When Photographer’s Supply Co. asked me to share my perspective on How To Build, Grow, and Maintain a Brand, it was honestly the first time I had ever sat down and considered what made my own brand or how it came to be what it is today. How did this business grow from a place that felt like it wasn’t going anywhere at all 3 years ago, when each Instagram post gave me an anxiety attack worrying about how it would be perceived and considering the task of building a clientele, into something that keeps us constantly on the go and connecting with people not just where we live but all around the United States?
Brands are as unique as each person is. Different in their own way, different in ways that can’t be replicated, and sometimes can be, sometimes even mimicked. What works for me may not work for you, or anyone else, and that’s the beauty of an authentic brand. There are some bottom line suggestions that err on the side of business strategy, but so much more of what I’m about to share has to do with anchoring down on knowing yourself, knowing your people, and combining the two to create a space where people just want to BE a part of your brand.
Let’s get started!
Brand Identity is YOUR identity
Your tone in social media IS YOU to your followers and clients whether they have met you in person or not. Combining your true voice with whatever level of filter of professionalism or non-professionalism can truly impact the type of clientele or followers to your brand. Making that choice by refining what verbiage, wording, tone, perspective, and emotion that is shared through your brand will influence and truly impact the audience you find gravitating towards you. Keeping this in mind when sharing to any social media platform really helps in communicating the soul and personality behind your brand.
People want to hear YOU, which is hard to differentiate when you’re sitting there asking yourself “should I say what THEY want me to say like something on trend and widely used, or a current event quip…or should I say what I would actually say.” That is totally up to you, and neither answer is right or wrong, maybe both are right. As long as it’s communicated through your authentic voice, that’s the important part!
I don’t think following do’s or don’t’s for yourself is the way to go when approaching your audience or using your voice. Trial and error are definitely how I found myself taking a step back and seeing the audience that were naturally attracted to my content and who wasn’t. Some things worked, some things didn’t, but for my own business, the hardest lesson for me then and now is to accept that people genuinely liked hearing more about my personal perspective and life, rather than listening to me horribly attempt to be overly trendy with social media verbiage or popular subjects.
Ask yourself the type of media/blogger/business/brand that you like to follow or find yourself gravitating towards. Is it the uplifting yet sarcastic writer who can laugh at themselves and make you feel hopeful about even the hardest days, or is it the consistently volatile person who is constantly negative but has a great sense of humor? Maybe it’s a stay at home mom, maybe it’s an ethically focused fashion designer. Either way, they both have an audience and attract a specific follower that gains something from their content.
COMMUNICATION is Key
Your clients are your people, or the ones that stand behind your work truly want to be. They don’t want to have a sterile, holier than thou professional telling them what they are “allowed and not allowed” to do, to wear, to go, to be. They want a genuine and clear direction from someone who is open to questions, flexible, and possible special requests that you can work on together to achieve if possible if it fits their needs. These photos are in fact for them, not you, depending on the type of photography you find yourself focusing on.
Timely responses to inquiries make such an incredible difference in the credibility and dependability of your brand and business. This was definitely one of my weak points and down the line, I had to end up investing in a personal assistant for this task alone! With the amount of time I am out on location doing photo shoots, I come home and am either in total catch up mode with edits, and can possibly get to a handful of emails/IG messages/FB message, but when you know you need someone to step in and manage your communications for you, it’s one of the best investments you could make for your own sanity and your business’s livelihood. The shorter of response time you have to an inquiring client, the fewer clients you’ll lose when they look elsewhere after waiting for your reply. I’ve been there myself and when I was able to add in an assistant’s wage to my budget, I went for it!
Consistency in the delivery of your products, in your communication style/tone, and the consistency in the quality of what you are delivering to your clients truly matters. As business owners, we know this, but during the busiest seasons, there can be some waning in standards if you get overwhelmed. We all go through this at times.
Imagine going to your favorite coffee spot to grab your daily sips. If they made your drink perfectly for 3 weeks in a row, you’ve developed trust that they are making what you love, you trust that it will taste the same each time, and it makes your day that much better. Now imagine one day you go in, so stoked for your coffee, and they hand you a cup of something vaguely familiar, but not your drink, and not what you anticipated. They wavered on their delivery, in turn causing waves in your trust with what was usually the perfect start to your day, and possibly even questioning their amount of attention to you, and their customer service.
With the coffee analogy, I feel like we can directly correlate that with our brand and how our audience is anticipating our consistency, whether they realize it or not.
Your loyal clients and followers love coming back to your feed, your photos, your YOU because they love you and look forward to hearing your perspective and always seeing what you will be up to next. Of course, brands will ebb and flow with the tide and flex and change as they live on, but be sure to hone in on what is making your people keep coming back for more, and do.more.that.
Final Thoughts on Brand Building
One of the hardest things for myself when starting a business was to realize that when I started photographing full time, it was truly a business and needed to be treated as one. This didn’t mean losing passion or giving any creativity up, but rather to think like a business owner in parts of the brand and business that before launching full-time, I didn’t think of quite as much.
Branding, marketing myself, presentation, and confidence behind the brand all came together as I saw that what I was making was bringing people in. It took ME to convince myself that it was worth working for and my photos were worth purchasing.
Before you have a crowd around you, following you, subscribe to you, you must be your own cheerleader. As it’s said, “if you don’t believe in you, who will?”. That fake it ’till you make it mentality was honestly what kick started me in my career. Moving forward with the notion that you’re already successful, you’re already growing and growing as a brand and a career. That positivity and motivation within you will, in turn, make you work to reach that mentality.
Start before you are ready, don’t wait for perfection before you hit the go button on your brand or career. It’s going to be pliable at times, where you change the feel of it or change the look, allow yourself to make those changes!
Failure is given the most negative of connotations, but can actually be the best thing that could happen to aide in the process of building a brand. If you never had proof that something worked, or didn’t, you may be functioning your brand in a way that truly isn’t working, but you may never know until it proves itself to be in fact, not working. Embrace failure/re-starts/clean slate as a chance to get what you’ve worked so hard on and to make it even fuller, even brighter!
Invite change in. Embrace it. You never know how it could positively impact you unless you open your mind. Be vulnerable to change, and grow from that.
Laura Morsman is a photographer with Austin and Kansas City as her shared home bases. She travels across
the US for her lifestyle and editorial photography business which started from the inspiration of documenting her youngest siblings after their adoption from Ethiopia 10 years ago. Combining editorial aesthetics with the rawness of lifestyle photography is what Laura loves most about documenting life, along with creating and maintaining a close personal connection with her clients in order to catch their true emotions through her perspective.