How important do you think is an outsider's opinion? And yes, I am referring to your brand in this case, not about your dress or makeup. Having someone else tell you what they think and what they see in your brand is important, but how important is it really?
In this article, I want to talk about why you should listen to an outsider's opinion, what to take from it, and what to look for when looking for help on your brand. Because we all want help, even if it's only someone to tell you that your brand is awesome or that graphic is cool.
And the reason I am bringing all of this up is due to personal bias and assumptions. We all make assumptions, even if we don't want to, and sometimes it can be so much easier to guess than it is to actually reach out and ask for help or someone's opinion. Here is why this can hobble you...
Why opinions are important
We all have a personal bias that has been built up based on our upbringing and history. A lot of it is influenced by outside sources, but we also have a lot of internal factors that have a say in it. I'm not going to go into the psychology or ethical studies regarding bias, that's not my field of expertise, but if you're interested in learning more about how your personal bias can affect you, take a look at this very interesting article with some tips to test yourself.
In the same way you have a personal bias, so do I, so does your ideal client, so do the people that you interact with, and so does everybody else. Here is a quick exercise I want you to do. I want you to grab a piece of paper and pen and I want you to write down the first word that comes to mind when you think of the colour red.
Was it an emotion?
Because for me, it is RGB because when I was writing this question, I was thinking about colour theories. For one of my clients I asked, it was blood (horror writer, totally makes sense). For one of my friends I asked, it was wedding (her Chinese mom has been bugging her to get married). And yes, I asked others and they said passion, love, anger, and the usual answers you would get, but I wanted to share the weird ones with you to show you that we all make different associations with different meanings based on our personal experiences and based on what is around us at the time.
Having said that, I also do believe in the collective unconscious. You can read more about that in any psychology book that features Carl Jung (the same person who coined the 12 archetypes used in my brand personality quiz, by the way), but here's a dictionary definition of it. So, while RGB or blood or even a wedding may not have been your first word, you can see the connection between those and the colour red.
This is where asking for a second (or third, fourth, or twentieth) opinion can be really useful. Especially if you are asking your ideal client. Because if one of them says RGB and everybody else says love, when you use red in your brand, most of your ideal clients will associate it with love. Not all, not all the time, but enough to make you question - is your brand about love? If it is, SUCCESS! What other elements do you have around that red which will strengthen that idea? If not, how can you change that perception? And no, changing from red to green is not the answer.
What to take from them
Now, it is very important to listen to opinions but that does not necessarily mean applying them all! If you are doing that, then your brand is no longer your own and it now belongs to a mish-mash of people who all have different opinions and make different assumptions. And, as I mentioned before, those aren't always static. You can associate red with love today and with anger tomorrow depending on your mood.
When collecting opinions and listening to the advice from others, it is important to remember what your brand is all about and who it is meant for. And while colours and associations with visuals can be very easy to modify and interpret, the strategy behind your brand can be harder. Think about the language that you're using.
For example, I like to write my blogs and newsletters in the same way that I speak, but make them a little more refined. I tend to go off on tangents and get distracted when I talk about something, so I'm trying to condense that when I write articles (otherwise they'd be 5x this length and you'd learn a lot of useless facts along the way). And I always go over everything I wrote and try to remove useless paragraphs. But the style in which I write, long sentences, lots of and, but, however, improper grammar and structure, the reason for this is because this is the way I talk.
When I asked a few people how they interpret the language of my brand, they all said casual and informative. I wasn't going for the casual originally, I admit, but then I got to talk with my ideal clients more and yes, that is how I talk to my ideal clients whether on a call, in chat, or in that 2-page-long email I sent the other day. I swear occasionally, making me more human, but not excessively, making it more friendly. And I can list so many more adjectives that are all connected around the casual and informative from the beginning because I've asked a lot of people and I got a lot of answers.
And that is what I took away from the opinions I heard. I wasn't aiming for casual when I started my brand, I was aiming for professional. But that ended up creating a disconnect between my blogs, my newsletters (which are more personal) and my actual conversations with clients. This is an opinion that mattered to my brand so I took it and I ran with it and I am still running with it now.
PS. You can take a look at this blog article I wrote back in 2020 when the pandemic started and notice how much my language has changed.
In the end, what I am trying to say here is that the opinions that you take in should be ones that make a positive impact and one that, most importantly, makes sense to you. Listen, but know when to make a change.
How to look for help
I mentioned earlier that I've asked clients, friends, family, etc. for their opinions, but I also mentioned that they have their own personal biases and assumptions. They have that for everything, including you. So, if you ask your best friend for advice on how your brand comes across, you will get a different answer than a total stranger that doesn't know you at all.
Having said that, which of those is more likely to be your ideal client? Somebody who has known you most of your life or a total stranger? Most likely it's somebody in between but either of these is also likely! Also, keep in mind, how do you get most of your clients? Are they strangers on social media who are portraying their brands (and drawing a line between themselves and their brands, making what you see on SM different than who they are) or are they referrals from previous clients?
There is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. How you target your clients and who they are is completely up to you and how you want to do your marketing and content strategies. How you address them is the same thing. But in order to draw those people in and convert them using your brand, you have to know who they are and what they want to know about you. This means these are the people you will be asking for help from and these are the people whose opinions should matter to you and make an impact on your brand.
I recently had a revelation after speaking with one of my clients and I am kind of jealous because she actually had the statistics. 92% of her clients are referrals. 92%. When she told me this number, I went back and started looking through my own client lists. I don't have a number of my own, but I know I'm closer to her 92% than I am to anything else. This means that most of my ideal clients and the people that I work with are not total strangers because I was recommended to them by somebody that knows how I work, somebody I have worked with, and somebody that knows what the red in my brand stands for and how I speak casually.
(PS. one of my recent referral clients actually mentioned my long-ass emails in her first communication and I was both embarrassed and glad that I didn't have to warn her myself).
My personal experience
Okay, I want to share my own experience on this matter a bit. I have multiple side-gigs because I have multiple interests. Because of this, I have drawn a firm line between my branding business and myself, meaning that my brand as a consultant is not a personal brand and it is not based on my personal preferences. Yes, I do have some of them in there because, it's my brand, I still have to have some of me in it, but it is mostly based on research.
One of my side-gigs is pretty much anything to do with publishing. I'm not going to go into detail on it, but one thing I tell every single author I work with is: don't do this yourself. Whether it is editing, character art, typesetting, cover art, marketing plans, content strategy, etc. Whatever it is that is not them writing their story, I always stress how important it is that they don't do it themselves. Editing is the easiest one to explain so I will use that as an example (and yes, I will link it back to the branding, don't worry).
When you are writing or creating a story, you are focused on getting everything that's in your head out of your head. Sound familiar? It is the same as with your business and your brand. You want to work on what you're working on, not on the side details that may slow you down. This means, working on your passion and writing the story or helping your clients with their business.
When it comes time to edit your work, you already know everything that's on the page and your mind will naturally fill in the blanks, skip over the spelling mistakes, and continue the sentence regardless of it it makes sense or not. It is the same with your brand. You know what you want your brand to do so your mind will look at it and say, yes, this will work.
But does it?
Because you have thought it up and you have taken it out of your head, does not mean that is how your audience will see it. This is where having an outsider's opinion is very important (or an editor) because they don't live in your head and they will catch those things that to you may seem like common knowledge but your audience does not see a connection at all.
So, ask for a second opinion. Ask a friend, a colleague, a family member, and a total stranger. All of them will tell you something different because they all know different parts about you and those closest to you may be able to make that connection. But is your audience that close to you?
If you're looking for a second opinion, I am here to help. Book a free discovery call with me and let me tell you what I see in your brand. It won't be everything you put in it, it may even be completely different from what your ideal clients will see, but it will give you an idea of what to look for and how to reach out and get help.