How things can look up in a lockdown

How things can look up in a lockdown

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.”

– Marie Curie

Ok so I’m going to be really honest with you here: I’m a little bit fearful. The country (well the world) is on lockdown, there’s a pandemic in progress and people fear for both their health and their finances.

So yes, I’m fearful, but then human beings are programmed to feel fear at times. We fear the unknown, we worry if our families are threatened, and we hate uncertainty. However, human beings are also tough, resilient and endlessly creative, and that’s why I’m choosing to acknowledge my fears and then put them to one side.

Instead, I’m going to use this unprecedented situation to do something that all business owners wish they could do but never have the time for: I’m going to work on my business instead of in it.

There are many things that can be done to develop your business during self-isolation, and it’s worth taking this opportunity to really scrutinise your online brand…

I’ve put together a few top tips for things that you can do to help you feel proactive even if work is slow:

1. Keep your business visible on social media

Post daily with uplifting, entertaining or thought-provoking content that provides value and helps your audience. We all need a little positivity right now and your customers will remember the brands that made them smile during this time.

2. Take this opportunity to work ‘ON’ your business

Make a list of all the things that you have been wanting to do but you never had time for. Now you have the time so use it wisely.

3. Stay connected with your clients & suppliers

Why not send them an email to check-in on them and make sure that they are ok – remember we are all in this together and we need to offer kindness and support at this time.

4. Host a meeting with a fellow business owner

Use Zoom or Skype to stay connected. Plan a collaboration. Provide support where possible. Remember that your colleagues are just as anxious as you so why not make plans now to keep you both motivated.

5. Attend a virtual networking meeting

Many networking groups are now online so why not show up and join in with the conversation. It will keep you talking about your business and help you to stay connected. Community is very important and we all need to feel as though we are still part of it in some way.

6. Create a new product or service

Use this time to brainstorm something new and exciting for your business. What would you like to offer your clients? How can you help them further? Business is about identifying a need and then responding to that need with something that serves a purpose, so why not identify struggles your client may be having and then create a service or product to help?

7. Audit your existing social media platforms and website

This is the perfect opportunity to look at what is working and what is not so why not take some time and audit your social media platforms and website. Be critical. Are you showing up in a way that you want to be seen? are you delivering the right message to your audience?

8. Learn a new skill through Skillshare or Udemy

Why not learn a new skill? Now’s the time to really hone in on the direction you would like your business to take, and to define what you want to create. Take this time to brush up on existing skills or learn a new one.

9. Create a 12-month content plan for your social media platforms

We all know we should do it, but hands up if you’ve kept putting it to the bottom of the to-do list! Well now you’ve got plenty of time so no more excuses!

10. Share your skills/knowledge online via a workshop or webinar
How grateful are you that there are people out there willing to do this? Well you could be one of those people! It feels wonderful to share, and it creates a great impression on your audience

11. Create an online video series to help educate your audience

Videos don’t have to be expensive affairs shot in a studio: it can be just you, your camera and your knowledge. You can even use this as an opportunity to inject some personality into your branding by introducing the audience to your pets, garden or latest creative project.

12. Create value-focused content to build your email list

Your services may be on hold for now, but this lockdown won’t last forever, and once you’re back up and running, an extended mailing list will be just the ticket.

Summary

Most of all use this time productively. I know things look dark at the moment but dwelling on the negatives won’t do anybody any good – ok so I sound like a therapist right now, but the truth is that the best way for us to get through all this with our business (and sanity) intact is to look for the silver lining: think of this as an extended exercise in marketing and your lockdown could really start to look up! 

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The Visibility Hub: A great start!

The Visibility Hub: A great start!

“Don’t wait for opportunity. Create it.”

Hello and welcome to the latest Pink Lemon blog.

I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you more about my new venture: The Visibility Hub.

We recently held the first Visibility Hub meeting and it was amazing!

So much so that I wanted you guys out in internet-land to be able share in the content I presented. Hopefully after reading this you’ll consider joining us for the next meeting, but if you can’t make it then you’ll at least have a better understanding of what we’re trying to achieve.

First of all, the purpose of the meeting was to help attendees gain clarity and focus with regards to their marketing efforts for the coming year.

Personally, I love this time of year and think it’s the very best time for making plans. Essentially it’s a brand new page on which to write.

The Visibility Hub
So why The Visibility Hub?

This is actually something that has been on my mind for a good year or so and, whilst I always felt there was a need for it, I just didn’t take the necessary action required to bring it to life until very recently.

Basically I find that I come across the same questions and challenges when speaking to other business owners:

There is so much noise and chatter out there about the things that we should be doing to grow our businesses, but for many the problem is often time and know-how. How do you get started doing what needs to be done to get your business seen?

Often when you attend networking groups there’s a speaker from whom you may learn something. Alternatively, if you want to know something specific then you can attend a workshop (although these can work out quite costly). I wanted to create something that bridged that gap. A place where you can ask the questions that you want answered.

Each month at the Visibility Hub meetings there will be a different topic designed to help you move forward with your brand building efforts, and for our first meeting the discussion revolved around determining our goals.

The Visibility Hub
For our first meeting, Kathy Hayman, who is The Loving Life Coach, had kindly agreed to be ‘chairperson’. I’d asked her to do this because I love Kathy’s approach to goal setting; as it’s very holistic. It’s not just thinking about everything we want to achieve, but it’s also about connecting to it on a deeper level so that we place our focus where it needs to be to make great things happen.

The attendees got a great deal out of Kathy’s approach and were able to start some amazing discussions – which ultimately led to them finding solutions for some of their business queries. Additionally they each got a chance to introduce themselves and their businesses, giving them extra exposure and making great connections with like-minded individuals.

The Visibility Hub

About Pink Lemon

As part of our introductory meeting, I shared my own story with the group, so I thought I’d outline it here for those who missed this session (after all you don’t want me waffling on at the start of every meeting!).

So for those of you who may not know, my name is Karen and I am the owner of Pink Lemon Branding & Design, a brand agency that I’ve been running for a little over 2 years.

I’m based at Kestrel House in Maidstone. I moved in at the start of this year, which has been very exciting!

I’ve been working for over 22 years but graduated from UCA as a Graphic/Web Designer in 2011 aged 31, after a 12 year career in London.

My journey from employee to business owner has not been particularly easy or straight-forward, but I have always been focused on achieving my goals. I’ve always been someone with a vision even if I couldn’t pin it down! Looking back, I just followed my heart – that’s what’s led me to this point and I couldn’t be more grateful.

I know first-hand the power of goal-setting and what can be achieved when you put your mind to it and so I encourage everyone who joins the Visibility Hub to dig deep and be really honest about what they want, because anything is possible – I’m proof of that!

What do I do and why do I do it?

Outside of the Visibility Hub, I work with clients of all sizes helping them to either create or develop their brand.

Now I’ve a tendency to talk a lot about brand, which can be quite overwhelming for some, but I firmly believe that as small business owners we need to be investing our efforts into growing a sustainable brand rather than getting caught up in growing a business.

By this I mean that growing a business is placing focus on increasing revenue, converting leads, growing a team, improving systems and processes, developing services etc. Of course this is extremely important to us, but that’s not what is important to our prospective customers.

What customers care about is how we show up, how we do what we do, and how we can best serve them.

Our customers buy into our brand not our business and so we need to pour our efforts into creating an authentic and compelling brand that is not only going to attract our ideal audience but also drive customer loyalty.

Our brand is our reputation and so I believe that this is where we should place our focus.

Put simply: We should strive to be customer-centric and not profit driven.

Pink Lemon is all about helping people to drive their brand; satisfy their customers and grow a business organically so that this momentum can be sustained.

With The Visibility Hub I hope to help local business people on the path to achieving their business dreams by focusing on their brand and, judging from the feedback I’ve received so far – it looks like I’m going to do just that!

To find out more about The Visibility Hub and future masterclasses, click here.

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How to define your ideal customer

How to define your ideal customer

In last week’s blog I told you that one of the most important things you can do when creating or defining your brand is to ask yourself “who are my audience”

This week I’m going to explain why this is so vital and how to go about answering that question.

Why does it matter?

Remember the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”? If you market yourself to ‘anyone and everyone’ the chances are you won’t catch anyone’s attention.

Take Barbie, for example: If Mattel had launched Barbie whilst trying to appeal to ‘everyone’, what sort of product would they have had? In truth Barbie could have appealed to any number of people: male, female, young, old etc. but in 1959 there was a very obvious demographic:  white females between the ages of 4 and 12 (or thereabouts), who were being brought up to be homemakers. With this in mind, they marketed to that group (in fact they had a secret secondary market: the mothers of those girls, who were the ones who would actually splash the cash). By drastically cutting the numbers of people they could appeal to, they actually improved the chances of selling units.

Now Barbie may seem like an odd example to use here, but I do so because Mattel is a company which has recognised the need to reassess their target audience: they are now working hard to create dolls that appeal to boys and girls of all races, body types and interests. If ‘perky blonde Barbie’ had been their only offering, the company would have done very poorly in the 21st century, but Mattel have recognised the importance of demographics.

So when it comes to your audience it really is better to be a specialist rather than a generalist.

I’ll give you another example: I’m a regular at networking events, and very often participants are given the opportunity to tell a room full of potential referral partners what sort of customer they’re looking for. The majority of new business people, desperate not to exclude anyone, will hedge their bets – “I’m a skincare specialist looking for anybody with skin!” “I’m an accountant and I want to talk to people with a bank account” people generally smile, nod….and then walk away and forget them, because they’re simply being too general. It’s not targeted and it certainly isn’t memorable. I know hundreds of people with skin…who do I talk to?

However, if I was told that somebody offered treatment for liver spots – that they were looking for women between the ages of 60 and 90, who took pride in their appearance and wanted to slow down the aging process – suddenly I’m picturing specific people in my life.

If you know that much about your target audience then you can use colours, images, even fonts that you know would appeal to them. you can place your ads in the right magazine, or go to the places they’re likely to go. Suddenly you’re not just another voice among the noise: you’re the company that catches their attention.

How to define your target audience

In order to target your ideal clients however, you need to have a clear picture of them in your head. The best advice I can give you is this: create an ‘avatar’ of your ideal client. Picture your perfect customer in your head and then put them onto paper: What’s their age? Where do they live? What social media do they use (more on that next week), what problems do they have? How can you solve those problems?

Once you have a clear picture in your head, you can start to think about how best to appeal to them. Suddenly your marketing becomes focused, clear and so much easier!

To help make this process a little easier (because let’s face it, it’s one of those tasks that can be quite difficult to know where to start), we have created a The Ultimate Ideal Customer Profiling Workbook to help you get really clear on who your ideal customer is.

Download the FREE 20-page workbook here.

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How to create an effective brand strategy

How to create an effective brand strategy

“So what do you do?” asks the lady at the networking meeting

“I’m a branding specialist” I reply

“Oh…”

I watch as the all too familiar glazed expression descends on her face and I can see the words forming before she even opens her mouth:

“So…logos right?”

…Ok, I get it, somebody says brand and you immediately think logo. If you’re not familiar with marketing then why wouldn’t you? But to me, a specialist with 20 years’ design and business experience, this assumption is endlessly frustrating. Apart from anything else, a lifetime of ‘logos right?’ simply wouldn’t be enough to keep me interested! However, much more important is the fact that business owners pay so little attention to the nuances of marketing.

You see at the end of the day, branding IS business. I’m not trying to inflate my own importance here, I’m simply stating fact. Without a strong brand identity (and I can’t emphasise this enough) YOU HAVE NO BUSINESS.

Would McDonalds have invaded every corner of the globe if all they’d had going for them was a cut price menu and a brightly coloured logo? No, the golden arches earned their reputation through a careful and extended marketing campaign built upon a solid brand identity. The way they write, the people they target, the ads they put out, the colours they decorate their restaurants – whether you’re lovin’ it or hatin’ it, you have to admit that good old Maccies is a success and that big yellow M wouldn’t be nearly as recognisable if it hadn’t been for all the other branding measures put in place behind it.

So that, in a nutshell, is what branding is – it’s your logo, your colours, your fonts, your demographics, your tone of voice, your copy, your staff, your ethos, your marketing, and a 1001 other things that make up who you are as a business.

The important question (and one that applies to established businesses as well as start-ups) is how do you go about creating and/or cementing your brand?

My mission is to raise awareness of the importance of branding and to help businesses of all shapes and sizes become successful through the careful application of theirs.

Creating your brand is a long and constantly evolving process, and if you check back with my blog regularly you’ll find tons of hints and tips to help you develop yours.

For now I’ll give you my top 3 questions that every business owner should ask themselves when creating their branding:

  • What is my company mission/ethos?
    For example, do you want to educate people? Raise awareness of a product or service? What ‘solutions’ does your company offer to your customers? What sort of business person do you want to be?
  • What is my company aesthetic?
    What colours/images suit your brand? What kind of feelings are you trying to evoke? Which businesses do you admire and why?
  • Who are my audience?
    This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself and I’ll be covering this in detail in next week’s blog…

In the meantime, why not download our FREE download… ‘The Ultimate Branding Checklist’.

If you would like to discuss how we can help you develop a winning brand strategy then click here.

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5 Reasons why awards can help your brand

5 Reasons why awards can help your brand

If you had told me 18 months ago, when I started my business, that I would soon be attending my third Awards Ceremony, I would have laughed!

Back in March I was fortunate enough to attend the annual Kent Women in Business Awards (KWIBA) in Maidstone, Kent where, for the second time, I had been nominated for an Award by several of my clients.

And boy; what a night it was!

It was only afterwards, when my husband and I were sitting in bed (eating cheese on toast for our midnight snack), that it occurred to me: I own a successful business.

Ok that sounds weird, but anyone who knows my story knows that I haven’t had the easiest of journeys. Like many other women in business, it’s taken me a long time to arrive at this point in my life. The transition from being an employee to being a business owner has been a long one. I may have started my business a year and a half ago, but the truth is it’s taken a while to fully shift my mind-set to one of a business owner, let alone one who’s ready to accept that she’s arrived!

To be considered for an Award is amazing. Not only is it an amazing accomplishment for me but, more importantly, it’s recognition for my business.

Awards logos

So why are Awards important and how can they help you to build your brand?

As a designer my main priority is my clients, but as a business owner, my main priority is to grow my company and position it in the best light in order to win more clients. This is where the power of Awards comes in.

First thing’s first: filling out an Award form is pretty daunting; after all they tend to be quite long and usually require you to dig deep and talk yourself up, which can be really hard when we’ve had the importance of modesty drilled into us since our school days. So why bother?

Well, to put it simply… Awards can REALLY help your brand – especially if you win.

Let me give you 5 reasons why Awards are worth it, even if you don’t win:

1. Business appraisal

If ever there was an ideal time to stop and reflect, this is it.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the ‘doing’ that we forget to stop and reflect on how far we have come. Going through the Awards process gives you the perfect opportunity to stop and think about your achievements.

What was interesting for me about attending this year’s KWIBA event was that I could measure myself against where I was last year. I realised that both myself and my business have come a long way. My thinking is different as, somewhere along the way, I had a shift in mindset. I also realised that my vision and my goals are bigger than ever before because I also recognised that our only limitations are the ones that we place on ourselves.

2. Visibility

Just being shortlisted for an Award can help drive brand awareness and put your business directly in front of all a whole new array of customers.

The free marketing that comes from being associated with an Awards event can have a huge positive impact on your brand and who doesn’t like a bit of free marketing?

3. Awards help define quality

Let’s face it, if you have been nominated for an Award then you must be pretty good at what you do. You’ve been nominated for a reason, so be proud that you’re on the right track.

4. Motivation

There’s nothing like an Awards ceremony to leave you feeling inspired and motivated. Just being there amongst all those amazing businesses gave me a much-needed boost!

Sometimes running a business can be hard work and draining. It’s hard to switch off as there is constantly so much to do. It’s easy to get caught up in the little things and forget why you are building your ‘empire’ in the first place.

5. Build contacts

These days, when you’re nominated for an award, you tend to get sent a little banner to use on social media. This banner is your best friend! It can help you identify other nominees so that you can start conversations with them, and it helps you get noticed by other people who will want to know all about it.

Then there’s the ceremony itself, which is one big networking event!

Summary

All in all, whether you win an award or not, the whole process is a rewarding, invigorating and exciting one, so don’t be afraid to apply for awards, or ask your clients to nominate you. Your business is worth celebrating!

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Add some love to your brand by creating a brand style guide

Add some love to your brand by creating a brand style guide

Building a business takes time. It requires patience, attention and dedication. However, if you get things right in the early stages, it’s so much easier later on.

Basically, if you have a strong foundation you can build a strong business. The good thing is that, even if you’re an established business, you can still revisit those ‘business building blocks’ and shore up your foundations!

One of the most important building blocks for your business is your brand. Get this foundation right and the rest of the business will sit neatly and firmly on top. 

It’s vital when creating (or adjusting) your brand, that you stay true to the core essence of your business. Creating a strong, unique visual identity will convey your USPs and sell your product or service without you even needing to be in the room; and the key to creating this strong visual identity is consistency.

To maintain consistency and brand integrity, you need to be completely clear on how you want to be perceived and what message you want to communicate.

Once your brand message is clear in your head, you need to make it clear on paper, and that’s where a brand style guide comes in.

Brand identity

What is a brand style guide?

Your brand style guide is one of the most important documents you will ever create for your business. It helps you, and any staff or sub-contractors you employ, to stay true to your unique brand identity. It cements the look and feel of your business, sets the tone for any written communication and ensures that your brand becomes instantly recognisable to your target audience.

Why do you need a brand style guide?

Let me explain this by using an example. Say you had just launched a fast food business and decided to use your initial letter as your logo. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that that letter is an ‘M’ and you want it to be yellow. You want the font to be curvy and friendly; to look almost like… golden arches? (you can see where I’m going with this right?)

If you establish, not only the style of the ‘M’, but also its exact colour, the font that goes with it and even the shape of the friendly clown that introduces it (ok I definitely gave it away that time), then anyone who see that ‘M’, that colour or that clown, will immediately think of your brand. If they’re new to the brand they’ll be curious. If they’re already fans they may even begin to salivate at the mere sight of your logo.

But what if you hadn’t been so clear on your brand in the beginning? What if you needed to outsource some of your PR to an agency? If the agency weren’t clear on your brand guidelines then they might put out an advert using the wrong ‘M’. They might make the ‘M’ purple and twin it with a dinosaur mascot instead of a clown. Will your clients trust that they’ll get the same great product from a Barney Burger? Probably not.

In essence, your brand guidelines ensure consistency, build and maintain trust, enable growth and refine your core message. If you have a brand style guide then you can simply pass that on to the PR agency and relax knowing that your golden arches are still golden and your clown is still called Ronald.

What exactly is in a brand style guide? 

Corporate Identity
Your brand style guide will cover everything from marketing, advertising and social media, to print, PR, colour and copywriting, which means that it needs to be thorough.

When I create a brand style guide for a client I make sure that it includes the following:

  • An overview of the brand’s vision, personality and key values
  • Brand message / mission statement
  • Examples of tone of voice
  • Logo usage – where and how to use your logo including minimum sizes, spacing and what not to do with it
  • Typography – showing the specific font that you use and details of the font family and default fonts for web use
  • Colour scheme – Primary / Secondary brand colours with colour breakdowns for print, screen and web
  • Image style/photography – examples of image style and photographs that work with the brand
  • Business card and letterhead design – examples of how the logo and font are used for standard company literature

Like your visual identity, a brand style guide should be clear, simple and easy to understand.

Again, the idea is that you should be able to outsource marketing or other activities without worrying that they’ll go off brand. You should be able to take on a new member of staff and know that they’ll be putting out the right message from day one. You should even be able to retire or sell the business and be sure that the brand you worked so hard to build will continue to live up to the standards you set.

How to go about creating a brand style guide 

If you have an established company then creating your brand style guide may simply be a case of putting down on paper what you’ve already been doing in your business. However, if you’re not sure how to start on your guide, take inspiration from people you admire. Look for images that feel on brand and that communicate your core values.

Save these as a reference, using an online tool such as Pinterest. These images will then go onto your ‘mood board’ along with colours, messages and other ideas. From here you can start to put together the elements listed above until you have one or two simple-to-use documents that you can refer to whenever you need them.

Don’t stop there

Remember that a brand style guide never needs to be ‘finished’. You can add to it and adapt it to suit your audience and ethos as your brand grows. In fact, a well put together brand style guide can be an essential tool when growing your business.

I hope this has given you an idea of how to create what could possibly be one of the most important parts of your business moving forward. If you need a hand then I’m always happy to chat, but in the meantime: good luck and have fun!

If you need help to create a Brand Style Guide then please get in touch here.

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