort the momentum your business was having, causing you to stall.
It’s during years 3 (sometimes 2 if your profit is good!) through 5 that I recommend spending some good money on your brand’s visual identity and branding strategies. This is because by this time your business will be most likely able to safely make those investments.
Something to note, when I say ‘branding investments’ throughout this post, I’m referring to the common things related to growing your brand. Some of these things are tangible, some are not, like a strategy!
Examples of Branding Investments
- Brand strategy or coaching (the uncool stuff that actually helps you make the money to invest in the cool stuff)
- Brand identity design (logos, colors, fonts, the aforementioned cool stuff)
- Website templates
- Custom website design
- Branding & marketing campaign
- Ads and paid marketing
- The list goes on and on!
Depending on your business model, you may need all of these things along your journey. OR you may never need all of them. The key is knowing what you need at each stage of growth. Years 3 and up of running a profitable business are truly some exciting years! You can finally start to make those fun branding investments that you see the big boys making and that you believe will catapult your brand into greatness. But don’t be afraid to spend the money with wisdom. A strong custom brand identity and strategic website template can carry you a long way!
Spending too little money on brand identity and branding strategies too late in your entrepreneurial journey will drastically affect your business.
It can do things like:
- Stall in your growth and make you look less competitive
- Make it harder than it has to be to command authority in your industry
- Create a disconnect between who you SAY your brand is and how it’s showing up visually in the world (disconnection leads to mistrust with your audience!)
For the Highest Branding ROI: Consider Your NEXT Best Step
If you want to see the BEST return on your investment when it comes to branding, here’s the trick.
Only invest in as much needed to get you to your very NEXT level.
This means you won’t invest in the kind of branding elements that will be useful for your business in 5 or 10 years from now. For the HIGHEST ROI, you simply want to focus on the brand investment pieces that will knock down the NEXT domino towards elevating your brand.
Here’s an example of what that could look like!
Let’s say you are a nutrition coach in your 3rd year of business. You’ve been implementing your brand and business strategy well and now have a profitable business. You DIY-ed a website on Squarespace and it’s been working well so far. However, now you know that showing a little bit more of your personality and humanizing your brand a bit will help you make deeper connections with your audience. Those deeper connections are what will lead to more trust, as you’re now also ready to raise your rates! Now, at this point what type of brand supporting investment can you make to help you achieve these 2 things?
The clearest path towards being able to raise your rates, build deeper connections, humanize your brand, and uplevel your makeshift website is probably:
- investing in a premium website template
- investing in custom brand identity design
Why these 2 versus custom website, custom brand identity, brand new everything, lol?
First, you provide a service as a nutrition coach and you’re only in year 3–what purpose would a custom website serve? Custom websites have the most purpose for businesses that have highly specialized needs for their online space. The majority of service providers don’t need a custom website unless they’re also selling products, sell multiple courses, or have an agency business model. A website template will best fit this scenario, but one that’s got some style and looks premium! Even though your business is making money a custom website will set you back at least $5k. This is the industry standard for a custom website and development. During year 3 of business, it’s just not an investment worth making, when you can totally dress up a premium template–until you get to your next stage of income generation!
Second, a custom brand identity will humanize your brand by putting its authentic personality a the forefront. This is what will help people connect with you more deeply and feel like your brand speaks their language! Most brand identity packages come with creative direction to help you prepare for an updated brand photoshoot as well. If you can swing a new photoshoot to go along with the brand identity design, I’d say this would be the sweet spot for your next level up!
Do you see how this investment strategy isn’t something that will break the bank, but definitely something that makes the most sense?
This is what you want to do when figuring out “how much” branding you need to get to the next level, or ‘how to build a brand.’
But if you need even more examples, I’ve gone an extra step and make it even plainer for ya! Without further adieu, let’s jump STRAIGHT into a visual chart of what the path looks like for MOST small businesses. This isn’t the end all be all plan of brand investing, but it’s a heck of a guide if I do say so myself!
The Smartest Path for Investing In Your Brand Along Your Business Journey
Use this chart as a guide to lead you towards not just how much money to spend on branding over the years, but how to THINK about investing over the years.
Every new level of business requires new investments to advance successfully. However, investing too soon or too late can ruin your momentum and stall your growth. Therefore use wisdom when making decisions about what you need and use this chart as a navigation tool!
How to Build A Brand: What You Need Most During Each Stage
Newbie need: REVENUE
Intermediate need: BRAND AWARENESS/RECOGNITION
Seasoned need: BRAND LOYALTY
Veteran need: SCALING
During each stage of business (left column), you’ll see the 3 corresponding areas of investing across from it. Business developments are the type of investments things you can’t “see” when it comes to ‘branding’ but they are the foundation for SO much. Next, the practical investments are things you SHOULD be able to afford at this point. Let this be your primary focus. Lastly, the stretch investments are things that will stretch you at that stage of business–but if you can swing it, go for it!
|Business Development||Practical Investment||Stretch Investment|
|Newbie (0-2 yrs)||Brand strategy session||DIY website on a builder platform||60-90 minute brand photoshoot/high-quality stock|
|Intermediate (2-5 yrs)||Group coaching||Contract a graphic designer for a logo||Premium website template|
|Seasoned (5-10 yrs)||Group coaching||Custom brand identity and/or custom site||Quarterly content shoots/design|
|Veteran (10+ yrs)||High-level mastermind||Custom rebrand (full-on strategy, identity, photography, & website)||Multiple streams or scaling into education|
New Businesses Need Money
Unless you started your service-based business with an endless flow of sponsors, your first hurdle in business is going to be income generation! Focus less on ‘how to build a brand’, and more on how to make money! As a branding expert and designer, I never, EVER advise entrepreneurs to invest in custom anything unless they are already profitable. A DIY website and simple brand shoot or headshot session will be enough to start with. This way, people will be able to put a face to your business, start trusting it, and have somewhere to go online to experience you more!
Intermediate Businesses Need Brand Awareness
The intermediate stage is where about 1/2 of my clients reside. They’re making money, but not enough to pay for custom everything. Even if they can technically afford it, it will leave a huge dent in their progress that will take some time to recover from. For them, I suggest a simple logo that speaks to their style and attracts their ideal client and a high-quality website template. Preferably a website template that an actual brand designer built–not just a web developer. There is a difference! But a premium template with a clean and fresh logo can do WONDERS for an intermediate business’ growth. What you’re really trying to do at this stage is build brand awareness–using consistent visuals that people begin to recognize is how you do it.
Seasoned Businesses Need Brand Loyalty
Seasoned businesses have money and awareness, but need loyalty amongst their target audience. They’ve been in business for HOT MINUTE and at this point, they want to increase the longevity of their customer’s buying journey with their brand. AKA they want you to stick around! Seasoned business owners will begin to invest in more custom branding and designs to help them achieve this. These strategies will position them as not just different but as an authority in their space.
Veteran Businesses Need to Scale
Lastly, business veterans are in the spot most only dream about! To have successfully run a small business for 10+ years is NO easy job! But at this stage, they care about growth on a larger scale. They usually want to ‘go big’ with an elaborate rebrand or branding campaign to see them up for massive change. Most likely their business has evolved in offerings and style, and if they’re lucky, their audience has evolved with them. Maybe not they want to grow a bigger team, become an agency, or sell digital products now too. Investments at this stage are easy to make, but they still need to be strategic!
How to Build A Brand: Commit to Being Intentional At Every Stage
If you started this blog wondering “how to build a brand”, I hope one thing rings clear. You’re always building your brand! You will be building your brand for as long as you’re in business. One type of investment will never serve as the ‘magic pill’ to knock over all the brand growth dominoes. Rather it’s best to knock down one domino at a time until investing feels logical and smart.
According to the SBA’s Office of Advocacy, in 2020, there were 33.7 million small businesses in the United States, accounting for 99.9% of businesses. With each budding new business, I’m sure so many questions arise. Questions like, “Am I branding myself right?”, “What all do I need to brand?”, “Wait, how to build a brand, again?”, lol. If that’s you, remember this.
You will not achieve a brand you love overnight, but if you’re consistent and intentional about how you invest–it will start to give you the results you want.
Remember, building a brand is a LONG game! So don’t stress out, don’t neglect your strategies, and always make practical investments, with a pinch of stretch!
If you found this helpful, share it with a friend! And don’t forget to comment below.
Have you ever made a branding investment that you felt was too soon or too late? And how did it affect how you viewed branding afterward?
I look forward to chatting with you below!