Today we’re going to talk about Tom. Tom is a online marketer who has consulted for million dollar blogs.

Let’s pretend that Tom came to you and said, “I can get you 500,000 page views a month, but I’m going to post what *I* want because I’ve proven it to work on Raphaels-Italian-Breads.com. I’m going to post 1 recipe a week about “The Best French Bread Recipes”.

And you think, “But Tom, I don’t post bread tips! My readers are moms with kids. They don’t have time to make breads that take 3 days to rise.”

And Tom says, “Oh, and we’re going to call everyone Bread Babes in the posts because that creates a sense of community.”

But Tom, OH PLEASE NO. I would never call someone that in real life.

“Oh, and we’re going to use the same colors we used on Raphael’s site because those have proven to work great.”

But Tom, DEAR OH DEAR PLEASE NO. Those colors are SO not me. They’re against everything my brand and soul are about.

So you chase Tom out the door, lock all the doors, and grab the kids. He has no idea who you are or what you site is about.

As bloggers, we don’t always think about the things about ourselves or our brand that make us “us”, we just know what we don’t like. We know from our gut reaction when something feels wrong, we just don’t know how to do the opposite and tell ourselves what’s right. We can clearly tell Tom everything we AREN’T, but it’s harder for us to verbalize what we ARE.

And you want to know something? Aside from all the glitter and science behind it, the basis for branding starts with your gut reaction to those very things.

So what exactly does that mean? How can you start using that gut reaction you feel when things are WRONG to actually know what’s RIGHT?

Let’s say you are browsing “blog designs” on Pinterest. You scroll through and look for designs that appeal to you. And you automatically pin a bunch of designs that are bright, colorful, and slightly rustic as inspiration. You use those images to compile what your “dream brand” looks like in your head.

But in the process, you passed by hundreds of images that didn’t stop you in your tracks. You subconsciously wrote them off because they didn’t identify with what you envision your brand to be.

But here’s the kicker, those images can teach you just as much about your brand as the ones you actually pinned.

Go back and look over that same page you just scrolled through. This time, stop and look at some of the designs you wrote off before, identify what you don’t like about them, and then tell yourself why your brand does not fit in with that style.

This design was cute but too cluttered – I want my site to feel approachable and not overwhelming.

This design was too pastel – I envision my brand to be more upbeat & colorful.

This design used too many swirly, girly fonts – my brand is more sophisticated.

This design is fun and illustrative – but it feels too “young” for me. Too hip.

Just right there, you took those gut-reactions to things you DON’T like and turned them into things you DO like. Things that define your brand. From all those posts you initally passed up, you in turn just defined your brand: Approachable, Colorful, Sophisticated, and Mature.

So next time you see your favorite blogger post a swoon-worthy image on Instagram, think about why you like it. Would that image fit into YOUR brand if you posted it? Do you gravitate towards it because it’s colorful but it’s too trendy for your brand? Think about how you could translate that colorful look with your own style in mind. Do they use a lot of colorful backgrounds but they colors are too crazy for you? Maybe choose 2 colors that are less bright to experiment with by painting some cheap photo backgrounds.

Another thing you can do is keep a notebook by your desk (or create a Google doc) and any time you come across a blog design that you have initial attraction to, write down 3 things about that site that you LIKE. And just as often, when you come across a blog that you want to immediately click out of, write down 3 things about that site that caused that “GET ME OUTTA HERE” reaction. You’ll start to notice themes throughout and before you know it, you’ll have a foundation to work from when you’re making decisions about content, photography, graphics, and site design.

I know it can be overwhelming to narrow down your branding strategy, so I created something to make it easier for you to define your niche.

Click here to download your free 12-page Brand Foundation Workbook.


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