Ready to bring more substance and intention into your service-based business? Follow this easy-to-implement brand strategy template to create a brand foundation that’s grounded in connection and meaning.
Do you often find yourself thinking, “My brand just doesn’t feel right… but I can’t quite figure out why?”
Say hello to one of my absolute favorite topics: brand strategy.
Brand strategy is an often-ambiguous idea in the creative entrepreneur space that has a million and one meanings and assumptions.
I know when I first started my home renovation blog back in 2016, my initial thought was that brand strategy was only reserved for large companies and organizations that had the resources to create and implement a big, grandiose plan. It sounded like something that was a lot of effort and didn’t really apply to me and the work that I was doing.
But here’s the thing – brand strategy isn’t just for the Targets and Apples of the world. In fact, I believe it’s a necessity for EVERY business that might have an even bigger impact on the marketing efforts of freelancers, service-based businesses and creative entrepreneurs.
Because a brand strategy helps you align all of your brand’s elements – everything from your messaging to logo to marketing channel selection.
And with limited resources, if those elements aren’t all rowing in the same direction, you’re a lot more likely to confuse your audience.
Spoiler alert: a confused audience can not and will not connect with your brand.
Which brings us full circle to the importance of having a brand strategy for your business. And you’re in luck because this post will walk you through an easy-to-implement brand strategy template that will help you create an aligned brand experience.
Let’s dive in!
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What is brand strategy?
Your brand is the perception of your business – how people think, feel and act – which makes a brand strategy the plan for communicating that perception.
Think of it as the roadmap for building and growing your brand, consistently and cohesively.
The goal of a brand strategy is to help shape the perception of your intended audience (ideal client) about what your business means to them and the experience that it will offer.
Sounds important, right?
Well, that’s ‘cause it is.
I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that when you invest energy, resources and time into your brand’s strategy, the rest of the business building/growing/pivoting is so much easier and more enjoyable.
Why strategic branding matters
Let’s say you decide to go on a road trip. You load your car up with the essentials – good snacks, a roadtrip playlist, a podcast series, drinks and comfy clothes. You start up your car and start to head out. Except, you’re missing one giant necessity – you forgot the map (or in today’s world, you haven’t downloaded Google Maps). You don’t know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there.
In case you’re not clear on the analogy yet, your business’s brand strategy is the map. Your visual brand is the snacks, playlists, comfy clothes and drinks. Both are needed to make a road trip more enjoyable and effective. But without the roadmap to get you from A to B, you’ll end up driving around aimlessly, without any destination in mind.
Makes sense, right?
The problem though, is that brand strategy is all behind-the-scenes work that can be heavy and hard to really nail down. And unlike a logo or color palette, it’s not something that you will necessarily show off on a regular basis.
That new logo and color palette? The way you engage with your community on social and the captions that you share? They’re all created and guided by the brand strategy.
So while your brand’s strategy isn’t shared outright, it does influence every single externally-facing brand element that your audience and community WILL see. It’s the heart and soul behind your business, allowing you to stay focused and aligned on your business journey.
The 5 part brand strategy template
There are a million and one elements that can go into a brand’s strategy. And when you work with a professional brand strategist, you’ll receive a strategy that’s 100 percent customized to you and your business.
But, you don’t have to hire a pro to create a strategic brand that’s supportive for your business. After almost six years of working with clients on their branding, there are five parts of a brand strategy that have become must-haves because they offer the most support and guidance for brand communication. Each part contributes to the next, resulting in an intentional and strategic plan for communicating your brand consistently and cohesively.
This template works best for service-based businesses, creative entrepreneurs and consultants; essentially brands that are selling an expertise or done-for-you service.
Part one: Core identity
I’m going to assume that, as a purpose-driven business owner, there’s some part of your brand that exists for something greater than making money/profit. The core identity is that something greater and its comprised of:
- Purpose statement – the overarching reason your brand and business exists
- Mission statement – the overarching theme that guides your daily commitments and actions, so that your vision can be achieved
- Vision statement – where you want to go as a business and brand
- Core beliefs – your sacred truths as a brand and business and reflect how you see the world as well as the space you operate within
- Core values – the specific ideas that guide your business decisions and let your audience know what you stand for as a brand
Part two: Ideal client persona
Your ideal client persona or buyer persona is a summary of the type of person that you would like to work with again and again; it’s the person who is a great fit for your brand and can be based on past clients, current clients or someone you have yet to work with.
- Internal challenges – the intangible stories that play out internally
- External challenges – the tangible struggles that can be seen and more clearly addressed
- Values – the ideas that guide their decisions and what they find most important in life
- Fears and desires – the before and after state they’re living within
- Version of success – summarizes what they’re truly wanting, as it relates to the core challenges they’re facing and the work that your business provides
Part three: Positioning
According to the Branding Journal, brand positioning describes how a brand is different from its competitors and where, or how, it sits in the customers’ minds. In other words, it’s how you want your customer to think about your brand in relation to others in the same space.
- Competitor research – analysis that helps you identify businesses who operate in the same space, category, industry and/or niche so you can define your competitive edge
- Differentiator – singular statement that summarizes what makes your brand and your work unique
- Positioning statement – defines where specifically your brand will sit in the community’s mind
- Known for – summary of the main idea that your brand and business represents, especially in the minds of your community
- Perception – how you want people to understand your business and the awareness they have about your brand
Part four: Personality
Your brand personality includes the characteristics that influence the thoughts, feelings and actions someone has for a business. A distinct brand personality gives your audience something to connect with.
- Season – a characterization of your brand’s external visual characteristics based on color psychology and seasonal theory
- Experience – summarizes how you want your audience and community to think, feel and act when they engage with your brand
- Adjectives – the top descriptor words you want associated with your brand
- Attribute – the number one descriptor word that your brand experience should embody
- Tone of voice – the intentional way your brand communicates with its community and audience
- Engagement style – the intentional way your brand engages with its community and audience
- Words and phrases – a bank of common words and phrases that align with and embody your brand’s tone of voice and engagement style
Part five: Messaging
Your brand’s message is the overarching thread or theme that is woven into every communication piece shared on behalf of your brand.
- Core message – common thread statement that is woven into every piece of communication put out into the world on behalf of the brand
- Message pillars – 3 to 5 overarching categories that are aligned with your core message
- Brand promise – the experience a client can expect to receive every time they interact with your brand
- Problem, solution and result – a summary of the transformation that a client can expect to go on because of the work and value that your brand has to offer
- Narrative shift(s) – the changes that your brand inspires because of your brand’s communication efforts
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Building an effective brand strategy for your business
The most common question that I see and/or get is, ‘But how do I even get started?’
It’s one thing to know what goes into a brand’s strategy and another to actually put one together for your business. It can feel daunting – after all, didn’t I just go on about how important it is to have one. So, what if you get it wrong?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
It’s very likely that you will get something ‘wrong’. Wrong in the sense that you’ll need to adjust, update and/or make a slight pivot from the original plan.
So often, the fear of getting it ‘wrong’ is what stops us from getting started in the first place. But here’s what I know to be true: Brand clarity comes from action.
The whole point of creating a brand strategy is for you to have a solid foundation to build upon as you move forward in your business journey. Not a stagnant plan that’s set in stone but a starting point that guides your next right step.
Think about the brand strategy as a working document rather than a finalized roadmap.
Even with a little pressure off, I know it can still feel overwhelming to get started. Which is why I’ve boiled down the creation process into five easy-to-follow steps (five and five, easy to remember, right?).
Step one: Extract
Set aside time to get what’s in your head out onto the proverbial paper.
Step two: Research
Conduct market research with past and/or potential clients.
Step three: Compile
Pull together the market research and information from the brand dump into the template so you can see all the info together.
Step four: Refine
Comb through everything you have and pull out the most interesting, appealing and/or relevant to your business goals; finalize the brand strategy template.
Step five: Validate
The point of having a brand strategy is to guide communication so get out there and communicate your brand.
How to put your brand’s strategy into practice – validating what you’ve created
Often times, we can put so much work into something and then the fear gremlins creep in and tell us it’s not ready to be shared.
Let’s circle back to the entire purpose of a brand strategy – to help shape the perception of your ideal client. And my philosophy on brand – brand clarity comes from action.
With those two ideas in mind, the next right step is to get out there and communicate your brand. You’re validating what you’ve put onto paper and the only way to do that is to take action.
Unfortunately, this is where the catch-22 of brand-building comes into play.
The story in your head may tell you that it’s not time. The positioning needs further refining. The ideal client challenges aren’t clear enough. The purpose statement doesn’t feel impactful enough… And on and on and on.
But, you will not get answers to those unknowns until you get out there and get visible.
Mindset work is real, my friends. And if you’re going down the rabbit hole of feeling like you’re not ready, I am sending you all the confidence and gentle nudges to just go for it. Because the worst that can happen is your strategy isn’t resonating – so you go back to step one and start the process over again. And the best that can happen is you’ve completely nailed it and you’re creating meaningful connections with your right audience.
Win-freaking-win in my book.
And, if you’re looking for a few tangible ways to put your strategy into practice, don’t worry, I’ve got you.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you’re creating – whether it’s something for your website, social or email, these questions are a great litmus test to ensure you’re staying aligned with your strategy.
- Is this aligned with who my brand is for?
- Is this aligned with what I’m offering?
- Is this aligned with why I believe the work matters in the first place?
- Is this aligned with how I want people to feel when they experience my brand?
Ideally, the answer to all of those questions is a resounding yes. However, there will be instances when what you’re creating isn’t aligned with all four and that’s perfectly okay. Because yes, sometimes you just need to share your dog or that really cool travel destination. And that, my friends, is the beauty of being the owner of your business. You get to make those decisions. But the difference is that you’re intentionally making the choice, rather than flippantly posting this and that because you’re not sure what else to say.
And with that, happy branding 🙂
All my best,