May 24, 2022
Chances are, the early days of your business were kinda scrappy. You were probably DIYing everything and scrambling to get it all done. Your main focus was on putting your offers out into the world, finding new clients, and getting things out the door on time (and done well).
Now that your business is a bit more mature, though, you’re ready to usher in a new phase — and things are happening fast. You’ve got products coming out, new partnerships developing, and a ton of content to share.
And the truth is? Your existing brand is just not cutting it. You feel like you’re using the same elements over and over again, or like you don’t have what you need to really highlight how amazing those new offers are. You have all the pieces you need — a logo, colors, fonts — so what gives??
Newsflash: Your brand’s style guide probably wasn’t created with a business of this size in mind; it was created for the business you had.
But this doesn’t mean you need to scrap it all and start over. Quite the contrary, actually. You can build your brand to reflect your business growth while still maintaining the visual standards and identity your clients or customers have come to expect.
It starts with giving your brand — and your style guide — permission to evolve.
As your business grows, so should the rules that define and govern your brand. It’s OK for things to evolve. Think of your brand like a government — the more people you have within a country, the more rules or structure you need to support everyone, right?
But no government body gets it right on the first try (or ever — maybe a government analogy was a bad idea). The same goes for your design. You can’t design one phase of your brand and have it last forever.
Design is iterative. You design the brand ➡ you use it ➡ you grow ➡ you expand the brand environment based on what you’ve cultivated ➡ the cycle repeats at every new phase.
This means that, at each phase of growth, you may be adding additional features to your brand, like a new PDF style for your course guides or a new decorative element for your social graphic templates. You may be updating the colors a bit or using a different saturation level to add more variation to your palette.
But it doesn’t mean you have to burn it all down and start over.
Whenever your business grows, it’s important to think about where you’re headed and what you will need to do to support that growth. If you want to keep your brand from taking on a life of its own, you need to get a plan together to support that growth. That starts with your style guide.
Growing your business often means adding new products and services, which means you’ll have more to design — promos, products, client experience, social media ads, marketing collateral, landing pages…the list goes on.
This is how you start to level up. The bigger your environment is, the more governance you need to define and control it. (There’s that government analogy again — sorry to all the anarchists out there reading this.)
Thinking “It’s been working for me, so I’ll just keep it how it is” isn’t going to carry you into the next phase of your business. You’re just leaving things open for interpretation, ending up with fringe groups that don’t even look like your brand — which could have been avoided if you made rules.
So… what do you do? You need to add to what you have already and start thinking about the new scenarios your brand will be in. Your style guide should be designed with anticipated growth in mind. A style guide should reflect where your business is now AND where you want it to grow in a few years so that your brand, along with your audience, can grow with it.
Wondering what it looks like when you expand your brand’s “scenarios”?
Here’s how we did this for our client, Amber Housley. We started with her brand standards, like colors and fonts. We added decorative elements like a custom icon library and floral graphics, too.
As her brand grew, we also developed logos for her sub-brands and products. With a larger brand environment defined, it was easy to create workbooks, event swag, gift boxes, and more!
Building out your brand this way makes it easier when it’s time to launch that new membership or course or product. You have all the visual elements there, your brand standards worked out, and BAM! You’re ready to create all the gorgeous assets you need to make it happen, without scrambling and settling for sub-par design.
Looking for an example of what we mean? Let’s say you’re a service-based biz adding digital products, k? You’ll need to think about what you’ll have to do differently to advertise this new branch of your biz. You’ve got to think through product design, the customer service experience (yes, that’s a part of your brand, too), product ads, and shop design. It’s more than just a website, some proposal PDFs, and social graphics!
There’s always more that goes into offering a product than creating the product itself. If it’s a physical product, you need to consider how shipping, drop shopping, labels, and packaging play into your brand environment. And for digital and physical products alike, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to create your online shop — it should be functional and a killer representation of your brand.
You can’t just focus on the visual or physical elements of your brand, either. You should also consider any place your customer interacts with your brand — like your customer service inbox, your social DMs, your reviews, your contact forms, etc. Every element of their experience needs to be considered.
Not sure where to start? Think about the bigger picture here. Ask yourself:
Don’t just think about the assets you’ll need to deliver on your promise; think about what your customer needs and position yourself to provide that to them in a unique way. And if you’re like “Huhh??!?!” keep reading — we share an example of how all this comes together down below!
We get it. You’re busy. You have projects to complete, clients to serve, and content to create. It’s really easy to just start creating assets you need because you “need them now” — but there’s one major downside to that. If you don’t grow with a strategy, your brand-building efforts will become siloed and pretty soon, you’ll have a brand that looks entirely different depending on which platform you’re on.
Bright and bold social media graphics. A neutral, minimalist site. Perky, snappy language on your proposals with longer, more professional sounding language on your About page. Packaging that looks one way and products that look another. Just think about all the different “brand Gremlins” you would create if you didn’t actually know how you wanted them to look. They might try to look “on-brand,” but they’re really not.
Our point? Don’t wing your brand building as your business grows. Leaving how things look, feel, and serve your customers to chance means that either someone else will decide your brand for you or you won’t have any clear branding at all (and TBH, we can’t tell which is worse. They’re both pretty bad).
Save yourself the headache and think about how your brand will grow as soon as you’re feeling the growth in your business, or creating a new product or service. It’ll give you stronger ideas and better products.
Let’s say you’re a small business education hub for moms. You’ve been in the online consulting space for a while now, but you’re ready to break into the world of conferences and events.
You plan your first one just like everyone else; you invite speakers, set the location, and order the catering.
It’s “fine”… but it doesn’t make a lasting impression and, when the time comes to do it again in six months, you notice your attendance list is much shorter than last time. Hmm…
Meanwhile, in an alternate universe, you’ve created the same event. You invite the speakers, set the location, and order the catering. But this time, you also send out planning checklists in advance, share templates for babysitters or family members that include meal lists, phone contacts, medication, and favorite TV shows.
You know how tough it is for moms to leave their kids and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to come.
On top of that, there’s a ten-minute break after every session for moms to call home and see how their kids are doing. You’ve also designated pumping stations throughout the venue for moms who are nursing.
After the event, you hand out swag bags with a children’s book about entrepreneurship so attendees can invite their kids into their world and share a meaningful experience with them when they come home.
Do you see the difference? The first situation didn’t do much for the customer experience — it didn’t really honor moms or their needs at all. It wasn’t really focused on serving its target audience (moms who own a small business) very well. In fact, it was MUCH HARDER for the target audience to continue to access and interact with that brand, so they checked out.
But in the second universe, the focus was on the target audience the entire time, from registration to when those moms got back home. This made it much easier and more accessible for them to attend, and because of that, they’re coming back again next year.
Do you see what we mean about thinking about your brand as an experience, rather than just visuals, as you grow? New offers mean new opportunities to show how much you know your audience — and they’ll feel seen, represented, and reflected. All of that = brand loyalty and more growth for your business.
So… are you ready to let your brand evolve yet?
If you’re realizing your business has grown exponentially and you’re ready to juice up your overall brand to make it more of an experience, we want to help.
With our Style Guide services, we’ll help you create the robust, unique brand that will help you unlock totally new levels in your biz (or meet you at the levels you’ve already unlocked). When you work with us to design your Style Guide, you also get:
A client persona summary to serve as your guidepost, ensuring all decisions resonate with your audience.
A mood board that provides all the “vibes” of your brand and guides all your design decision-making.
Logo and guidelines on how to use your brand and maintain its integrity.
Brand colors and ideal color combinations so you’re never stuck worrying about what looks best together.
Brand fonts, type styles, and type combinations so you can easily plug and play your message into tried-and-true designs.
Graphic styles (like icons, shops, patterns, and textures) so you have design elements that can easily be employed across your brand.
Photography styles to ensure your style and values are showcased through imagery.
Practical guidelines for using and combining all of these elements together effortlessly so you can feel empowered to execute your branding every day
A jam-packed folder of brand graphics in web, print, and editable file formats so you never have to rely on a designer to bring simple ideas to life.
Tutorials to show you how to make the most of your design elements.
3- and 6-month check-ins to make sure your final files and style guide are supporting you fully.
A brand launch guide to get the ball rolling and actually show off your new brand. We’ll show you how to transition to your new look.
Ready to have a brand that can actually grow with your business? We want that for you, too.
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