Just like any building, a successful brand is built on strong foundations. You cannot expect your brand to take off without first having stable foundations in place. This brand foundation works to support your vision and value, keeping both the internal and external aspects of your brand in place and cohesive.
Of course, just like any building, the foundations are not the sexiest part of the design but hopefully this guide can make it seem like a less scary process.
Step 1: Setting up your brand foundation
Your brand isn't just your logo and the colours you’ve chosen to use. It’s about having clarity on who you help, why you want to help these people, what you do to help them, and how you help them. To build a more compelling brand foundation you need to be able to answer these questions confidently.
Question 1: Who do you help?
Be immediately clear who 'who' is. Don't try and serve too many different customers. That doesn't work. When you cast your net too wide it becomes hard for people to see you as the expert they need to hire to solve their problem. People want to know definitively that YOU are the answer they’ve been looking for.
Hot Tip: Try to narrow down your audience to just one specific type of client. It may feel limiting at first but trust us, the more focused you can get on who you help, the easier it will be to get more paying clients.
In order to stop casting a wide net and to attract more of your ideal customers, narrow down your niche. This gives you a specific type of client to attract. One that you know needs your services.
Question 2: Why do you help these people?
Think about the 'why' question in two ways:
🔸 Why does your business exist? (this is your mission statement)
🔸 Why would someone choose your business over another? (this is your unique selling point)
On your website make sure there is a crystal clear ‘why’ being shared. Don't add generic or surface level statements. Be sure to dig deeper and personalise your message to your specific niche.
For example, our 'why' could be that we want to help people in the marketing industry be better. But this is so broad and encompasses too large a niche within the industry that we wouldn’t actually attract long term customers because there’s no focus. Even though it may sound like a nice ‘why’, it is ineffective in captivating your audience and getting them to even consider trying your product (let alone converting them into long term users). Our ‘why’ could instead be that we want to help marketers who are stuck on business growth to optimise their growth marketing strategies.
By thinking about your target audience and what your purpose is, you can make your mission about being the facilitator of what your target niche wants. If you know they have a particular need, aligning with that need makes you a compelling collaborator. In addition to those questions, also consider why does your business exist? Why would someone choose your business over another?
Question 3: What benefits does your business provide?
Most people get this question wrong by listing out all the features they offer. The better version of the question at this point is: What specific outcome is your business providing your customer? The “helps you be better” line from earlier doesn't actually mean a lot. What does this mean if you think about it from the customer's perspective? How can you put that in terms that are way more tangible and specific?
Hot Tip: Paint the picture of the life you want your customers to have after they hire you. What, specifically, will happen in their lives that your product/service is going to provide them?
Remember, to really grab their attention, you need to be clearer, more compelling and attention grabbing. This can only happen with specificity.
I know this may be what it feels like right now reading this. The last thing I want to do is make this guide feel like high school math class! Trust me, take it step by step and it won't be so daunting.
Question 4: How do you help people?
This question is focused on how you deliver the benefit you’re promising. It's your offering.
On your website you may have a bundle of different ways of delivering the benefit. You have to keep in mind that the more pathways you offer to get to the destination, the more confusing and broad your brand becomes. Having this variety on your website might seem appealing but to your potential client it's just too many options that reduce the value of your expertise. Instead, focus on one point and do it better than anyone else.
Each time you reduce your how, think about whether you can reduce it more. This is hard because you may feel like you’re missing out on potential clients. You may have the thought that having many alternatives will provide greater value but this is more likely to not be the case than it is the case.
Hot Tip: Your potential client shouldn't have to fill in the blanks of exactly what you can do to help them. They are searching for an answer to a specific problem, so make sure what you do is the answer they’re looking for and display it clearly.
To Recap: You need to answer the following questions:
- Who is your niche?
- Why is this your niche?
- What do you do to benefit this niche?
- How do you offer this benefit to your niche?
The answers to these four questions now clearly define your brand foundation and they give you some clear points to move forward with. We can now use this information to go through the next four steps.
Answer those questions and document these answers. You’ll want to have them handy for not only the next 4 steps but while you’re developing and enhancing your business. They will act as the bedrocks of your brand’s identity.
Step 2: Product or Service Offering
Your product is your 'how' from step 1. It’s the thing you do that people can pay you for.
Where people get most tripped up is the actual launch. While your initial product/service needs to be in optimal shape (because first impressions matter incredibly), it is impossible for your product/service to be perfect from the start because you can only perfect it with user feedback.
One of the questions that you always have to keep in mind is: Does your product have too many options? Sometimes, companies have 6 or 7 different options in a drop down box. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this and you may actually be able to offer and execute all of these options, but when you have no refinement you also lose your expertise and your potential customers may opt for another option.
With the refinement you will make anyway when you have answered your 4 questions in step 1, you may find you don't need to offer everything that you have. Make sure to cut out any additional and indirectly connected offerings you have that don't directly and necessarily impact your mission and their needs.
We recommend having one singular overview page of your services so a potential client can quickly understand what you offer upon first glance.
Hot Tip: Dropdown menus in navigation aren't the friendliest experience on mobile. Your website is likely to get 50% of its traffic from a mobile device which is also why we highly recommend a single services page. Here are 3 ways to make it more friendly:
🔸 Create a services page and streamline your offerings to lead into one another if possible
For example, you could create 3 simple packages for online course creators. These packages could be closely related which would allow a natural up-sell between them (epic move if you ask us). After streamlining your offerings, use a phrase like “starting investment” listed next to your packages. This starting price will help weed out the customers who can't afford to work with you.
🔸 Put yourself in your customer's shoes and go through your purchasing process
When you do this you can recognise any flaws or big asks that are a part of your purchase process. For example, if a discovery call is a part of your purchasing process, it is important to realise that while someone may be interested in working with you a discovery call may not be something they want to pursue with you or commit to spending the time doing. Try take out or reduce any points of friction that is slowing down the flow of new inquiries.
🔸 Reduce friction as much as humanly possible to increase conversions
Add a simple contact form to the bottom of the services page. If people aren't ready to hop on a discovery call but have a question they need answered before becoming a customer, this makes that process easy for THEM.
Hot Tip: Reduce friction as much as possible to take the next step. Instead of a discovery call as the only option, try a contact form right next to the services page.
To Recap: Streamline your offering(s) as much as you possibly can. Consider creating one services page and put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Consider these questions:
- Is their ability to start working with you frictionless?
- Could you give them an option to contact you if they’re not quite ready to buy or just have questions?
Make sure your offering is clear, focuses on the specific needs of your ideal customer, and doesn't require too much effort on their part to make a decision.
Take a look at your current services/products page. Do you currently have too many options that might be causing analysis paralysis? Simplify your offerings into ONE page and make them extremely specific for your ideal customers problems.
Step 3: Marketing Bridges & Customer Acquisition
What is the marketing bridge to get someone to buy your product or service?
Spending 95% of your time creating your offer and 5% of the time promoting our offering will set you up to fail. This is why so many client-based business owners have trouble getting consistent clients. All their time is spent doing the work, and not enough time is spent on creating marketing bridges. Marketing bridges are what allow people hanging out on social media, searching through google, reading blogs, listening to podcasts and so forth to discover your business. A marketing bridge's job is to lead people on a journey from stranger to customer.
One example of a marketing bridge could look like this:
This is called lead magnet marketing bridge and when done right you give a tonne of value. In the lead magnet itself, you can build trust and authority with your potential clients. If you can create custom-tailored lead magnets on different parts of your site, that's a bonus!
Don't only use pop-ups on your website. If a website visitor uses a pop-up blocker or closes the pop-up quickly you don't have a lead magnet (or email sign up form) they may never find your marketing bridge! So, don't be afraid to experiment with multiple marketing bridges on your site! Having one good marketing bridge especially for your more cold/passive potential customers is important. But, there's no reason not to try multiple marketing bridges and see which one converts the highest.
Hot Tip: Too often, client based biz owners want to create a “set it and forget it” marketing bridge only to realise they’d land way more clients if they used a more high-touch bridge. If you aren't getting clients right now give a more direct connection as a marketing bridge a try and see how it goes.
To Recap: To make the most of your marketing bridges and have a high-converting customer journey you need to:
🔸Create a specific, compelling lead magnet and make it easy for someone to sign up;
🔸Add a intermediary step before a discovery call to deliver value to warm leads and,
🔸Make sure any email signup forms you use are not just in pop-ups.
If you don't have a marketing bridge in place at all right now you need one. If you currently have a marketing bridge but it isn't helping get you more clients, consider trying a new marketing bridge (maybe a high-touch one).
Step 4: Content Strategy & Audience Building
When it comes to getting more paying clients, they aren’t going to appear out of nowhere AND not every person that visits your website is going to pay you money right away. This probably isn't breaking news to you.
Try this 3 step approach to building an audience. Yes, it comes in the form of a salad metaphor...
Build the right audience through foundation articles, a consistent email newsletter, and social media content. One of the most important things you can do for your business is to send out a consistent helpful email newsletter.
When it comes to social media, give value where people are and create a cohesive branded experience. You shouldn't only use it to promote something on your website or app but to provide value within each post. Creating brand consistency would help your posts stand out in people's feeds and build recognisability
Hot Tip: Don't simply create a post with the title of an article you recently wrote. Pluck out one amazing nugget that could help someone if they saw that post in their feed, then write in the caption that they can read the full post on your website (link in the bio style).
To Recap: Get way more specific about target audience, streamline service packages, and adjust lead strategy and marketing bridge to book more discovery calls. Think of building an audience like building a salad. The key to constructing a salad you actually want to eat and an audience that actually grows is assembling things in the right order.
🔸 You start the lettuce (foundation articles);
🔸 You add the fixin's (email newsletter) and,
🔸 Then you pour on your dressing (social media).
Your audience is not going to build itself. Focus less on perfection and more on consistency. Make sure you have 8-10 foundational articles. Start sending out a helpful weekly newsletter. Then create a consistent promotion schedule on the social platform that makes the most sense for you and your ideal customer.
Step 5: Website Evaluation (with Homepage & Services Page Re-designs)
There are two exercises you can use to evaluate a website’s homepage and ensure its doing its job:
Home Page Exercise #1: The 4 Q’s clarity test
Right off the bat, within 30 seconds or less, your website's homepage needs to answer four simple questions your ideal customer is thinking (yes, we’re going to help you read minds). The four questions your homepage needs to answer right away:
- What do you do?
- Are you for me?
- How can you help me?
- What’s my next step?
How you approach answering these questions leads us into the second website evaluation exercise!
Home Page Exercise #2: APSOSA Framework
- Audience (who are they?)
- Problem (what is the problem they have?)
- Solution (how does your offering solve the problem?)
- Outcome: (what is the outcome they’ll have)
- Sauce (what is your differentiator?)
- Action (what should they do next?)
Writing out these answers assists you in answering the four (mind-reading) questions. The next step is to take the APSOSA and 4 Q’s answers and fit them into a journey a customer can take on a website's home page. Things like bold headlines, section headers, callouts, and so forth become the perfect places to use these answers! Your homepage should feel a lot more inviting. It feels more friendly and moves visitors' eyes down the page rather than needing to read long bits of copy. Moat importantly, it should align with your brand personality. While design and branding are an important part of the website evaluation process, if you aren't answering questions your ideal audience is thinking, you’re going to have a beautiful website that does nothing for you.
Go through the 4 Q’s clarity test and APSOSA framework for your home page right now! Do you pass the 4 Q’s test? Does your home page hit all aspects of Apsosa?
Right, let's wrap this up! We made it to the finish line, friends! And, while we know this guide touched on a tonne of elements, it's just one piece of the bigger online business puzzle. Running your own business gives you a lot of freedom but it can also be incredibly overwhelming. Our hope with this is that we’ve removed a big chunk of that overwhelm and given you a tonne of actionable things you can do in your business RIGHT NOW.