Alicia Caine

5 Major Branding Mistakes that 98.9% of Entrepreneurs Make

#1- They don’t understand branding

It’s easy to make major branding mistakes when you don’t really understand what branding IS. With an “I’ll get to this once I’m successful and can afford a designer” attitude, most entrepreneurs have little to no understanding of what branding is capable of accomplishing (or hurting). They reduce branding to a recognized logo and color scheme on a web-site, but branding is so much more than that. What ends up happening is that their marketplace creates their brand FOR them based on the feelings they get from the business.

Whether you think you have a brand or not, you do. And if you don’t intentionally define it yourself, everyone else will do it for you….and trust me, they will screw it up. The longer you wait to learn how to define your brand, the longer your brand reputation is being screwed up.

#2-They settle for “good enough for now” with their brand

First impressions are usually ONLY impressions, but most entrepreneurs will wait to establish that strong first impression until they feel successful enough and ready to pay someone to help them polish it up.

If someone feels disconnected from your brand now, even if you change it in the future- that first impression will still be there and you can’t take that back. Once trust is lost, it’s even harder to gain back. If your brand feels unprofessional, flaky, disconnected or scattered….your audience is going to feel the same way about you. Most people do not change who they are. Even if the visual identity of your brand changes, don’t expect that your audience will assume that you are a better human being now as well.

#3- They hire a designer to create their branding 

“Your brand is a story, a set of emotions and expectations
and a stand-in for how we think and feel about what you do.”
– Seth Godin

Your brand is the feeling generated from the combination of your purpose, your shared core values, your niche specialization, your products and services, the value you deliver, your content, your customer experience, your price, your quality, your signature style, and your reputation.

You can have a designer create your visual identity that best represents your already defined brand story, but they cannot create the story for you. Only you can define your brand because you know all the pieces of your brand story. You can pay thousands and thousands of dollars to a branding agency to define your brand for you, but you still have to bring all the pieces of your brand to them and even then, you still won’t walk away with a visual identity.

#4- They have a forgettable business name

Bernadette Jiwa says “If nobody can find an objection to the brand name you choose, then you’ve probably got the wrong name. This kind of brand naming architecture often happens by committee, which means you end up with something that will be forgotten. Your name should polarize people, spark their interest and make them want to get to know more about what you do.”

I learned this lesson a painful way. I started my coaching business with an ebook, Easy as Pie Pricing. Because I couldn’t get, I went with a playful domain name to go with the pie theme: Once I realized that I actually had a business, not just a side hustle with Easy as Pie, Served Up Fresh became my business name as I added other ebooks and courses.

When I signed a book deal to have my pricing information published and Easy as Pie was no longer a part of my business, my Served Up Fresh brand name had literally no significance or fond connection with anyone.

I had to start all over.

After doing research on my past clients and their desire for profit with their business, I made the decision to change my business name to Profit First Photography. After I announced the name change, I received a massive amount of emails from my audience expressing how much they HATED my new name and my email unsubscribe rate was jaw dropping. After years of saying that they loved me, my audience now felt that my values had changed to a greedy, money-grubbing, snob. Easy as Pie was always about profit- but the feeling that I gave them around the name was vastly different because “profit” was assumed instead of clearly communicated.

I was now speaking the language of my business soul mates who were in business to be profitable and to do that I needed to be clear about my message: without profit, you don’t have a business, you have a hobby.

Whether your name is Photographer Name Photography or Piggie Toes….your name is communicating your brand story and it’s either yawn inducing, off putting, or it’s generating strong feelings of connection.

#5- They don’t have a clear specialization.

Another of the major branding mistakes that entrepreneurs make is being a generalist. (I work with photographers, so I’ll use them as an example, but this is true in every industry.) There are two types of generalists. The generalist that chooses to be all things to all people: Wedding/Families/Boudoir/Pets/Passports/macro insects.

And then there are category generalists who thinks they are specializing by limiting themselves to a category: “I specialize in weddings” or “I specialize in seniors”. Unfortunately, still a generalist.

In each category, there still is a very broad range of services, budgets, values and needs- Ritz Carlton resort weddings, back yard elopements, tropical destination weddings, traditional chapel weddings, etc. Those are wedding niches. Micro-niches go even further in defining a specialization whether it’s saying you do Backyard Hippie Weddings or Tattoo & Beard Hipster Elopements.

A specialization isn’t just the positioning of oneself to appear more of an expert. A specialization is the niche chosen from the result of empathy for a particular problem or frustration and narrowing down to becoming an expert in solving that issue.

When photographers stick with a generalist category (wedding, senior, food photography, pet, baby, etc.)- they lack the ability to create a strong brand message and will have to stay competitive on pricing to be considered appealing to the masses.

Right now is a golden age for entrepreneurs to brand themselves. The marketplace loves boutique brands as well as brands that are built with empathy and have strong human connections. The powerfully branded entrepreneurs who specialize are the ones who are going to rule the marketplace since most generalists won’t ever take the time to figure out how to brand themselves and stand out.

Are you a photographer who is ready to brand yourself?? I’ll show you exactly how- broken down step by step checklist style with my brand new That Thing You Do Course. 

Want to be notified as soon as it’s available for signup? Make sure you are on my email list to be first to know by adding your email address here! 

Article written by :
Alicia Caine
Alicia Caine is an author, Certified Provendus Business Strategist and mother of 7 living in Fort Worth, TX. She works with the creative entrepreneur to create a lifelong love affair with their business, focusing on a specialization that positions them as the expert and authority in their marketplace and industry. Alicia is obsessed with business educational books, wearing Lululemon, shopping at Trader Joe's, eating fish tacos and using gummy vitamins as her excuse to eat candy in the name of health. You can learn more about her on her web-site
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One Response to 5 Major Branding Mistakes that 98.9% of Entrepreneurs Make

  1. Donna says:

    Thanks for your insights, Alicia! I think the one about “I’ll wait till I’m more successful or have more money before I do any branding” is very powerful. Rebranding is very challenging – I learned that the hard way with my first company as well!

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