Sprucing Up Your Branding

With 2013 coming to a close, you may want a fresh start for the new year, one with new ideas, new goals and new looks – including a spruced up look for your brand. An updated look for your business can give you the new beginning you are looking for in 2014, but rebranding (even when you don’t have a huge following) can be a lot of work.

Sprucing Up Your Branding Worksheet

Before you invest on a new logo, website, web copy, professional photos and business cards and set up meetings with designers and copywriters and photographers, take a moment to ask yourself these few questions and write your answers on this worksheet I created for you.

1. Why do I want to rebrand?

A fun new logo is always exciting, but ask yourself why you want to rebrand. Are you adding new offerings? Are you trying to reach a different target market that your brand doesn’t appeal to right now? Or do you just need a freshened up look?

Knowing why you want to rebrand is one of the most important things about the rebranding process. Knowing the goals you have set up for your new look will help your designers and developers with their job, and you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for in your redesign.

2. Is my customer changing?

If you’re doing a rebrand because your customer is changing, you’ll want to do a profile on who your new customer is going to be. Get to know everything you can about your new customer so you can direct your rebranding efforts specifically to them.

For example, if you’re a photographer who has mainly worked with babies and seniors in the past and you want to rebrand to target brides specifically, you’ll want to find out everything you can about your new ideal customer – what types of photos she likes best, what blogs she reads, where she finds most of her wedding inspiration. When you know all of the specific details about your ideal customer, you’ll know exactly how to talk to her, how to form packages around her wants and where to market your rebranded business.

3. What do I want my new look to say about my brand?

Having a clear idea of what you want your look to say about your brand will always help your designer when you’re getting the branding process started. Having a few examples of brands you admire can help your designer and developers envision the direction you want your look to go.

One way to paint a clearer image of what you want your brand to portray is to start a pinterest board full of brand inspiration. Include pins of colors, patterns and styles that inspire you in your brand, along with images of your ideal customer. This will give you a reference point for all of the design and branding decisions you make in the rebrand process and also comes in handy when making branding decisions down the road.


Download the Questions For Rebranding Worksheet to write your answers out!

Asking these questions about your new brand image are important in creating a brand that lasts – the more you know about where you want to go in the future will help you with your rebrand right now.  And if you’re all ready to start the rebranding process, make sure you check out Ciera’s great packages – check them out here.

Are you thinking about a new look for 2013? Share how you want to update your brand in the new year!

How to Get Great Testimonials


You know how when you’re on someone’s website trying to decide if you want to work with them or buy from them and you see a group of really great testimonials that convince you that you must have their product? You can have that too.

Testimonials from clients are important for your website because without them, potential clients don’t always know your credibility or what you’re like to work with. It’s someone’s outside perspective that gives them the confidence to buy from you instead of moving on to the next website.


There are a few ways to get really great testimonials:

Reach out to past partners, customers and coworkers

While it’s not always easy to reach out and ask for testimonials, it’s the first step in getting great feedback, especially from clients and coworkers who love you and your work.

To do this, write them a short note on why you’re reaching out to them and what you’re hoping to accomplish from getting this testimonial. Tell them how much you’ve enjoyed working with them and would love to share your experience with future customers.

Then, provide a list of questions for them to answer – questions that will bring out the types of phrases you’d love to include on your site about how the two of you worked together and what was accomplished.

I’ve compiled a list of questions for you to choose from – download the testimonials worksheet here

It’s best to reach out to clients while your work is still fresh in their mind, so as soon as you’ve wrapped up your work with them, send them a testimonial request – if they’re happy with your work they’ll most likely fill it out right away!


Pull from Social Media

Another really great way to get testimonials for your website is to pull quotes about your work off of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Lots of times when someone is excited about a new product or service they’ve purchased, they splash it all over the web. If one of your past customers has done this about your offering, ask them if you can use their quote for your site. Since they shared it with everyone they know, there’s a good chance they’ll let you post it on your site too.


Once you Get the Testimonial

When you get your testimonials, there are a few effective ways to display them on your website.

First of all, make sure they fit with the product you are selling or are general enough to be displayed on your site. I work with lots of different types of clients – from brides to small businesses to antique dealers, so not all testimonials from everyone will work on my wedding site. Choose the ones that you think will be most beneficial to future clients.

Then, decide where you want to place your testimonials. Good practice is to have a page devoted to praise, display them on your sales page or have them scrolling in the footer or sidebar.

Also, consider including a picture and a location of the person you received the testimonial from. People make connections with images and locations, so the testimonial will be more credible and believable if there is a face and location to associate with it.

And that’s it! Follow these steps and be on your way to getting great testimonials from past customers that grab the attention of new customers!


The Worksheet

download the testimonials worksheet here to help you get some great feedback from your customers!


Have you received a great testimonial in the past? Share a link to it in the comments!

Who’s Influencing Your Customers and Why it Matters

Who’s Influencing Your Customers and Why it Matters

Let’s face it – we’re all influenced by others in our lives, and your customers are influenced too. Those influencers help them make decisions on a daily basis – from what they buy to the music they listen to. In business, we call this your customer’s key influencers, and they’re more important than you think.

Types Of Key Influencers & Why it Matters

There are two types of key influencers – the first type are the people who are in your customer’s personal lives, like friends, family and co-workers.

These people are giving their opinion about different products and recommendations on their favorite things. They’re also the people who your customer will potentially consult with if they want to make a purchase from you. When your customer wants to do a total rebrand, go to a conference or purchase a big online program, they’re going to consult their spouse and friends for advice or approval, and usually the opinion of these people are very important to the buying decision. That’s why these types of key influencers are so important.

The second type of key influencers are the people your customer follows online, the blogs they read and the conferences they attend. It can also include the celebrities they watch and the music they listen to. Your customer is highly influenced by these media types, and it’s often where they find ideas about what to buy, wear and listen to. It’s not the group of people they have to talk to about buying, it’s the people who seriously influence what they buy.

As you can see, the people influencing your customers are pretty important, and as a business you need to get in front of both types of key influencers in order to get someone to buy from you.


How to Use Key Influencers to Sell Your Stuff

There are a few ways you can help your customer convince the first group of key influencers. One way is to provide them resources for talking to their family and friends about buying your products.

For example, if your customer really wants to buy your big-ticket product, they will probably talk to their close family about why they want to buy it and whether the cost and time is going to be worth the reward of purchasing. This group of influencers is most likely going to need a little bit of convincing, and your customer may need a little bit of help explaining what the benefits of buying are.

To help them, create a downloadable pdf of questions and comments that family members would normally ask about your product with an answer for each one. That way your customer will be prepared for the questions and can respond with a smart and confident answer, which will help them convince these key influencers to buy your product. You can see an example of this here.

As for the key influencers your customer follows online, you can use them to get in front of your customer as well.

If you know where your customer is hanging out online, you can pitch guest posts to those blogs or websites. If you have a physical product, you could send a sample to the editor of their favorite blog and pay for a feature, or you could donate your product for the swag bags at the conferences your customer might attend. If they see their key influencers using or featuring your product, they’ll be more interested in trying it out!

Figure out who your customer’s key influencers are and figure out a way to get in front of them! It will help bring you devoted customers and more sales.

Who are your customer’s key influencers? Share your ideas in the comments below!

How to Give Your Blog Readers Exactly What They Need

How to Give Your Readers Exactly What They Need Worksheet

We’re all looking for better ways to connect with our readers in hopes that they come back and read your blog on a regular basis or buy something from you at some point, right? Lucky for us, there’s a trick to giving them exactly what they’re looking for. Here’s the two-step process:

1. What Problems Do Your Readers Have?

Knowing what your readers are struggling with is the key in figuring out exactly what they want. You have to figure out the types of problems they are having in your field of expertise so you can help solve those problems.

If you’re a web designer and blog about your work and inspiration, it’s possible that your readers are other designers or business owners who are starting their own website or are inspired by your work. They may be dealing with a variety of problems – from where their email sign-up forms should be on their website to what fonts are easiest to read on the web. Some may not know the questions to ask web designers when they start working with one, and others may not know all of the important information they’ll need to give their designer to get started. These are all things you can help them with (and problems you can solve) on your blog.

On the worksheet provided, make a list of all the different problems your readers might have that you could solve with your knowledge in your field. Think back to the basics – maybe some of the topics in classes you learned back in school or some lessons you’ve learned in the past. Remember – no problem is too big or small to write down.


2. How Can You Solve Their Problems?

Now comes the getting more followers/better customers part! Once you know the problems your readers have, you can instantly turn those problems around into solutions.

Starting on page 2 of the worksheet, write down each problem, and underneath it list out all the different ways you could solve this problem for your reader. You may be able to think of multiple ways to fix each problem – write every idea you have down.

Some of the problems you’ve written down may be perfect for new blog posts or series, and some of them would be great new offerings you can add to your list of services. Next to each solution, check mark which you think it’d be better for and start brainstorming ways to put each into action!

When you’re able to solve a problem for someone, they feel like you’ve given them insider tips & tricks and in turn form a stronger bond with you and your brand which makes them more likely to come back for more and buy from you.


The Worksheet

Download the What Readers Want Worksheet to help you organize your lists and goals!



What are some ways you solve problems for your readers? Share in the comments!

How to Work from Home & Keep Your Sanity

Last July I quit my full-time corporate designer job to venture out on my own, and I had so many ideas about how wonderful working from home was going to be. I learned very quickly that working for yourself can be a difficult job – you must have a lot of self-control and focus. Here are some tricks I’ve used to keep myself on track while being my own boss.

How to Work from Home and Keep Your Sanity

1. Set Work Hours

One of the reasons I quit my full-time job was that my husband was tired of me coming home after an 8 hour day and spending 4 more hours working on side projects. And to be honest, I was tired of it too. So when I started working from home, I set a rule that I wouldn’t work nights or weekends anymore.

For the first few months, this was really hard to control. I was enjoying my freedom during the day by going on walks and getting housework done, but I was putting off design work for the evening – which made me quitting my job pointless.

When you work from home, you need to find a happy medium – one of the best things about working for yourself is the freedom you have to come and go as you please, but you need to have the self-control to get your work done during the day.

That’s why setting work hours is a good practice. If you feel more motivated and can concentrate better in the morning, then set you work hours from 9 to 1 and run your errands in the afternoon. Or maybe work a normal 8 hour work day and allow yourself an hour lunch break like a normal job would.

Of course, you’ll have to adjust these hours depending on your workload or when your clients can meet with you, but whatever hours you choose make sure you stick to them so you’re not working when you don’t want to be.

2. Create an Inspiring Workspace

Having a creative space set aside for you to work is another important aspect of working from home. Being able to go to your ‘office’ each morning and being inspired by your surroundings will help keep you focused on your work and away from distractions. Having your own workspace helps keep your work organized, and it will make it easier for you to distinguish work life from home life.

Even if you spend part of your day working from other areas of your house (like your bed!), it’s nice to have a space dedicated just to work. Plus, it’s fun to have a place just for you to keep your pretty design & craft supplies, right?

3. Get Motivated

When you work from home, there are going to be days you don’t feel like getting out of bed. Taking the day off one or two days a month isn’t the end of the world, but taking 3 days off in a row when you have projects due isn’t going to make you a successful entrepreneur.

For those days you just can’t seem to find any motivation, create a playlist of all the songs that pump you up or inspire you. I have a Spotify playlist called Biz Inspiration and anytime I need a pick me up, I listen to those songs and am instantly inspired to get stuff done.

Another way to beat being unmotivated is to get out of the house. I’ve found that if I go to my favorite coffee shop, grab a coffee and put my headphones in, I can get so much done in an afternoon. Being away from the distractions of home helps me focus on my client’s needs instead of my own, and gets me motivated to get more work done.

As hard as it can be at times, owning your own business is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your life, and all the struggle is worth it in the end!


What tips do you have for working at home? Share them in the comments!

4 Ways to Stand Out from the Rest

Make Your Business  Stand Out from the Rest

These days, it seems like everyone is starting their own business or blog, which crowds the market and makes it hard for anyone at all to stand out – unless you make yourself different, memorable and remarkable.

Today I’m sharing a few ways to make your business stand out from the rest.

1. Take the rules and throw them out the window

There are just some things that certain niches don’t do, simply because no one has done it before. One way to become memorable is push the envelope and think outside the normal box that everyone else in your industry lives in. It can take lots of brainstorming and work, but creating a service or a product that is different from everyone else’s will pay off. Think of Virgin America Airlines – what other airline has mood lighting and screens in every headrest that allow you to watch tv and surf the internet without a laptop? They thought outside of what other airlines were doing and are hugely successful because of it.

2. Use practices of your favorite brands and infuse them into your own

You love your favorite brands for a reason – maybe they offer little extras with each purchase or they have the best customer service on the planet. Write down all of the reasons you love your favorite brands, and try to figure out ways to infuse some of those things into your own brand. This will help you build a brand you love while standing out  because you’re a little bit different from the rest of them.

3. Offer something unique

Just because other designers offer branding, web and illustrating services doesn’t mean you have to too. Know what you’re good at and stick with that. If you have restaurant experience and love the fast paced world of hospitality, think about focusing your design services just toward hospitality companies. That way you’re working only with clients who are in an area of work you’re an expert in, and you’ll become known for just working with those certain types of clients. This helps you create a unique brand among others who are offering all sorts of services to all sorts of people.

4. Don’t wait for permission

If you want something – go for it! Don’t wait for people to reach out to you, if there’s a project you’re dying to work on or a collaboration you want to do, be the person that reaches out. You don’t have to wait around for someone to give you permission to make your dreams happen. Be the connector and people will see you as a person who knows what they want and knows what types of projects they want to work on. You’ll set yourself apart from those waiting around for success to fall into their lap.


What ways have you tried to set yourself apart from the crowd? Share them in the comments!