Growth is often associated with “new” features and more additions to one’s business. If we are not adding one more thing to our arsenal, our brands are not growing. This mindset could not be farther from the truth. For digital brands, numerous factors influence brand growth. Personally, I believe high-quality content and innovation are essential components of any successful brand. You might find yourself with an original idea, but the results are not where you want them. That’s how I felt before I started my brand audit.
Instead of trying to add something new to my business model, I realized that I need to improve what I had already built. This process is not easy. The material results are widely unnoticed to the outside visitor; they are not as new and extravagant as a new product launch or a blog design. But, the brand audit results are something more significant – brand and business growth.
Before I Started My Brand Audit + Context
From March 2014 through June 2015, I ran my freelance career pretty successfully, generating a consistent income from providing blog and web design services. I continually generated business based off of referrals, largely based in Chicago. After over a year of working almost extensively in Chicago, I knew I had to branch out (there are only so many Chicago blogs). In order to do this, I focused on promoting myself through blogging, social media, and starting my email newsletter. You might find yourself in a different situation. That’s okay! Auditing your brand regardless of where you are is necessary if you want to see more growth.
Building a Better Brand
Whether you like it or not, you’ve already established your brand. I know, those past posts are painful. If it is not as successful as you want it to be, that’s okay. When you start over, you run the risk of losing those who’ve bought into your brand from the beginning (even if it is very few). Starting over also demonstrates a carelessness for your current followers; they’ve invested their time in you. If you are building a better brand, you acknowledge that you are improving what you’ve currently established. Most people tend to respond positively to others who are trying to improve. Restarted or rebranding without a purpose shows that you are not confident in what you are providing and that you lack clarity and direction – audience turn-offs.
Providing Meaningful Content
In August, I wrote this post on how my purpose helped my blog traffic see exponential growth in 3 months. Since then, my average traffic has doubled (where I now see approximately 6000-7000 page views a week); so, my traffic is evidence that the content I provide is valuable. But what I find both surprising is people (who I know) remark that they found the blog extremely helpful. It reaffirms that the content I’m providing is valuable to my intended audience.
Meaningful content has different forms. A large portion of my content tends to offer information on how to do certain things, but a particular element is for inspiration. Whether selling a product, service, or blog post, your content needs to provide value to your audience. Through auditing my content, I found that I could provide valuable information that would not only help my clients but other visitors who weren’t customers. This content could also function as a way for people to buy into the White Oak Creative brand.
In May 2015 (6 months ago), if you would have told me that I would be hiring people to work for me in 2016, I would have laughed at you. In fact, I didn’t even fathom hiring someone when I initially started down this career path. Through the audit process, I’ve seen my business grow financially. As I plan for 2016, growing my team will be the next very real stage of my business. I did not add any new products to my business; I did not start anything new. I focused on marketing myself to a larger audience through meaningful content, and my business subsequently grew. To read more about the process, check out my monthly business reports.
Timeline + Limitations
As I mentioned above, the audit process is long. In order to improve what I’m doing, I had to carefully plan, edit, and revise all of the components of my brand. From updating my client communication and materials to setting a clear blogging schedule, it took time. I’m still finishing up components of the audit – my portfolio is the last stage of it. Even if it is just one thing a month, each stage of the audit helped me build a better brand; each stage is a step forward.
When auditing my brand, it was very easy to find things that I could add. Sometimes, I would want to add those features right away. However, if the audit taught me anything, it was to avoid the mistakes of the past – launching before I was ready, not fully establishing and working out ideas, and adding things to my to-do list without having the time needed. Whenever I had a new idea of something I wanted to add to my brand, I asked myself the following questions:
- How does this component align with my large goals? If it doesn’t align, it was automatically ruled out.
- What do I need to do to add this component to my brand? Do I have the time and energy right now to add it?
Improving what I already established took priority. These new components would come after the audit. Subsequently, I would invest more time in thinking about these new components before I launched. Then, these ideas became more thought-out and better executed.
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