I've had so many questions about branding. Whether it was in relation to our photography business or in the hair world so I figured its time to create a post about my thoughts on branding. I'm not a marketing major, but I have definitely had a whirlwind of a time rebranding Encarnacion Photography. In the one and a half years it took us to redefine our brand experience I have definitely learned a few things and have solidified theories and beliefs I've had before.
What is a brand?
According to the dictionary this here is one meaning:
1. a type of product manufactured by a particular company under aparticular name: a new brand of detergent.
• a brand name: the company will market computer software under its own brand.
• a particular identity or image regarded as an asset: you can still invent your own career, be your own brand | the Michael Jordan brand certainly hasn't hurt them.
• a particular type or kind of something: his incisive brand of intelligence.
Based on the meaning above I started to think about a few things that made me successful as a stylist in the past 10 years and it all boiled down to remembering what one of my mentors said to me, "Always present yourself to the world as the hairstylist you want them to know you as whether you're at the grocery store, out at a restaurant, or at the mall." I remember marinating on that thought for a while. Thinking okay, I think he means I need to always dress the part, act the part, and be the part wherever I am.
I was a walking business. Essentially in any industry I step my foot in, I'm selling myself. It boiled down to how I put my hair together, how I dressed to work, what I looked like when I was out shopping, who I ate with, where I ate, how I acted when I went out at night, and the list goes on and on. All these were important factors of building your business right. There are people who are constantly watching your every move and not because they are trying to criticize you, but because you're sparking their interest. So part of my job of being me, as a brand, is that I had to present myself to my coworkers, potential clients, and existing clients; a person I wanted them to love and hate.
Why love? I mean its obvious. You want people to love who you are as a person because regardless of the service you delivered to them, if they love you, they are more forgiving for your shortcomings. As a good hairstylist you have to be able to deliver a quality cut, color, or style. But the difference between an amazing stylist and one who's mediocre is the ability to create an experience for that person. If the experience they had with you is worth $75 then they will continue to love you for a lifetime, or in my case until March 31st. =)
Why hate? Essentially in order to build a strong name for yourself you want people to feel one way or the other for you. Of course you want them to love you, but for those who you do not want as clients you kinda want them to hate you. I've built my clientele based on relationships and trust. Because of that, the ones I do not connect within the first few hair appointments don't come back. It's not because I've done something to turn them off on purpose, but it could be because they do not like the way I dress, the things I talk about, or maybe (this happens often) they didn't expect a blue haired fully tattooed asian girl to be the stylist that was highly reviewed on Yelp. Personally, I'm not quite sure what they expected, but maybe their expectations wasn't that. Was I going to change my look, NOPE!
In the end you want clients who LOVE you and who want to come see you, use your services, stay your clients forever because of who YOU are.
So how do you get clients to fall in love with you? BE YOURSELF! BE YOURSELF BE YOURSELF! I can't stress this enough to people who are starting off their careers as stylists. Be yourself. In the beginning its hard to find your voice especially when its having conversations with strangers. If this is your weakest strength, you're going to have to practice it because guess what, you're going to have to do it and the more comfortable you sound like you are, the more your client will trust you. If they are the type who doesn't talk much, strike up the conversation by talking about yourself. Totally lame, but really it helps. Chances are that client is just as nervous being in your chair as you are making sure they love the outcome of their haircut or color, so open up and talk about you.
Don't be afraid of clients getting to know your life. That is probably going to be your biggest selling point to who you are as a person and as a brand. Allowing them to get to know you personally gets people to connect with you past the surface level of, "Joanne, the hairstylist or Joanne, the photographer." Now its, "Joanne, my stylist who has two kids, loves Disneyland, does Pilates, and always gives me a kick ass haircut!" BOOM, that is how you want them to think of you. You should be a person behind the job description.
Some awesome tools that can help you build a better brand are: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and anything social media related. Think about how the world communicates, are you doing the same? Now if you are, think about what you are communicating to the world and how they are viewing you. Keep in mind that everything you do on the internet is permanent. It's there forever and can always be brought back to reality through Google. Have you googled your name yet to see what comes up? A great tool to keep track of who's saying what is Google Alerts. You can set alerts to notify you when people use your name. It's a great way to stay on top of what's being said and by who. This way if you do come across a disgruntled client, you can nip it in the butt right away and fix it.
Now regarding social media, it can be such a powerful way to market yourself, but can also be used in a very negative way. Keep in mind who your audience is. If your Facebook friend list has grown larger due to clients then keep in mind that just because they don't comment or "like" your status, they may be reading it. So don't post negativity. People do not like it. If you're going to post anything person, just keep in mind who your audience is and remember you're still trying to sell the most important brand, you.
Facebook should be used as a gateway for clients to get to where you really want them to go. If you have a blog, what you post on Facebook should be little snippets of the full story on your blog. If you're at work and you want to promote yourself. Check in, let your peeps know you're there! Facebook reaches a much larger audience than just your website alone so if you use it right, you're able to attract those people to where you want them to go, your website/blog.
Twitter is best used with short outbursts of what you are thinking, doing, etc. 140 characters are all you have to make things interesting. Its also a great tool to build community amongst your fellow peers in your industry. Create conversations with Twitter and you never know what lasting friendships you may create.
Instagram, just like Twitter, but photos. How awesome for a hairstylist to use this as before and after photos of their clients. Don't forget the hashtags. #hair #ombre #highlights #salon. And tag your clients, as long as they don't mind. =)
Pinterest. This is fairly new, but totally awesome! You know all those cool things you see on the web that inspire you, now you have a place for them. It's a great way to build mood boards and inspiration boards and the best part is you can easily attract or deter clients this way and really build a strong voice for your brand based on the things that you are attracted to. After all you want clients to be inspired by some of the same things you are inspired by. Like minds attract like minds.
So for some of you hairstylists, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and folks I hope that this insight has helped. Remember: how you present yourself in real life and on a social media life is what you want your potential clients to look at you. So always be the part.