Friday, January 21, 2011

EB Friday Hotlist: Rethinking Your Handmade Business' Brand in 2011

Topics about branding have been popping up again all over the web, including in the Etsy Blog, over the past couple of months.  When the year starts winding down or the new year starts gearing up, people tend to reevaluate their goals and decide where they want to move next.  While it's certainly true that this type of reflection can happen at any point during the year, the start of a new year for many people can feel like a new beginning - a fresh, clean slate.  In light of this, here are a few questions you should be asking yourself about your business:

Goal Setting
Photo by Angie Torres
Used under Creative Commons License

1. What were my goals last year and how well did I meet them?  Were these realistic goals, or perhaps were they either overly ambitious or not ambitious enough?
2. What are my goals for the new year?  Where do I want my shop to be in 3 months?  6 months?  12 months?  How do I plan to go about achieving those goals?  If I'm not sure, how will I decide on the best approach to try?
3. Where do I see my business in the long term?  2 years from now?  5 years from now?  Do my goals for the next year help me move forward towards my long term goals?

In order to really answer these questions, you need to keep your brand in mind.  If you can't clearly articulate your brand in a few short sentences, it's time to stop and really think about what exactly you're attempting to accomplish.  Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to define your brand:

1. What am I selling? 
2. What need does this product fill and for whom?
3. What makes my product unique from the others on the market?

Those last two questions are really part of a larger question: Why should someone buy what I'm selling?  Once you've figured out the answers, you can start branding your shop.  You want to make sure that your business, from the shop front to the final package in the customer's hands, reflects the answers to those three basic questions.  If you're able to consistently fill a need with your product and you are somehow distinctive from other people selling things to meet that same need, you've got a unique selling proposition (USP).  Your goal at that point is to share your USP with your target market.  Everything from your packaging, to your communication with customers, to your shop's graphics should be a reflection of your USP.

#12 - Goals
Photo by John O'Nolan
Used under Creative Commons License

Perhaps your goal for 2011 should be developing your USP and figuring out your branding.  Perhaps you should be tweaking your branding or focusing on new ways to reach your target market.  Maybe it's time to make the tough decision to separate items into two shops that simply can't be effectively branded in the same shop.  Or maybe it's time to focus on the visual - making your shop graphics and product photos tell a coherent, attractive story.  Whatever your goals for 2011, be sure to keep your brand and USP in mind, so that any changes you make are in sync with the needs of your target market.

Suggested Reading:

Etsy Blog: Shop Makeover: Creating a Brand Identity for Your Shop - Article in the Storque about defining your brand, complete with a USP worksheet and tips for how to make your brand consistent at every point of the sale (before, during, after).

The Bookshop Blog: Bookshop Branding - Your Store Is Not Your Own - Article for B&M booksellers, but when taken as a metaphor, it works beautifully for online sellers as well.  For example, when he talks about the backdrop (paint, shelving, etc.), think shop banner, avatar, color scheme, photo props, etc.

Brand Studio: 6 Tips for Branding Your Business Freebies - Great ideas that can be adapted and applied to online businesses.  As the title suggests, this article is specifically about extending your branding to your freebies, i.e. business cards, magnets, pens, discount cards, etc.

Until next time,