“Cha Ching,” my phone sang.
Was that what I thought it was . . . my first sale?!? I vividly remember the thrill and excitement I felt that evening. I basked in hugs from my husband and kids, texted my close friends and family, and uncorked the champagne (well, sparkling Moscato actually; it was only a $12 sale after all).
Fast forward one year ahead when the profit from my sales was about half my full-time income, and I was equally thrilled and excited at the idea of quitting my day job to pursue my business full time. I couldn’t wait to be able to choose the way I dedicated my work hours, to have creative freedom, to balance my work schedule with my home life however I saw fit, to be directly responsible for my earnings . . . my list could go on and on. The entrepreneurial allure was holy grail level for me.
Once I gave my three weeks’ notice (which my former boss and now blog partner masterfully managed to extend into three months’ notice), I was officially on cloud nine.
Fast forward once again to my first day “unemployed” and me staring at my computer screen. I had so many new designs I was looking forward to creating and so many ideas for new products. My mouse and my keyboard and I forged ahead at full speed.
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Up until that point, I had spent the entirety of my career in marketing communications. I studied organizational communications and marketing for my undergrad and graduate degrees, I taught college public relations courses, and I worked for almost 15 years in the corporate world as an important contributor of a national, billion-dollar brand.
The first item on my new business to-do list – in bold print – should have been to create a marketing plan.
In reality, that’s not even close to what happened. Why? In writing this all down, I actually needed a couple minutes to decide exactly why, and I think it’s the more immediate sense of urgency you get when your business is responsible for your livelihood. You want to focus on the areas of your company that are as tangible as your mortgage payments . . . and groceries . . . and kids’ back-to-school clothes. I effectually went into survival mode. Efforts producing and sustaining immediate profits were crucial while time for endeavors reaping long-term dividends felt like a luxury.
Don’t get me wrong. I had put in place certain basic brand fundamentals from the beginning. Long before my first sale, I had decided on a name and colors, secured a web site address, and created a logo. I even had a pretty clear sense of the qualities that would differentiate my company from others. However, the idea of taking my brand basics and then creating and executing a blueprint for building a strong and successful brand WHILE running my business was completely and utterly overwhelming to me.
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Well, as they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Once my survival instinct numbed a bit, I decided to take one single step. I addressed one new activity per week. Since I still had very little “free time” in my business AND had no real marketing plan, I didn’t give myself any constraints on the duration or direction of my efforts; just the quantity – I just needed to do one brand building task per week.
So one week, I created an Instagram account for my business; another, I researched local venues to get my brand name out in my community; still another, I researched blogs that I could partner with to promote my brand, etc., etc., etc. In essence, I did what I could/when I could, knowing that as long as these activities reflected my brand basics, my business would reap long-term benefits.
Over time, I mastered my one-a-week goal, and I built on that momentum – once a week, I now had to do one maintenance branding task (writing a blog posting, attending a local “expo/show,” posting content on my social media platforms, etc.) in addition to my one brand building task (researching, expanding into new venues/platforms, etc.).
If this is starting to sound like a lot, take a breath. There’s no need to get bogged down with specifics at this point. We’ll cover them all as we go, and we’ll help you get your system into place. We’ll focus on the areas we think are most beneficial to start with first, and we’ll teach you how to execute those initial steps; then, we’ll focus on building that brand – one task at a time. Soon, you’ll find that your successes will justify the time you invest, making the process much easier.
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Next up – What’s in a Name? . . . The first in a series focusing on the initial steps in building your brand.