December 9, 2014

Branding Strategy: 5 Things We’ve Learned

Happy Tuesday!

We are currently snuggled up in the mountains of Virginia wrapping up the final work on our brand new website (we can’t WAIT to show you!!) with our insanely talented designer & friend Jennifer Olmstead! It has been so incredible to watch her work and the genius that she can come up with on the spot over and over again, and it’s been amazing to watch the whole thing come together right before our eyes. We are so so so SO grateful to have found her!!

All of this talk of branding combined with a really good question we got asked the other day- what do you recommend for people who are just getting started, who might not know what they want their style & brand to be yet?– got us thinking about the top 5 things we wish we would have known to think about when we were first getting started with our business and needed to put together our first polished brand. Read on to find out what they are! :)

1. A good brand is a matter of trust. I think a lot of times, people feel like a good brand is a splurge or a luxury thing that they will do “someday.” That it’s not a requirement for right now. But you have to keep in mind that the website/blog is often the first experience a client is having with you. And if what they see when they get there is out of date work or a very amateur looking logo, then there is a very good chance that they will start to worry that your work will be amateur/not established too. And whether or not they can TRUST you to do a good job! A good, polished brand says to the world we’re here to stay & we’re taking this seriously.

2. Get a bird’s eye view. When you’re trying to figure out what would even feel like you for a brand, it is very easy to be inspired by what other photographers are doing in the same industry. Instead, try to get a step removed. Flip through magazines and books that inspire you & put sticky tabs on things that speak to you. Don’t think about it, just go on gut reactions. Now do the same thing by doing a “scavenger hunt” on Pinterest. Let one thing lead you to another and another and just pin anything that speaks to you. Now give it a few days to walk away from it. When you come back, ask yourself what do all of these things have in common? What am I naturally drawn to without even thinking too hard about it? Chances are that’s going to give you a really good place to start.

3. Go your own way, but don’t go it alone Don’t be afraid to do something different from everything else that’s out there at the time. Stay away from questions like “what am I supposed to do? what’s everyone else doing?” Because if they’ve already done it, then it’s already been done! And the last thing you want is to box yourself in just looking like everyone else. Be willing to be the purple cow in a sea of brown ones. It’s scary to be different. It’s scary to step out. But there are rewards for those who are willing to do just that! At the same time, bring along people who are really good at making you look better. Just like we all say that just because a friend has a camera and can shoot your wedding, it doesn’t mean they should! Well in the same way, just because you can use photo shop & make a logo, it doesn’t mean you should! Be willing to go with people who are especially gifted in the area of design. If you don’t have the budget to hire someone to do a custom design just yet, there are still some really GREAT resources out there of customizable website designs that will get you most the way there with beautiful design and functionality. But then you can still really make them your own with the customization abilities! One of our favorite resources for that, that we tell EVERYONE about, is the Tonic Site Shop (started by Jen & our other good friend Jeff Shipley) that has all of these incredible, editorial, luxury styles, so that you could really have a beautiful brand up and running in just a few days. If there’s any chance at all that you are losing inquiries because of the first impression your current brand & website are making, then there is NO time to wait on this. After all, the inquiries you are getting (or not getting!) now will shape what your bookings & calendar are for all of next year!

4. Don’t be defined by past mistakes I think a lot of times we see photographers who started with one name or brand, and because they have already invested time & money in it they have a hard time changing it or moving forward if it’s simply not working. Let go of that! Be willing to trim the fat of what’s not working & move forward in 2015 lean & mean! When we first started, we chose the name “Imagine Imaging” and it was kind of a disaster! :) We got everything from “Images Imaging, Imaging Imaging…..and my personal favorite, Imagine Imagining (that’s really deep when you think about it….just imagine imagining!) Even though we got off to a rough start, when we realized it wasn’t working we were willing to change it. Even though we had already invested in it, even though some people already knew us as that, we decided instead to let our mistakes just be these steps on the way to success. Not something that had to define us. So if you don’t love your name, logo, colors, website design business cards…whatever it is, be willing to just change it and not miss a step. While you keep sprinting toward your dream for what this business could one day be!

5. Go with a platform that will allow your brand to grow with you. When we were first getting started, things like customizable websites didn’t exist. So every time we wanted to change something, we had to hire a designer and start from scratch. And the second that the website was done, we were locked into it until the next time we hired a designer again. I can’t tell you how THANKFUL we are to now live in a world where something like Showit exists (I’ve said this before, but I think it always bears repeating….we don’t get ANYTHING for mentioning Showit & we still pay for our subscriptions just like everyone else! We just love them as a product!) And what we love the most about them is that as we grow with our brand, it can grow with us. So if you’re first getting started and you end up choosing something that doesn’t ultimately fit where you’re going, there’s nothing lost if you have a platform that can be changed and updated and made to go live in an instant. Trust me, it’s a HUGE blessing!

Happy Tuesday everyone!
M:)

  1. Jennifer

    Thank you for this great post. I cannot wait to see your new brand!

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