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9 Branding Mistakes to Avoid to 10x Your Brand Growth!

In this article, I’ll share the biggest branding mistakes to avoid if you want to grow your brand faster–using real-life stories and personal lessons that I’ve learned from nearly 15 years in branding.

Even brand strategists make branding mistakes

 

I started my career as an intern at a branding agency, where I stayed for ten years, rising to the top as Director of Brand Strategy. I’ve helped hundreds of companies build their brand and even rebranded the agency itself. Eventually, I took an in-house position as a creative director at a new company – which I ended up rebranding too. But all that knowledge and experience got put to the test in 2019, when I started this company, Liz Marie Strategy.

No matter how much I learned helping other people build their businesses and brands, it’s just not the same as when you do it for yourself. It’s so much harder when it’s your business, whether you’re working on design, brand messaging, or the actual day-to-day brand building.

So if you’re out there trying to build your business, I feel you, I’ve been there, and I’ve seen some shit.

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9 Branding Mistakes to Avoid to 10x Your Brand Growth

If a brand strategist can make mistakes when building her brand, you can too! So, listen up and learn from my hard lessons, so you don’t have to learn the hard way. 

Jump ahead:

  1. Being too broad
  2. Not taking advantage of the opportunities that are right in front of you
  3. Not aligning your business model with your customers
  4. Being too “professional”
  5. Worrying too much about what other people think
  6. Being afraid to show up with your values
  7. Not prioritizing customer experience
  8. Overthinking it
  9. Not getting help

Branding Mistake #1:  Being too broad

The first mistake I made when developing this brand was being way too broad. I started thinking I wanted to work with middle-market challenger brands (that’s pretty big-sized companies with a disrupter focus in their industry). While I liked the idea, I didn’t know that much about them – I didn’t have the data and didn’t do the research. This is contrary to everything I tell my clients!

You need to know your audience like the back of your hand. You want to be really specific, especially when you’re first starting, about who you serve… and I didn’t do that. 

Ultimately, I realized that wasn’t the right audience for me, and it isn’t who I serve today. My original idea didn’t match reality, resulting in me needing to reformat my whole business.

Lesson 1: Be super specific and get to know your audience like the back of your hand first.

Branding Mistake #2: Not taking advantage of opportunities that are right in front of you

While I was out there trying to serve bigger companies, I had plenty of smaller businesses, start-ups, solo-entrepreneurs coming my way without even trying. I started working with them, and it was great! It was super rewarding, yet I still clung to this idea of helping the big guys.

I don’t know why I was so resistant to this incredible opportunity right in front of me! It took longer than it should have to realize who I want to work with and should be serving are small business owners. 

Once I got out of my own way, it really took off from there.

Lesson 2: Pay attention to the opportunities around you!

Branding Mistake #3: Not aligning your business model with your customers

 

Branding costs anywhere from free-99 to millions of dollars–depending on your approach.

At first, working with bigger companies, I thought I would be approaching my businesses like a consultant. Everything is really custom and high-end and takes lots of time and energy when you come from an agency background. You give your clients a ton, which is great, but it’s not what small businesses need. They don’t need to spend thousands on a logo – it’s not worth their time, energy, or money!

This was a huge big ego lesson. I’d come from that corporate background where you develop an elitist attitude about branding and design. I had to let go of everything I thought I knew about serving business owners and figure out how to align what I offered and how I priced it with what my actual audience needed.

When I was doing those initial side projects, I would throw out proposals with crazy high numbers to mom and pops because I didn’t know there was another way. Then at the beginning of the pandemic, I did the opposite. I took a lot of super low-budget projects because I thought I had to. I just hadn’t figured out that sweet spot of “here is what I offer, here’s what it costs, and it’s designed just for you.”

It took me a long time to figure out my audience, what would be best for them, let go of what I thought I knew, and design packages and pricing that were better suited for them at just the right amount – while serving me as well. That way, I would never feel like I wasn’t getting my money’s worth or like I was giving everything away. It took a lot of work, but I’m there!

 

Lesson 3: Find the sweetspot between your customers’ needs, your offer, and your price!

Branding Mistake #4: Being too “professional”

 

I hate the word “professional.” It’s bullshit. I can be just as good at my job no matter what I’m wearing, what I look like, how I talk, or how I act.

Coming from a financial company and thinking I would be a consultant, I presented an identity that I thought I had to have. My initial branding was a filtered version of me. It wasn’t super authentic; it felt fake. The problem with trying so hard to be professional is that you end up being boring and generic!

It was a bit of an identity crisis to get to the point where I realized it wasn’t working for me. It didn’t feel like me, I didn’t feel good doing it, and it wasn’t going to connect with my dream client now that I knew who that was. I figured these things out hand-in-hand. The clearer I got on my ultimate client, the clearer I got on showing up as myself. Now, I’m able to bring my real personality into my brand and it makes all the difference.

 

Lesson 4: BE YOURSELF! Don’t worry about fitting into a mold that doesn’t serve you, your business, or your clients based on bullshit societal expectations.

What's your brand personality?

Check out my Brand Archetypes guide to find the right personality for your brand.

Branding Mistake #5: Worrying too much about what other people think

 

I struggled to shift my personal social media and brand into being a business owner and entrepreneur. I was afraid of what people who know me in real life would think. Are they going to get sick of this? Is this annoying? Do they not want to hear about my business? At a certain point, I just had had to say, “fuck it.” Maybe someone unfollows me, or I get bad feedback – they’re not who I am doing this for.

Letting go of worrying about what people think is a continuous process. Getting negative feedback on ads or people want to weigh on how they feel I should be running my business – you just have to disregard it. It’s not easy, and we all fall into traps sometimes, but worrying about it too much held me back from being myself and embracing my personality.

 

Lesson 5: Don’t let what others might think hold you back from being yourself in your business.

Branding Mistake #6: Being afraid to show up with your values

 

This may seem surprising as my values drive my business, but I was initially hesitant about being too upfront and vocal regarding them.

As much as I always preach and encourage brands to lead with values as it will attract and resonate with the people you want to align with, it’s still a super scary thing to do. It’s scary to be like, “this is my line in the sand if you don’t agree, I don’t care and don’t need your business.”

It was a definite fear initially: I didn’t know how it was going to be perceived. I didn’t know if I was doing it wrong. Frankly, I was afraid to mess up. It takes a minute, but it gets easier every time. I’ve found that while I can and will mess up, the more vocal I am about what I stand for, the more convicted I feel.

 

Lesson 6: lead with your values. It will attract the right people, I promise!

Branding Mistake #7: Not prioritizing customer experience

 

Whether you provide a service or a product, prioritizing customer experience is a must. 

My problem came from simply not knowing any better. It never occurred to me to think about providing my service any differently than I always had.

As I started to get clients, I began to get feedback, and it was good! They loved the work and got great results, so I didn’t stop to think about if there was a way I could be doing it better. There was never a moment or negative experience that prompted this change in me. Instead, the more I started to understand who I was working with and wanted to work with, the more I realized maybe this could be better. 

For example, many of the people I work with on the strategy side felt foggy and overwhelmed in their business. Initially, it hadn’t occurred to me that maybe the process of working with me wasn’t making that easier. How could I make them feel more clear and walk them through the service? That led me to do things like creating a dashboard and being very specific about timelines, so they always know where we’re at what to expect.

I started to get really specific about the experience I was delivering and being more empathetic with my client. I wanted to implement a workflow system, so I hired someone to help me design what I wanted the whole experience to look like. This has been a game-changer: it’s a better experience for both my clients and me! I feel that much more confident that I’m giving them their money’s worth and helping them with something, plus it’s easier for me to manage. 

 

Lesson 7: Deliberately design the customer experience that your customer needs. Ask yourself how you can make your service/product even better for them?

Branding Mistake #8: Overthinking it

 

Another mistake I’ve made (and still make all the time) was and is overthinking it. We get in our heads so much, especially when it comes to something like branding. Your story is deeply personal and meaningful, so there’s a lot of pressure for it to be perfect. 

During my rebranding, there were times when I struggled to get out of that mindset. I had to accept that sometimes you just have to put something out there and see if it works: It’s good enough, test it, and learn. Switching to that more experimental mindset has been super transformative for me. I still overthink sometimes – I get caught in that loop – but I’m also learning tricks to get out of it. 

 

Lesson 8: Don’t overthink it! Instead of obsessing over the details, put out something imperfect, test it and improve as you go.

Brand Strategist Liz Marie in a white button up shirt and jeans, smirking

Branding Mistake #9: Not getting help

 

The last mistake on this list (but not the last one I’ll ever make) is not getting help. It took me too long to realize I couldn’t do it all by myself. My personality has always been to “figure it out”. I’ll read the book, watch the youtube video, take the class, whatever it is, I got it. And I’m not knocking that. It’s great, especially when you’re first starting, and you don’t have money to hire people. But it’s also draining as fuck.

Plus, you’re not going to do as good of a job as an expert. They’re the pro, and it’s what they know.

For me, the first step of getting help was on the mental health side of things. I joined an accountability group of women business owners, which helped break me out of that overthinking cycle. Just hearing other people go through the same things I go through, getting input, etc., made a huge difference. They ended up being the ones to suggest I get help in some areas of my business.

I immediately began researching and planning what I could outsource. I got help with my systems, processes, and workflows. I got help from a business + marketing strategist. I hired a virtual assistant. They helped me get to a level and progress far quicker than I ever could’ve managed on my own. I was finally able to get out of my head and get out of my way! Now, I can focus on what I’m truly good at and not waste my time or energy on things that aren’t in my best zone of genius.

I’ve laid the foundation, and now I’m continuing to build out a team of designers, writers, editors, of people who are supporting me day in and day out so we can all be better together.

 

Lesson 9: You’ll grow faster and further if you get help from experts who know their shit – leaving you to focus on what you’re really good at.

There you have it: nine branding mistakes to avoid when building your business–and I’ve made them, so you don’t have to!

With this guidance, I hope you’re able to create an amazing brand, whether you’re doing it yourself or with experts like me. 

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There you have it: nine branding mistakes to avoid when building your business–and I’ve made them, so you don’t have to!

With this guidance, I hope you’re able to create an amazing brand, whether you’re doing it yourself or with experts like me. 

Need more guidance? Grab my free training!

If you’d like a little more help, you can check out my free training: How to Build a Powerful Brand from Scratch. It’s a three-part video training that outlines key components of building a successful brand and how to approach them on your own.