The big difference between building a business and building a brand.

When people talk about branding and business, the water can get mighty murky.

There’s a lot of conversation about building a business and building a brand like they’re one and the same. And while these guys are married—joined at the hip even—they’re also two very different creatures.

To get the best from your branding agency and budget, you want to be clear on whether you need a brand or you’re still figuring out your business, before diving in. Knowing where the lines in the sand are, where you’re at in the process and whether what your branding agency offers meshes with what you need can save you missed expectations and messy conversations down the line.

Where to start?

The business. It’s your foundation. Without that, there’s nothing to brand. Your business is basically the model and mix of products and services that you offer. Think of it as the meat and potatoes of what helps you make money or make a difference (or both).

If you’re a solopreneur or still in the early days of running a coaching or consulting business, I’ve learned it’s best to start with a one-to-one consulting/coaching model where you work personally with clients.

Once that’s humming and bringing in revenue, think about subcontracting some of your work. That can free you up to tackle other business models that can up your income, like group coaching, live events or hosting workshops. And then adding in digital products and services—think e-books and online courses—means there’s a steady stream of passive income that doesn’t rely quite so much on you or your team doing all the lifting and loving.

It doesn’t always happen in that order—see entrepreneur and thought leader Marie Forleo’s business timeline for an example—but if you don’t have access to the right-slash-big resources straight-up, it’s better to start small and build steadily. Possibility is one seductive priestess and taking on too much too early in your business can be a sinkhole.

Regardless, expect your business model to change as your business grows. You’ll learn what things you like doing and are best at, what you want to focus on—and what’s making you money.

It’s not unusual—even with due diligence and deep research—to find that a revenue stream you thought would be the ultimate rainmaker, isn’t really. Sometimes the market shifts and wants something different. Sometimes you find it simply doesn’t fit or feel right. Embrace experimentation. It’ll get you there far faster and with more ease than pushing and forcing what you think ‘should’ work.

In any case, before tackling the brand, you need a way of making money or making a difference. Floor before roof. Fuel before take-off.

Your brand, on the other hand, is what sets you apart from all those other businesses out there who do what you do. So, if you’re a productivity coach for example, your brand sums up what makes you different from all the other productivity coaches who are your competitors. Your brand is what you stand for and why, made visible. The message you want to send to the world—but mainly your prospects—about what meaningfully differentiates your business in the market.

Your products and services may be the meat and potatoesbut your brand’s the mayo that gives them that zesty zing.

And this is where the marriage and magic happen. (And when confusion sometimes sets in.)

Because your brand is also what helps your business make more money. By making your message focused, clear and more visible, you attract more attention from prospects, partners, even the media.

Author and internet entrepreneur Mark Manson nails it: “Branding is a leverage point—it’s something that the more you work on and perfect, the more it will have a multiplier effect on everything else—sales will come easier, traffic will stick better, people will talk about you and spread your content more efficiently.”

In fact, rebranding his own business saw traffic to Mark’s site jump five-fold—and his income three-fold—in just six months. In his own words: He scored millions of readers in over 100 countries, plus was published in some of the world’s top publications. (All while working fewer hours.)

Like your business, your brand will morph over time. Say you decide you want to do something entirely different for a totally different audience, so what you’re in the business of changes. Which means you not only need to rethink products and services and possibly also the model you’re using to offer them—but maybe what you stand for and what you want to say about that as well.

Here’s where I’ve seen people go off the rails with all this, and what you’ll want to do instead:

1.    Have the business figured out before you come to brand it. Some branding agencies will help you determine your business strategy and model, revenue forecasts and the like. Others will focus purely on positioning your brand with words, ideas and images. Either way, you’ll need to be clear on what you’re offering and how it operates, as a first step.

2.    Know your end-game. Building it up and selling it off, or having someone take over, or making the business all about you always and forever, are different approaches that can affect whether it’s best you brand your business under your own name or not. It’s worth giving some thought at the start to where you want to be.

3.    Jumping the gun just makes it harder. This includes trying to brand a business before you have a proper one or trying to market your business without dynamite positioning. Without the right pieces in place before you take the next step, you’ll risk bleeding cash and time and sanity.

See yourself in any of this? We can help you navigate clearly and nail exactly what you need. Get in touch to learn more about our Brand Reveal Program.