In this article I am going to discuss the thought process I went through on how to build a brand for MyPhotoCTO, so that you can get a handle on some of the things you may need to consider when starting your own business and creating your own brand.
Essentially this post is a complete walk through on how to build a brand.
But first, a little history
The concept for this site goes back a long way.
I’ve ran a number of businesses over the years, and I’ve also worked for a number of businesses as well. But in my heart, I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur.
When working for other people I worked primarily in I.T. (the Information Technology sector). I started as a programmer in a small software house and eventually worked my way up to become Head of IT (Chief Information Officer) for a multi-million turnover company – so I had lots of experience of the mechanics of what goes on in business.
Through the years I dabbled a couple of times with half-hearted attempts of running my own computer supplies business – both of which failed miserably as I was still too young and naïve to realise that, before you can run a business, you need to know how to sell a product.
In 2001, I thought I had reached what I though was the peak of my business success when I founded an online financial services business that caught the imagination of many investors as we were on the cusp of the dot.com boom.
The website based business that I built with just a £6,000 (British pounds) investment was hitting a million page views in it’s first month and before we knew it, we had a membership of 14,000 people who were highly interested in stocks and shares.
Things went so well that we actually floated the company on the small OFEX stock market raising a quarter of a million in capital at the the same time.
For three days myself and my small team were on cloud nine.
Then on Sept 11, 2001 suddenly the world changed. And with it the entire investment landscape that our business had been built on.
We were a dot.com business with very little to offer as a real tangible product apart from a website – As you can imagine our business didn’t last for too long afterwards.
So, I found myself back “working for the man” as Head of IT for a large corporation – very bruised and battered from trying to keep my company afloat – but also a lot wiser from the experience it gave me!
Fast forward to 2009 – older, maturer and much more sales orientated, I decided to finally ditch the corporate rat race and get back to running a business for myself.
This time I chose a passion close to my heart – photography. Something that had been dear to my heart my entire life.
This wasn’t going to be a little one man band wedding photographer type business though – no, I was setting my goals much higher than that.
Fortunately, the photography business grew very quickly and my wife and I quickly opened a large studio space and started to dominate the local photography market.
The website expertise I had gained in my previous online venture served me well, and we were also dominating the online rankings, so much so that other photographers started to reach out to me for advice – I was also being asked to speak about Marketing and SEO at Photography conventions and trade events.
It was at this point the penny dropped – the “eureka” moment occurred.
I knew at that point that both our businesses had great potential, but for them to grow I had to delegate – I couldn’t do all this myself.
So I changed my approach completely.
I started developing Systems.
Systems I could teach photographers who came and started working with us at the studio, and systems I could teach to staff that I hired to help me with the SEO services we provide for other photographers.
The husband and wife team quickly grew to become a team of eight – four in our studio and four based overseas (our “virtual assistants”) working on the SEO side of things.
Suddenly, I could run the business by delegating tasks completely to other staff.
Suddenly, instead of being glued to the office and looking after our customers, I had staff that could do it for me.
Fast forward to October 2015, and my wife and I had scheduled two separate 7 week vacations at our second home in Florida.
We were about to spend a total of three months physically removed from our business – because we had delegated and systemised our business processes.
For the first time ever our photography business was running without us being there. Our SEO services was running well without me being tied to a computer all day tweaking clients websites.
For the first time ever I was running my business at the side of a pool.
At that point I could suddenly see the point where if I managed my businesses properly, expanding into certain key areas, then there was no reason why I couldn’t run my business from anywhere in the world – and for me, that favourite place would be beside a pool in a nice warm climate.
It was then that the idea for this site was born – You see although I could now manage my business almost anywhere, I was still tied to a laptop and continually checking and updating my business websites – I now had three to take care of at www.alanhutchison.co.uk, www.allureboudoirphotography.co.uk and www.photoproseo.com – What if I could get someone to do that for me as well?
It was at that point the catalyst idea for MyPhotoCTO was born – Managed IT and WordPress Support for Photographers
So I needed a name for the business – what could I call it – what would work well as a domain name, what would work as an “identity”.
Step 1 in How to Build a Brand – the Name!
This is when we got down to the old fashioned business processing of “Brainstorming”.
If you are not familiar with the term, this is how a Brainstorming meeting should be run:-
Gather a few trusted friends or advisers and explain your concept and that you are looking for ideas for a company name.
Assign one person to right down the ideas.
EVERY SINGLE IDEA should be written down – there are NO BAD IDEAS
Keep going until you run out of ideas – then step back and look at them all – start to eliminate certain ones – think how they should match your own definition of the brand.
By the end of your Brainstorming meeting, you should have about 6 to 10 decent suggested names.
Now is the time to do a quick check for any names that might already be in use. Hopefully you will still be left with 3 to 5 names to consider.
Sleep on it for a couple of days.
Eventually you and your subconscious mind will agree on the best company name.
To give you an idea of the process we went through, here are some of the names we brainstormed:-
- Photo WP
- Photo IT Services
- IT Photo
- My IT Department
- The Photographers Chief Technology Officer
- My Tech Support
- The Photographers Tech Support Company
As always it can often be one of the simplest and one of the earliest ideas that jump out at you – and in our case, it was “My Photo CTO” that I kept going back to.
“CTO” in IT circles stands for Chief Technology Officer which is the US equivalent to an IT Director in the UK. And of course “CTO” in Photography circles stands for Colour Temperature Orange, which is a basic colour correction filter used in photography.
For me it was perfect – it grasped exactly what I was try to achieve – every photographer could afford their own IT Department to help them with technical issues and effectively have their own Chief Technology Officer for their website.
So I had a name – but now I needed to turn that name into a Brand – a visual identity.
Now as any entrepreneur will tell you, particularly at the start-up stage of any business, you try to keep control of your costs. But you also want to ensure you aren’t stifling your business due to a lack of financial commitment.
So when it comes to branding and the visual design that goes with it – DON’T SKIMP!
I wanted a visual identity that looked professional, but also provided the right message.
So the first thing I did, was to write a design brief, explaining my perception of what the brand should be.
Here is the exact design brief for the My Photo CTO brand:-
Design Brief for MyPhotoCTO.com Brand/Visual Identity
MyPhotoCTO.com will be a website that provides a service to photographers to Manage and Support their WordPress based websites. The mantra of the site with be 100% awesome IT and WordPress Support. The site will also provide informative articles and hints and tips for photographers on running a business and maintaining a website.
The target audience of the site are professional photographers looking for help on running and building a website for theor business and who are also interested in topics such as Internet Marketing, Traditional Marketing, Website Design and Hosting, and exploiting Social Media.
The branding of the business must suggest and be in tune with the following attributes:-
- Site Logo
- Site Colour Scheme / Branding Guidelines
- Home / Landing Page Concept
- Blog Page Concepts
- Full rights to the design for our exclusive use worldwide and in any medium with no time limitations
- We require the original files with all layers intact
- The final site will be a “responsive” website, so the design concepts should bear this in mind
- The site design must be something that can be suitably rendered by an adequate web designer for use on the WordPress platform
So that was how we got to the stage of being ready to engage a Graphic Designer.
- I’ve explained the history that led me to establish my vision to be able to run my business from anywhere – (it’s always useful to share the concept and history of your business with your graphic designer so that they can be fully attuned to what you are trying to achieve)
- Once I had the concept, I used Brainstorming techniques to come up with Brand name ideas
- I checked the availability of the brand name and took a few days to reflect on my final choice
- I created a design brief I used as a structure for communication with my designer