When I start a new project or company I typically feel a burning desire to jump right in to creating the branding. What will I call it? What will my brand colors be? What will my logo look like?

I’m all for taking advantage of the energy of new beginnings, but far too often we start with the fun stuff (like pretty curtains and the color of paint on our walls) before we build the foundation.

Do we really want a pretty house that won’t last through the next storm? No way. This is often the case with (us) bloggers and I think it stems from a real desire to cement who we are and what our businesses represents. It doesn’t help that we work in a highly visual medium and to get started with a blog we have to make some decisions about those visuals right away.

The desire to solidify our branding isn’t a bad thing, but think about how much more powerful it would be if those colors, logos and messages were built upon a vision that you believed in.

No matter where you are in the process, here are 5 questions you can use to step back and help gain clarity around your brand identity.

1. What is your businesses ultimate mission?

One thing you’ll find with the most successful brands is that they keep their mission at the core of everything they do. Your mission will not only inform your branding but it will be a key touchpoint for your customers and future employees.

A mission statement answers the question of what your business does. Take a look at the following mission statements from some well-known companies:

Amazon: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.

Tumblr: To empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve.

Ebay: Our mission is to be the world’s favorite destination for discovering great value and unique selection.

Casper: Great sleep, made simple

Squarespace: Squarespace makes beautiful products to help people with creative ideas succeed.

You’ll notice that the mission statements of these companies leave a lot of room for growth. Your mission is not to start a blog based business that makes money – that is a side effect of your mission.

A vision statement is not about what you do, it’s about what you want to become. It’s aspirational and should inspire you and your -eventual- employees.

Life is Good: To spread the power of optimism.

Ebay: Our vision for commerce is one that is enabled by people, powered by technology, and open to everyone.

A good way to start exploring this is to ask yourself why you started your businesses. You initial answers may be around your own life, but dig deeper – how do you see your content, product or service having an impact on the world?

My businesses mission is to empower people to build blog-based businesses through education, inspiration & accountability.

2. What is the purpose of your business?

Your purpose is really the why behind your mission.  The why behind your business should drive EVERYTHING. Why do you want to create something that does what your mission statement says.

This may seem like a step you can skip but actually spending the time to define your why in detail can have lasting effects on your business.  The why will get you through the hard times, it will help you gain clarity around your choices, it will help you exclude choices that do not support it.  If you grow your business to the point where you have employees, the why will serve as a touchpoint for them – it will help them and you know who is right for your company.

Spend some time understanding the why behind your mission.  Try to add some specificity to that – your mission might be to empower creatives – your purpose should not just be to change the world (althought it would), go deeper with the question – it could be that you want to change individual’s lives for the better, it might be that you want to help create a world with more creativity in it.  Work through this until you have a purpose statement that makes your soul feel good.

3. How do you want your customers to feel?

You should never start your branding phase without knowing the answer to this question.  An easy way to do this is come up with three ways that you want your customers to feel when they interact with your products and branding materials.

These answers will help you determine appropriate branding elements.  You may want your customers to feel energized and because of that you choose bright colors for your core color scheme.  You may want your audience to feel relaxed when they visit your site and because of that you may choose a softer languge style and images that reflect a more gentle approach.

4. What is your brand’s voice?

Voice is one of the most overlooked areas when it comes to branding.  It is something you should spend time building out as you move forward but having an idea of what your voice is going into the branding phase can influence so many things.

First off, let’s define voice.  Voice is not just the words you put on your marketing materials.  Think of voice as the attidtude and personality of your brand.  It can come out in so many ways – through your words, through your fonts, through your images, through your communcation style.

An easy way to do this is to literally think of your company as if it was a person.  What does that person act like?  How do they talk?  How do they dress?  How do they relate to other people?

A great example of a company who’s voice really shines is https://www.thugkitchen.com/ – check out their site and cookbooks to see brand voice in action.

5. Who is your customer?

THIS.  You have to know this, or at least be trying to figure this out.  A good way to start is brainstorming on who you think your customers are.  What are their pain points related to what you are creating?  Where can you find them?  What do they need?

Over time you will gain insight into your customer’s through user behavior, advertising experiments and customer service so I always recommend you update your understanding of who your customers are in a formal way.  Literally keep a profile of your ideal customers and edit it as you learn more about them.

Your Biz Growth Homework

Spend time answering these five questions.  Literally write down the answers and set a date on your calendar to do a check in and edit your original answers as you learn more.

Extra Credit

Build out a more complete personality profile for your company.  Create a visualization of the person that would represent your business by drawing them.  Think of this as a creative exercise to help you gain more insight into who your company needs to be.  Use this drawing as a touchstone for branding conversations.