Let’s jump into this imaginary (but oh so familiar) scenario for a moment:
You’re 40 minutes into a kick-off video call with a client. You’re talking through their goals for their business and what they want from their website. They tell you:
“It needs to be state of the art. We want to position ourselves as Top Dog, the go-to place for our customers. We want to boost profits. Oh, and it needs to look AMAZING.”
It’s a pretty common demand, but how do you get them there? First, you need to know their brand voice, visual guidelines, and brand identity.
“Sure, we can send our logo over to you!”
Actually, that’s not enough.
Now comes the awkward conversation where you try to explain to them that to position them as industry leaders and have a website that truly reflects their brand, you’ll need more than a logo.
We’ve all been there, it can suck, and it can put a real downer on a previously super-enthusiastic new client kickoff. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Many agency owners encounter this very problem, and it’s a real pain. The clients branding guide either doesn’t exist, or it’s so basic it may as well not exist.
In an ideal world, clients will have a fully developed style guide that tells you everything you need to know about their business, core messaging, and visual identity.
But in reality, clients don’t honestly know how to describe their brand, and agency owners don’t charge for the hours they’ve put in trying to encapsulate their unique positioning. This crucial part of the process is often undervalued or completely overlooked.
So, why is branding so important?
It’s not just important; it’s everything.
A logo and color palette are BRAND ASSETS, and that’s it. They are important for recognition but they are not your brand.
Your brand is your who, what, why, a bit of how and when. It's the answer to “Why should I hire you?”
A logo does not communicate who you are, a logo is just a visual identifier and a visual brand asset of your company.
What is branding?
Define Branding (verb – action): Branding is the intentional and strategic shaping of what people think and experience with your company’s products and services.
It is the action of strategically applying your brand personality to everything you do.
A company’s brand is the company. Without first establishing a business’s true personality and differentiators, you’re essentially going in blind.
Why branding is vital for digital agency owners.
Every decision you make will be easier, strategic, logical, and perfectly aligned with their brand when you’re armed with the correct information, i.e. branding guidelines, style guides, and brand strategy. Without a solid brand in place, you’re basically marketing a commodity – and commodities are usually reduced to competing on price. You clients deserve better than that race to the bottom!
I’m here to let you in on a little secret; the key to your website project’s success with a client is getting them to pay for your branding services.
Not only will adding branding as a service increase your overall profits, but it will also make each project a resounding success.
The more successful your clients become as a result of your work, the more referrals and raving reviews you’ll get.
That goes for web designers, marketers, SEO specialists; you name it. Everything a brand does should be consistent, strategic, and grounded in its branding rules… and you deserve payment for your hard work figuring out what those rules are.
So, if you’re not charging clients for brand positioning, brand alignment, and brand identity guides, that ends today (can I get a hallelujah?)
Why it’s vital for the client.
Without solid branding, digital marketing and web design activity won’t have a purpose. Assets will be created without logic and customers will likely forget the brand within minutes.
Creating a branding foundation for the client before going ahead with the project will deliver a finished product that looks and sounds fantastic, gives them a substantial competitive advantage, shortens their sales cycle, and makes it easy for customers to understand their value.
With intentional branding, they’ll get better results, attract more of their ideal customers, and build their reputation as an authority. So how can they create a distinctive, memorable, and authoritative brand?
That would be the 3Cs of branding.
Having clarity is saying what the client does without any jargon. Without clarity, the client may be seen as a ‘babbler’ – using a whole load of words but not actually saying anything. With clarity, customers will easily understand what the client does, and most importantly, remember them.
This means ensuring your client has the same messaging, visual identity, and imagery across all digital platforms. When customers see consistency, they view a brand as more trustworthy. Without consistency, people might see a brand as unreliable or ‘flaky’.
Your client needs to look and sound legit, demonstrate their expertise, and position themselves as key players in their industry. If customers can’t see your excellent results right away, they might see you as a ‘risky bet’.
How to sell branding services to your clients.
Now that you understand why branding is your new sales weapon, how do you sell it to clients?
Educate and convince them.
Take everything you’ve learned so far and use it to demonstrate why branding is critical for your client’s success. Some clients may need more education than others, but if you’re prepared with the right sales pitch, you should have no problem convincing clients to pay for the service.
Establish pricing and processes.
It’s essential that you create your unique processes for brand development within the company. Maybe you’ll need to outsource the work to a branding expert and add your margin. Otherwise, you might prefer to design your client branding in-house.
Either way, it’s a good idea to create packages at different price points to suit multiple budgets. You can also break your offerings into visual identity development and verbal identity creation – will you offer one or both? Make sure to highlight how the client will benefit at each tier.
Create templates and protocols.
To speed up the branding process, it’s a good idea to curate branded templates that the client will collaborate with you on or you’ll fill out internally.
Agencies can create these templates for branding essentials like:
Identity Style guides: contains color palettes, fonts, imagery, logos, and key visual personality traits.
Brand personality: the visual and verbal identity that represents the business.
Brand strategy: rules and guidelines on the how, what, where, when, and to whom the client should communicate their brand message.
Even for small budget clients, they should pay for at least basic branding, which may include a quick discovery to figure out key brand personality traits, differentiators, and visual preferences.
Now take your secret sales weapon, and get shooting!
You’re now armed with the knowledge you need to stop doing branding work for free, create more successful projects, have clients sing your praises, and boost your overall profits.
So, what now? Make branding a priority for your next project, and see for yourself the incredible impact it will have on everything you do.