When is it time to audit your branding and content strategy as a small business?
When was the last time you revisited the nitty gritty of your brand? Or stepped back and took the time to look at your content with a critical eye?
Let's go back to the start of your small business journey
Remember when you started your business, and you wrote down things like Brand Values, Tone, and Personality? Your Unique Selling Points (USPs)? Who your ideal clients and your target audience are?
Most of us create an identity for our brand at some point in our business journey, and then spend our marketing time on creating content and messaging that portrays those things. Or at least keep them in mind at the back of our heads.
But here's the thing: businesses evolve. Sometimes your service offerings shift or even change completely. Or you create a new product, or even move into an entire new line of products which then become your focus.
With those changes, your values as a brand might change. That alone may have even fuelled that last pivot! For example, maybe the jewellery you were creating was using harmful plastics and now you're using recycled materials instead. Maybe you were offering services for well established businesses and you've decided to focus on helping start ups get off the ground.
If your products or services have evolved, it's time for a brand and content audit
When your offering evolves, so should your brand: and with it your USPs and your ideal client and audience too. Think about it: you're offering something different, which appeals to a different clientele (at least to some degree) and a different target audience. Your USPs have probably changed, and if all those things are different: your brand values, tone and personality will no longer be the perfect fit.
The same goes for content: when you're creating content you're always keeping your ideal client, target audience, and brand identity in mind right? If that's all out of date, chances are your content isn't working for you as well as it could- and it might not even be reaching the right people.
What is a brand and content audit?
A Brand Audit is a detailed study of how you are currently presenting your business to the world, and beside other businesses in your industry. It is essentially a deep dive into how your business comes across to the audience you are trying to reach.
A Content Audit looks closely at the content you are creating and sharing, and determining whether it effectively communicates the right messages to the right people. Content audits can be done for social media, your website, your email or newsletter or anywhere else you share content: both online and in print.
A brand and content auditor would look at each aspect of your branding, focusing on the big picture identity points (personality, tone, values, etc) and compare that against the content you are creating and sharing to see if they are cohesive.
For example, if your brand tone was determined (by you) as fun and lighthearted, but your social media posts were written in very formal, serious way there is a big disconnect between the way you are communicating and the way you want your brand to be seen.
Same goes for visuals: if you describe your brand as fun and colourful but only share very stoic photos of you against a neutral backdrop you're portraying the complete opposite personality.
DO I NEED A FULL REBRAND?
Sometimes, but more often than not things just need tweaking! If you have completely changed what you do or who you do it for, then chances are a full rebrand may be in order.
If your products or services have evolved more organically, or if your ideal client/audience has changed more subtle, you probably just need to revisit that Brand Identity handbook (for most of us, some jumbled notes in a scribbler or the notes section on our laptop) and try and rethink your brand with those new products, services and people in mind.
Can I do my own brand and content audit?
You absolutely can, but here's the tricky part: you need to be able to allow yourself to do it objectively. For most of us, our business is our baby and we aren't always the best at admitting what isn't working for us- especially if it's something we like to do.
Do you love jumping around like a crazy person on camera and making reels out of it? Cool! Are you getting lots of engagement from the right kind of clients doing that? Great- keep creating those on brand videos.
But if you're hearing crickets, chances are your audience isn't into that sort of thing. Or you're reaching the wrong audience. Here's where you know you have some adjustments to make to either your brand identity, your ideal client/audience or your content strategy.
If you are someone who is able to separate your emotions from your business and assess your brand and content strategy with an impartial eye, the next section is for you.
If you, like myself and most entrepreneurs, struggle to keep your personal feelings out of the business though- you are best to get someone else to do your brand and content audit for you. Skip the next section and read on below.
how to audit your own brand and content
You've decided to give it a go! Great, let's do this.
Step one: Look at the products or services you currently offer. Have they changed? In what ways? You need this info fresh in your mind for the next part to work.
Step two: Dig out those notes you put together on your brand identity, USPs and ideal client/audience.Read through those notes, keeping in mind the things you outlined in step one. Do these things still hold true? Highlight any that don't.
Step three: Take some time to look at the platforms you use most to share content- your website and your key social media channel(s) are a good place to start. Does the content you're sharing (both visual and written) fit in with those original brand values?
Step four: Asses the measurable data of your content. Which posts get the most engagement? Which web pages get the most visits? Which blog posts are most read? This will give you an indication of what kind of content is working for your current audience.
Step five: Now you've identified the places where there is a disconnect. What needs to change? This is the trickiest part to do objectively. Usually it's one of two things:
You either need to rethink your Brand Identity or you need to reassess your ideal client and target audience. How do you know which one it is? Sometimes there is no right or wrong answer, and it's really a matter of what's important to you.
For me, WHO I work with is most important. I am not interested in working with big brands or large corporations. I want to work with small, women led businesses in start up, growth or rebrand phases of their business journey. If my content isn't reaching the right people it's my content I want to change, not my audience.
For you, it might be the opposite. Maybe you were creating luxury candles and you've evolved the business to eco friendly, natural scents for your home. Your focus is on creating these new products and they might not appeal to the same audience, so that's where you make the shift.
Brand values play big into this decision, if you aren't sure about yours I've written a blog post on how to define them here.
who can audit my brand and content for me?
Ah, it seems we are likeminded souls. Separating my emotions from my work is not my strong suit and the longer I've been in business, the more I've realized the value of advice from an outside perspective- whether it be a colleague, a fellow small business owner, a small group of clients/customers or someone who is an expert in that area.
(You'll notice I've not added friends to this list: friends rarely give completely honest advice for fear of hurting your feelings. And often aren't up to speed on the differences between branding a small business and general branding advice... though if your pals are founders too they can probably help!)
A colleague: an industry pal who gets what you're about and is willing to give honest feedback. The pros here are that they get your industry and are probably clear on what separates you from the rest, but as every niche is different there's still going to be some open mindedness. The con: we all have biases in the industries we work in and that can be hard to set aside.
A fellow entrepreneur: as above- but a little different because they don't know your specific industry. This has the pro of them being more open minded in their assessment, but the con that they don't know your specific industry and the advice could be more tailored to their own.
Clients & customers: a small group of clients or customers, who either know your brand well and can share honest feedback on how they feel about it (and if they feel it's changed) OR a few new clients who can share their input on their initial feelings towards your brand and content. Pros: will share overall thoughts on your as a brand, and will probably be more honest than someone you really know. Cons: if they are buying from you, they might only share the 'good' and not really help you to see what it isn't working. Also- they probably don't understand small business branding as well as you do.
An expert brand and content strategist: someone who does this for a living (like me!) and can provide completely objective, professional advice from an experienced standpoint (pros). They can usually provide longer term help as well to help you implement changes to your branding and keep you on track. Cons: cost. Important to make sure you find someone who specializes in working with small business and won't just offer general branding advice to you- small business branding is much different than the way big brands build recognition.
If you're looking for a brand and content strategist to audit your digital marketing in Glasgow, Scotland or across the UK I can help! Fill out my contact form, drop me a DM on instagram or set up a (free!) discovery call to find out more.
I KNOW WHAT I NEED TO CHANGE, NOW WHAT?
Now you come up with a new brand and content strategy and you start implementing it ASAP! You can do this yourself, or you can ask that same expert you had help with your brand and content audit (hopefully me!) to help you create and implement a new brand identity and content strategy. More on how I can help with that here.
Accountability is key here too: set yourself timelines and goals to hold yourself accountable and make sure you follow through. You've spent the time figuring out what needs to change (that's the hardest part). Now you just need to do it.
If you struggle with accountability (don't we all? The one con of not having a boss to answer to!) ask a colleague or friend to be your accountability buddy and keep each other on track.
And if you need more than a gentle nudge to keep your business growth plan on track, I've got your back. I won't try to be your boss but I will be your accountability coach and help you set measurable goals with deadlines so you don't let that hard work go to waste. More info on accountability coaching for small businesses here.