As much as we talk about narrowing your focus to one audience, I recognize the natural tendency to attract various niches. Especially as your business grows, you undoubtedly will begin transitioning your brand to reflect your voice. I’ve experienced this myself, where initially I spoke clearly to one audience, my ideal clients for branding services, I realize now however that my blog has began to reach a different audience of who I see more as friends in my industry, fellow (or upcoming) designers.
While on the surface this looks great: I’m attracting more people to my site, blog traffic has grown, and essentially I have a bigger audience, it inevitably poses some issues from a branding perspective. Who is my audience?
I’ve received several questions about this exact dilemma through email, blog comments, or in my monthly workshops, so I thought it was time to address it. Initially I avoided writing this post, as honestly I didn’t have a good understanding of a solution for this common issue. What I’ve now realized, is that I was simply over thinking it. There isn’t one solution or plan of action, but instead it all goes back to the foundation of your brand.
Over the past couple months I’ve been traveling quite a bit, and therefore had loads of plane time to read a book I’ve been eyeing for a while now. Start with Why, by Simon Sinek, dissects influential leaders + brands, and depicts what makes them successful and more innovative than others. Spoiler alert: the answer is that they have a thorough understanding of why their brands exist and build a framework from there.
Through this book + personal reflection, I’ve gained clarity on how to connect the dots between my multiple audiences, allowing me to maintain a honed in perspective, yet also reaching multiple audiences.
Understand your brand
This book has truly rocked my world, and honestly is one of my top business books to recommend. I only mention it here to show you what gave me that last push + clarity in my brand, and as a resource to you, if you find yourself in a similar dilemma.
Crafting a solution for your brand to appeal to multiple audiences, while also maintaining a unique perspective, seems very complicated at first. In truth, the solution is to back up and start with why. Why did you start this brand/business? Answering this question, in a deep + meaningful way, is the link between your multiple audiences. Though it seems like a simple enough question, it definitely packs some punch and can be challenging to answer! Try to answer in all honesty, and go beyond the surface level “it is my passion,” “to make money,” or “it seemed fun” answers.
The Spruce Rd. Audience
Before jumping to the solution, I thought it would be helpful to provide insight to my unique dilemma. Right now, I have 2 primary audiences, with different income opportunities for Spruce Rd.
Audience #1: Clients
This audience is specifically geared toward creative online business owners. They are small shops (sometimes just a one man show), who are passionate about their skill set, products or courses, and are eager to help others through their brand. I help them through creating unique brand identities + websites to propel them forward, and engage with their ideal customers. Potential income includes: brand design services, web or illustration.
Audience #2: Fellow designers/DIY’ers
This audience is not interested in my branding services, but instead they get super jazzed when I share my design process. They love design, and are looking to grow their skills, pick up new tricks to further their freelance career, or to enable them to DIY their design until they have the funds to invest. I help them through providing tutorials, workshops, courses or blog posts where I openly share my process. Potential income includes: workshops, e-courses, and digital products.
When initially crafting content + a strategy for my brand, based on these 2 audiences, I got a bit overwhelmed. Especially considering my second audience was a surprise to me! My branding clients probably aren’t interested in my favorite Adobe Illustrator shortcuts, while my designer audience wouldn’t be interested in purchasing my services. How do you marry the two audiences?
Find the common thread
Rather than ignoring one audience, or speaking too broadly, I’ve found a common thread between these two audiences. The common link (or the WHY) is that Spruce Rd. advocates for other brands, empowering them to maintain their brand on their own.
Though this statement might not seem that powerful to you, it honestly gave me so much clarity for my business. It means that everything Spruce Rd. produces — whether it is through services (brand design or web) or through products (design/branding courses, tutorials, or digital products) — needs to empower others to maintain quality design.
This revelation transformed my brand design services, into now including templates for design collateral, and even offering training on how to maintain their fresh brand identity. The “why” of my business also provided clarity on “what” and “how” to offer future services/products. It has helped me gain a better grasp on my brand, enabling me to craft content + products that either audience will enjoy.
Building loyalty to your brand
Through building trust in your brand, your audience will naturally adapt to how your brand transitions.
A great example of brand loyalty is Apple (as always!). Apple defines their “why” behind their brand not in terms of what products they produce, but rather the fact that they “think differently.” They challenge the status quo through crafting beautiful products with an emphasis on a user-friendly interface. Because their “why” centers around their mission, rather than the products, they have transformed themselves from a computer company, to the music world, phones, TVs, and other electronics. Their audience, loyal as they are, transitioned right with them to purchasing every Apple product they could afford.
Dell, on the other hand, essentially failed when trying to enter the MP3 industry. They lasted about two years in the MP3 business, and ended up closing doors to focus on computers. Dell is every bit as qualified as Apple to produce MP3 products, in terms of technology, however it just didn’t fit with their existing brand. The problem was that they had defined themselves by “what” they did (computers), rather than “why,” therefore it didn’t sit right with their audience.
“When an organization defines itself by WHAT it does, that’s all it will ever be able to do.”
– Simon Sinek
The Dell mindset limited how far they could reach, and what products they could create.
But what about a niche?
Ah… good question! The latest buzz word “niche” (nitch or neesh… however you want to pronounce it), has been making its rounds throughout many blogs. While this is a great strategy, and one that I condone as well, I think it deserves a definition to make sure we are on the same page.
Niche: The situation in which a business's products or services can succeed by being sold to a particular kind or group of people.
Would you agree that Apple, though they have multiple products in different industries, still appeals to a particular kind of people? Their audience values quality, nice design, and most importantly trusts the Apple brand. If you have one Apple product, chances are you have your heart-eyes set for another one to add to your Christmas list. It doesn’t matter that you aren’t a phone + music enthusiast, you need the latest rose gold iphone.
This proves that your niche doesn’t need to be defined by your product + services offerings, but rather by the characteristics of your audience. Long story short: yes — niche your brand, however do so in a way that allows growth in your business.
Have you suffered a similar case of brand confusion over multiple audiences? Take notes from Apple, and first understand why your brand exists. Avoid defining yourself through the services + products you create, but rather by what drives your business forward.