Building a Personal Brand and Improving the Audience Experience

Today I’m sharing all the details with you on how I switched to a more personal brand, refined my identity, overhauled my product suite, and improved my audience and customer experience.

Can I just tell you, if you create and sell online programs, the audience and customer experience plays such a huge role when it comes to branding.

I remember when I first started online, I thought the biggest player in branding is visuals.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

If branding is how your audience perceives you online, then the experience you provide for them is the single greatest factor in branding.

This has honestly been the most game-changing mindset change I’ve made in my business period.

While yes, today I will be talking about some improvements to my brand visuals, this case study is really about how I overhauled the experience I provide through my content and paid training programs.

That is why this post is broken up into two separate sections; the front-end rebrand (the part that everybody saw change immediately like the website and visuals), and the back-end rebrand (the parts that we changed that had the biggest impact but people didn’t really know about until now).

Without further ado, let us get into the details (I suggest grabbing your favorite hot beverage and also a notebook to jot down ideas on how my decisions might apply to your business).

The front-end rebrand

Probably the most visible area of improvement is the front-end branding changes. These include the name change, website, and visuals. They make up the first impression somebody has with your brand online and shouldn’t be overlooked.

I made some decisions that honestly kind of scared me at the time but were so worth it in the long run. Let’s talk details.

From Pines Up North to Cole Hennen

This really came down to building the Pines Up North or Cole Hennen brand.  A decision I’ve been weighing since the day I started. So how do you know when to switch to a new brand name? You don’t. At least never for sure.

I spent months contemplating if I wanted to take the brand name I spent over a year building and (for lack of better terms) throw it away.

So what made me finally make the decision?

  1. I was becoming more known as Cole Hennen than Cole of Pines Up North
  2. I was getting more “publicity-type” opportunities and I knew I would be able to connect better with new audiences if I was just known as Cole Hennen
  3. My vision had changed and I couldn’t fulfill my plans to scale my business under the Pines Up North name

What was the biggest factor though? The thing that finally made me make a decision?

It was the fact that the thought of focusing on building my personal brand made me feel nervous (in a good way).

Pull the trigger.

I can honestly tell you, every time I felt that nervous excited feeling (before making a large business investment, switching software, launching something, etc) and I acted upon that feeling, crazy awesome results followed.

Now that doesn’t mean go switch the name of your brand to your own name.

Ultimately, my vision had changed and therefor I needed a name that would reflect my new direction.

Look at your vision and look at where you see yourself going. Publishing books and speaking at conferences? Or creating a movement with your brand or expanding it beyond just you?

For me, it was a lot smart to move forward under the Cole Hennen brand name.

A refined and chiseled look

A little disclaimer… as you read this blog post, you’ll realize how irrelevant I find the refined look and style to be in the grand scheme of things but I thought it was necessary to mention it in the beginning because it goes along with the name change and new website. Carry on.

When you rebrand your business, I believe you should never completely abandon the style you have become known for.

I like to think of your brand design as ever-evolving. You’re going to tweak and improve upon your visual aesthetic and visuals as you grow and become more in tune with your vision and audience.

For the rebrand from Pines Up North to Cole Hennen, I wanted to refine the existing aesthetic that I’ve become known for and really streamline it.

No, that doesn’t mean creating a consistent color palette or making all my fonts look identical.

It meant honing in on that “instant recognizably” factor that can be seen through my website, products, social media, and other places where my brand reaches.

It is the holistic approach to visual branding that is often overlooked.

My process started with a simple secret Pinterest board in mid-2016 (I have so many secret Pinterest boards – they are so dang helpful).

I mainly use this for art direction and then I gather my favorite pieces and create a cohesive mood board that will serve as a tool to direct how I design the visuals.

Here is the finished product.

I then used the finished product to help my curate all of my visual brand materials.

If you don’t have a mood board for your brand, get on it. They aren’t just for designers yo. They’re the reason I have consistent visual online.

Abandoning my logo

This was a biggie.

I don’t have a logo anymore (I do have a mark though that I put different places as needed).

Because I’m building a personal brand, I didn’t want people to identify me with a logo or brand design. I wanted them to identify with me and my personality which I feel really shines through in the brand aesthetic, not the logo.

I suppose the question is then, should you or should you not have a logo for your own business online?

I would honestly look at whether you want people to put a face with your brand name or a logo. For my case, I wanted to really focus on building a personal brand and that meant getting rid of a logo.

In this rebrand you won’t see a group of patterns, or a consistent color palette either.

I focus on me, my personality, and my personal style to establish my brand design online.

A smarter website

As an online course creator, I don’t technically sell anything on my website so it made it tricky trying to structure everything. However, I knew what I wanted the end-product to be.

If you’re a digital product creator like me, your website has to be an audience growth automated machine.

The new website needed to convert the maximum amount of visitors to my email list and increase awareness around my products.

But here is the interesting thing.

After my August promotion of my signature program, Workbook Workshop, I found some really interesting data about the activity of my audience.

The people who purchased had most likely done the follow within the 30 days leading up to their enrollment.

  1. Signed up for my free design email course
  2. Interacted in my Facebook Group
  3. Had a conversation with me one on one via email

That insight into the activity of my actual customers allowed me to build a website that actually sold more of my training programs.

That is how you build a smarter website.

I have a little action item for you. After your next (or last) digital product promotion, look into the activities that your actual customers took part in leading up to the sale. How can you build those activities in a process that your future future prospects can follow?

For me, it meant I wanted website visitors to join my free email course on visual marketing for digital products, join my Facebook Community, and grab my free Workbook Creation Kit which has a follow up email asking for them to reply.

Why does this work? This process gives my audience tons of free value from me before I ask for anything.

The free visual marketing email course makes a huge impact in their brand’s designs, my Facebook Community allows me to give consistent value to them, and the Workbook Creation Kit shows them my expertise and invites them to further their relationship with them.

If somebody doesn’t take action on all three of those (remember they are the best qualified lead when they take all three… according to my data), I give them more invitations to take action.

The goal is when I come to launch, a majority of my pre-launch list will have taken all three actions.

The back-end rebrand

With this rebrand, I wanted to completely reinvent myself online.

I had a very clear vision for how I wanted to position myself in the market and that was crucial in order to take full advantage of this rebrand.

Because branding is really how people perceive your business online, I knew that I wanted to go much deeper than just the visuals. That is where the back-end rebrand comes in and I’m so excited to share all the details!

Let’s get into it.

Overhauling the audience and customer experience

One of the biggest mindset shifts that I had in 2016 was that branding is really about the experience you provide to your audience and customers.

So that is where I am starting the “back-end rebrand” part of this post.

I looked at areas where somebody might not be getting a consistently stunning experience and I improved it.

This may sound weird (Cole, we’re course creators, not mega-corporations), but without a strong relationship with your peeps, how do you expect to sell more training programs?

Your branding really comes into play with everything you do.

Send spammy email to your list? Your brand image suffers.

Your checkout process of glitchy? Your brand image suffers.

Everything you do. It all effects your brand.

Hopefully that makes sense. So instead of rambling on, let us get into some of the key areas where I overhauled the customer audience experience.

Leaner product suite

One of the biggest mistakes I made in my business during my first year was expanding my product suite too fast.

Moving forward into 2017, I am operating lean and mean.

You can do so much more when you really focus in on one offer.

I’ve been putting almost all of my attention on Workbook Workshop for the last four months and will continue to focus on it into mid-2017.

Making the offer stronger. Creating better more streamlined content that gets people results faster. Being there for my customers more. Actually getting to creating an upsell. Refining my launches and making them more streamlined and effective. Adding JV partners. Etc.

Not only can I continue to improve the product, but I also have a wealth of data from the past three launches to look at too (i.e. the new website).

Moral of the story… look at your product suite and look where it can become more lean and mean.

Revamping my membership website and moving to Programs.ColeHennen.com

Because such a huge part of this project was to improve the user-experience, I wanted to revamp my membership website and create a amazing place to deliver my programs.

We moved my signature program, Workbook Workshop, to programs.ColeHennen.com which is now hosted on the New Kajabi platform. I’ve been absolutely loving the experience so far and my program customers are loving it (I continue to get emails about how great the site works and looks.

I have huge plans for my product suite in 2017, and I wanted a tool that truly reflected my vision. The New Kajabi simply provided the experience I was striving for to my customers.

I don’t want to turn this into an entire sales pitch for the New Kajabi, but I have gotten a lot of questions about why I switched and how I’ve been liking it so far!

If you haven’t heard of the New Kajabi, it is the same software that James Wedmore, Chalene Johnson, Rick Mulready, Zach Spuckler, Rachel Luna, and a host of other high level program creators use.

Check out all the features that the New Kajabi has by clicking here. That is my affiliate partner link so I’ll get paid if you sign up though me (you’ll also get a discount too).

Going back to having a leaner product suite, I only plan to promote two programs this year. One of them being Workbook Workshop and the other being Brand Commodity.

As you can tell from this entire blog post, I really wanted to up my game with everything. That includes having a premium experience for my customers. I really want to scale up in 2017, and I wanted a software that would help me do that without having to outsource.

Moving all of our checkout pages to SamCart

I honestly didn’t know how much I would grow to love SamCart.

It is by far one of the most enjoyable tools that I use on a daily basis and I was happily surprised at how robust the tool is.

If you don’t know what SamCart is, it is hard to explain because it isn’t just a checkout tool. Think of it more as a sales automation tool? It has robust checkout pages, an upsell funnel builder, digital product delivery, affiliate center to host your products’ affiliate programs, and really crazy awesome sales reports. You can learn more by clicking here (again I’ve grown to love SamCart so that is a an affiliate partner link).

The tool also integrates really well with my new membership website. After somebody purchases, it automatically sends them a welcome email with their username and password with instructions to access their material.

Programs on-boarding sequences and marketing automation

These are grouped together because it is still a work in progress and is on the top of the list for quarter one of 2017.

I’m working on creating on-boarding email sequences for my programs so that I can help people move through my content quicker. I also think that having this will help my customer success rate and get them better and bigger results in less time.

On top of that, I want to improve my marketing automation so that when a new audience member joins my community, they get some of my best content. It just doesn’t make sense to only send really valuable content in a one time newsletter.

I’ll update you on my progress over the next few months.

Focus on engagement + community

Back in 2015, when I was just getting started online, Periscope was my central hub when it came to community and engagement. When the platform lost its sparkle, I was left looking for a more long term platform.

Having a community, especially if you create content and digital products, is vital.

It simply allows you to connect with your audience on a level just not possible anywhere else.

There are dozens of platforms to engage with your community (Twitter chats, Facebook Live on your business page, Periscope, webinars, etc) and I ended up choosing to build my own Facebook Group thanks to some advice from Caitlin Bacher (she has some really amazing information on building Facebook Groups so check her out).

Enter the Creative CampOut Community.

Primarily created to join together with information product entrepreneurs to build our online brands. If that sounds like your kind of tribe, I highly recommend joining the group.

Action items for you

See a theme? When I rebranded, it wasn’t about the logos or the brand visuals changing.

It was about how people interact with my brand.

My action items for you? Think about rebranding but not in the way you think. Look at the experience you provide your audience and customers and look at how you can overhaul that.

I also created a PDF download with four ways you can start building your personal brand. It showcases the four highest impact strategies for building your name and engaging your audience. You can grab it here or click the box.

This was an amazing project to go through and it was so very vital in order for me to scale my business to multiple six-figures (my goal for 2017!).

I really hope that seeing the behind the scenes of my most recent rebrand has really helped you. I know this is a ton, but I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed or like you have to do all of this right now.

This entire process took about four months to complete and I had already been in business for a full year before I decided to do all of this.

Take some pieces from this, implement them, and tell me how it goes.

Let me know if you have any thoughts, questions, or insights below. I’ll also be in that new Facebook Group answering all your questions there too.

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