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3 Branding Mistakes That Confuse Clients and Complicate Your Marketing

When I first started on the Internet, my first website was about career change. I still maintain the site and it keeps earning money for me. But back then, I was not sure what I needed. Here’s some advice I got from people who were considered experts at the time:

1 — “Branding? Don’t bother. Brand? Schmand!”

2 — “Come up with a list of adjectives, like, “The Cathy Goodwin brand stands for enthusiasm, excitement, adventure …”

3 — “Get a logo … and I’ve got one for just $1500.”

By this time I was ready to give up so I didn’t think about branding for a long, long time. Then I got into copywriting. I named my business, “Copy Cat Copywriting.”

Some more “experts” advised me to go with the feline motif, such as, “the purr-fect copy for you.” But after awhile I discovered my prospects were confused. Some thought the site was about cats. And when I said the name aloud, I started getting questions like, “Do you use swipe files? Are you really a copy-cat?”

Hell no. I’m as original as they come.

So I began doing research on branding.

Here’s some more advice I got:

“Your brand is copywriting.” “You are definitely a maverick. Why not brand yourself as a maverick?”

“Find your brand archetype … such as a combination of hero, warrior and magician.” (I know I’m going to take a lot of flak for this one.)

I was ready to give up again, but this time I knew branding was important for credibility and building relationships. I realized my own fuzzy brand was confusing prospects and driving people off my list. So I analyzed successful business owners and compared them to those who were struggling. And I noticed that people who were successful had a branding strategy … even if they didn’t realize they did.

“It’s your brand …”

Many of my clients share this confusion, even if they’ve been around the Internet for a long time. We know something is wrong but we don’t know what’s missing. So we try to fix the problem and often it gets worse.

Here are 5 symptoms of brand failure:

Symptom #1 — You don’t have a tribe. Your list comes and goes. You go on a list-building expedition and come back with names — and they all escape within a day or two.

Symptom #2 — You’re not getting a lot of referrals. You’re not seen as the “go to” person for a problem that many people have.

Symptom #3 — You keep getting requests and queries from people who are not in your target market.

Symptom #4 — You have trouble creating content for your website that is consistent with your branding.

Symptom #5 — You continue to struggle with the challenge of sounding authentic and not at all sales-y … but also promoting yourself and marketing yourself online.

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, chances are you need a brand makeover.

Without fixing the branding problem, you’ll keep working and won’t see the results you’d hoped for. For instance, you might keep chasing after names to put on your list; they’ll hop on and then hop off again at the next stop.

Sometimes you’ll realize you need a rebrand after you’ve achieved success. That’s because your brand is not a lifetime commitment or a magic potion. Expect your brand to change as your business grows, as you evolve professionally or as you just decide to move in new directions.

Don’t be surprised when well-known marketers and competitors seem to have no brand or have a bizarre brand name. After all, a brand is much more than a name. Some people succeed in spite of their brand names. I know at least two very successful consultants who named their business after foods. They are successful because they send consistent messages and they’re authentic.

3 Common Branding Mistakes

Mistake #1: Branding from the outside in. In other words, it’s thinking a brand is about a logo, colors and graphics. The truth is: Branding can be invisible. Some business owners don’t think they have a brand — just a name — but they have a very consistent, recognizable writing style as well as a unique philosophy, approach and set of values.

Branding may go beyond your catchy slogan. You may have a brand about “helping conscious entrepreneurs” when your real brand is “outrageous ideas that promise to deliver outrageous profits.”

Branding keeps you from following someone else. For instance, I know someone who shoots off 20 to 30 tweets a day on Twitter. She gets great response. What works isn’t the number, topic or even wording of tweets: it’s the fact that she’s built a likable brand and a special relationship with her followers.

Mistake #2: Branding on something that’s about you … and not relevant to your client. Every so often we see people who brand themselves as, “The Curly Haired Coach,” “The Red-Headed Accountant” or some other personal quality. Some coaches advised me to brand as “Amazing Copywriter” or “Expert Copywriting.” These brands focus on you — not your clients or prospects. Hopefully nobody cares if you have curly or straight hair.

Mistake #3: Creating a brand concept that can’t be translated into persuasive marketing materials. This mistake is surprisingly common. Often clients show up with a “branding strategy” that sounds brilliant … until we try to write some content. As a result, they often see a see a major conflict between their “brand” and their “marketing materials.”

We recognize the disconnect as soon as we bring out the copywriting tools. In fact, sometimes the process of writing copy is so powerful, I call it “Copy Branding:” copywriting to create and support your brand, and branding as the foundation and inspiration for your copy. Branding and copywriting go together. When I work with clients, we always begin with a strategy session. Even when we never say the word “brand,” we often uncover an invisible brand along the way.

Avoid These Mistakes By Telling A Story

Branding by story allows you to skip these mistakes. By definition, your story will be unique and memorable. Once you’ve identified your branding story, creating your marketing materials becomes a piece of cake.

But you can’t just pick a story and start branding. To reach your audience, your story starts with strategy and it’s designed to match your brand.

For instance, one well-known marketer brands herself with a story of, “If I can do it, you can too. I can teach anyone to do what I do.” She’s got stories of how she conquered challenges even when she lacked advantages of her competitors. She also shares stories of how she helped people who were way behind the starting line when they decided to build a business.

Another marketer emphasizes education. He teaches his followers and clients how to accomplish very specific marketing goals. He doesn’t tell stories about himself; he shares stories that clarify the concepts he wants to explain. His story exemplifies his teaching role.

These marketers exemplify two of the five brand story archetypes most commonly used by successful business owners. Of course some people don’t fit neatly into these categories. Some change and evolve over time. By starting with the story archetype that matches your brand, you’re ready for everything from sales pages to lead magnets to elevator pitches.

You can learn more about finding the perfect story for your brand and how your brand will solve the thorniest marketing challenges. Click here for my newest free training program.

And check out my new free report — 5 Branding Story Archetypes That Successful Business Owners Use. Click here for your free immediate download.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is a copywriter and marketing consultant, based in Philadelphia and working with clients all over the world. She helps small businesses land more clients through a strong brand message and and a story that sells. Main website:

Helping entrepreneurs and independent professionals grow their businesses one story at a time.

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