On Imitation That's Not Flattering; How to Develop a Truly Unique Online Presence

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Part of the Declaration of You Blog Tour

“Hey, quick note! Today I’m writing on the topic of Uniquity as apart of The Declaration of You blog tour. The Declaration of You is a super-fun, illustrated workbook by career coach Michelle Ward and artist Jessica Swift that’s coming out this month. It’s all about helping you uncover your unique gifts and how to use them. To pre-order the book and/or check out the other awesome blogs participating in this tour, be sure to check out their website! Aaaand now onto the post…” –Stephanie

It’s completely normal to develop business crushes from time to time.

One moment you’re innocently pressing “Play” on a video interview you’ve had open in a new tab for the past 2 days. Then the next thing you know, you’re pouring over your newfound Hero’s blog at 1 AM with spirals in your eyes or dedicating an entire Pinterest board to the beauty of their wares. (Google, YouTube, and Wikipedia may also take varying degrees of involvement.)

But once we’ve fallen into mild infatuation with a person or business we admire, it can be so easy to lose sight of ourselves. And even go so far as to start making changes to our own online presence.

“What’s the harm in switching up the font on my website to this one that ___ uses?” you say to yourself, before also “switching up” your color scheme, several images, and your front page copy. Or before sending off that note to your web designer with the site URL and suggestion of “making it more like this.”

Unfortunately, I’ve stumbled across so many sites lately that I imagine came about this way! You instantly recognize who their idol is from the likeness of their brand messaging and design. And the biggest reason I hate to see this is because there’s no way it’s doing proper justice to the website owner’s unique work.

Fortunately, though, there are actions a business owner can take to accept a new business crush’s influence without completing losing their own brand.

Step 1: Actively cultivate confidence

The first is to actively cultivate confidence.

Think of it this way: Creating a brand for your online business is like picking out something to wear for an important event.

When the stakes feel high, you might remember that bright magenta and green outfit your more popular friend wore (that everybody– included you– absolutely loved) and decide to go for almost the same thing. It feels much easier in that moment than taking a risk on something new you’ve picked yourself.

But when you’re completely honest with yourself, you know that outfit wasn’t meant for you. (The shoes maybe, but at least not all of it together.)

And if you make an effort to acknowledge what an awesome business owner you are (by reviewing accomplishments, re-reading customer reviews and thank you notes, or whatever it takes), you’ll be much more likely to stand by your own choices under pressure.

Step 2: Gather inspiration from many sources

Assuming one is ready to embrace their own brand without being easily swept away by their biggest influence of the moment, the secret to uniqueness is to gather inspiration from all kinds of sources.

Borrow heavily from a single brand, and you’re likely to look like a poser. But make a point to gather inspiration from a wide sampling of influences, and you can’t help but come out with something altogether unique.

Maybe so and so’s site is your current infatuation, and thus where you’re getting all of your “inspiration” right now. Try to take a step back from that for a moment and see the bigger picture. Ask yourself: What does your business look like when you disconnect from this particular source?

Surely your target customer (the person you’re ultimately trying to attract with your business) digs lots of people, places, and things. Who’s their favorite recording artist and where do they love to go for fun? What websites do they frequent when they’re shopping outside of your industry– for clothes, furniture, exercise equipment, groceries? What colors do the answers to these questions bring to mind? What kind of vibe?

Step 3: Transition into your truest and best

Finally, as you consider all of these influences, notice what just seems to click with your own natural personality. What feels truest to you and the work you have to offer.

Keep a brand journal that records everything from color schemes to photos to words you like the sound of.

If you first created your website before giving this sort of thought to your brand, you may someday decide to do a complete rebrand using new choices collected in your journal, or you may just incorporate a change or two into what you already have. I just encourage you not to make any rash decisions. (Consult Step 1 again if you get the feeling.)

Now, I know I barely scratched the surface here regarding the steps one goes through to create a unique brand for their business, but if you’re interested in a full, thorough walk-through, absolutely check out my e-book, Love Potion: Creating Wild Customer Attraction. There’s a possibility I could be taking it “off the shelves” soon. ;)

So now I’d like to hear from you. Have you ever gotten caught up in someone else’s brand to the point that you may have swiped a thing or two too much? Have you ever come across a site heavily based on your own? Would love to hear your experience– leave it for us in the comments!

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