2016: The Year of Branding UP

I declare 2016 to be the year of branding up. In fact, you’ll be seeing a whole lot of #brandup2016 around here.

This isn’t a resolution. It’s a mantra.

It is essential to honor your personal core values within your business. Particularly as a small business or in the solopreneur space, this can affect everything. You cannot work with clients who don’t honor the tenets you hold dear over time.

One of the core values in my world is mastery, or excellence. I refuse to put out average content. I hold myself and others to a higher standard. I believe you can always add value with better execution. I naturally seek the next level.

These aren’t qualities everybody shares, but a sizable chunk of the population agrees with most of these statements. Since I’m building to the next level in everything I do, I often think about how to uplevel in the best way. The correct way will be different for you than me, but there are a few unshakeable facts at play here.

Why does upleveling your whole business matter?

A few months ago, I went to a weekend retreat experience. I heard someone speak this past summer, loved their message and signed up for a weekend seminar. Leading up to the weekend, I was not impressed. I was perhaps in denial, hoping they’d turn it around. But there were teaching recordings that started with twenty minutes of silence, emails unanswered for more than two business days, and mismatched visual branding from their site to their emails to their handouts. Within one month of the weekend event, they still hadn’t released details about the weekend. I reached out as I wanted to make my travel arrangements. The delayed response I received is that they didn’t yet have any details beyond which weekend it was scheduled. When I arrived at the event, attendees had to mill around in the hotel lobby for more than 20 minutes after the start time, as they weren’t yet ready. The presentation materials were few and thank goodness- they were reminiscent of Microsoft word, circa 1996.

I had to constantly remind myself to stop judging, enjoy the message. But the reality was, it led me to believe this speaker was in a disorganized startup mode. They were at the entry level of the speaking and teaching world. They were still working their way up the ladder.

At the end of the second day, they made a very high-end offer. It was a huge mismatch with my entire experience up to that point. I was shocked. And despite their content being on point, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, hearing. It soured me. Months later, I still haven’t reconciled what should be a high end teacher with my experience. I love the people, respect their message, but it still feels off in my heart.

How to Match the High End

Ten years ago, I was in a different business, a different field entirely. There was an online forum with a large gathering of my colleagues spread across the world. We paved our way into the digital versions of our business together, helping each other. Encouraging each other. And most importantly, spurring each other on to the next level.

You couldn’t go a day without seeing someone post to another, “It’s time to raise your prices.” There were always invariably good reasons for this. Many times, the advice giver was correct. These were daily posts, but rarely did they follow up with, “and raise the bar in everything else you do, too.”

Sometimes, the subject had just completed a high-level training or certification. Surely it was time to raise their pricing with this newfound knowledge and experience, right? Well, maybe. But were they also raising their end client experience? Were they going from a pricing printout on plain white laser paper to printing on tactile cardstock? Where they going from black and white printing to color? Were they redesigning their website or portfolio? Where did they offer a better visual product along with the experience?

personal branding photos by britneygardner.com

When you uplevel one area of your business, raise the client experience as well before raising prices.

When I first started offering branding photo sessions, I modeled them after regular portrait sessions. And then I realized that my clients were coming in with worries, anxieties over how they looked. I decided including a wardrobe consultant as well as a hair and makeup specialist would “raise the bar” and create a better client experience. Whenever possible, I serve lattes to add a bit of extra comfort. I scent the room with candles or essential oils to make the studio a more homey place. I enjoy helping my clients feel great about themselves, have fun, and feel comfortable all at the same time. Whenever I add a service, I look first to the client experience. Does it help them? Make them feel cared for?

I don’t want to lose clients on the 3% of details that matter to them, but I may have overlooked. Do you?

Have you taken a look at your brand from a fresh perspective lately? I have a handy little tool to help you do just that. DIY Brand Assessment

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