I have grown 2 brands. The first is a personal brand – me, Bex Band, as an adventurer and ‘the Ordinary Adventurer’ blogger. The second brand I have built is a female adventure community, Love Her Wild. Growing a business or a brand is all about building a following. That doesn’t happen overnight. It took non-stop blogging, learning and experimenting to get where I am today. And I’ve still got a long way to go to reach my goals!
The success of the Ordinary Adventurer and Love Her Wild involved hard work, smart/efficient working, continually learning, persistence and a bit of luck. Within the space of a year, I got myself to a position where I could start earning money through these 2 avenues.
Find out more by checking out my blogs: how dis I become a professional adventurer, My messy career path to adventurer and also My income report; how much does an adventurer earn?.
Throughout this journey, there have been lots of things I tried with little effect but there were also some things I did that I considered my ‘smart moves’. Things that increased my traffic and engaged a loyal audience. And it’s these moves that I want to share with you today. Here are 11 smart things I did when growing my brand….
#1 Collect emails…from the start!
I learnt this too late so am playing catch up now. Having a subscription list I believe is the single most valuable asset your brand will own. The second you set up your website, have a way that you can start collecting readers email addresses via a subscription plugin, even if you aren’t ready to start sending out newsletters yet.
You might wonder why you need this if you can achieve a successful social media following. Quite simply, social media is unreliable and selective whereas email subscriptions are loyal and direct.
Many times over the course of building my brands, Facebook changed the algorithms which meant that suddenly no one saw my page anymore….they own these platforms, not you.
#2 Treat it like a business, even it doesn’t feel like it
If you are serious about growing your brand, whether that be as an adventurer, a blogger or a service you are offering, then you need to start treating it for what it is – a business. That means being disciplined, determined and professional.
Make sure your website represents this. Set yourself up officially from the start either as a sole trader or company. Get yourself some business cards and a work email so you look serious. And network any way you can in the beginning by going to relevant events and conferences.
There are lots of business and marketing skills you will need to learn that will help you grow. For more on this go to Loads of free resources to help you grow your brand.
#3 You can’t be for everyone
It took me some time to find my direction and my voice. I was trying to target too wide an audience. Find your niche early on. The more specific the better. If you are an adventurer, what is it that makes you special? Will you focus on family adventure, UK based adventure, record-breaking adventures, endurance challenges, etc?
That doesn’t mean that you can’t grow and expand your brand down the line. But for the early stages when you are trying to stand out in a busy market, find your unique selling point.
#4 Provide an opportunity that your audience will value
As my blog and Love Her Wild grew, I kept getting emails from women asking if there was an adventure they could join me on. It made me realise that there was a need in the adventure world that hadn’t been met. And that I could fill it.
I came up with the Everest Adventure idea and invited women to apply to join me on this expedition. Basically, I had created an opportunity for other people, the kind of thing I would have jumped at myself. My readers valued that so I advertised this opportunity on adventure and women’s groups and forums.
There were over 100 applications for the adventure, my Love Her Wild members increased by over 700, my blog traffic spiked and my subscribers went up about 25%. ‘Smart move’ (while also having an awesome adventure to go on!)
I’ve continued to provide value to my followers in many ways, like running the Women’s End2End relay in 2020.
#5 Get speaking as soon as you can
When I came back from hiking the length of Israel I gave a free talk at a casual event called YesStories. At the event, I was asked to return to speak at their festival, Yestival. Someone had seen that I had given the talk on my social media and invited to speak at a women’s conference. My bookings continued like this!
At each of these events, I gain a handful of new followers who liked my talk and wanted to know more. Through the process of talking publically, I started to really define who I was and what I stood for as a brand. They are also great for networking. Meeting face to face with adventure event organisers, adventurers, brands, etc.
I’ve yet to do a talk that hasn’t opened a new opportunity for me.
#6 Find your community
You can learn loads from other people who are trying to build a brand just like you are. Network with others in your field and connect online. Try to find people who you can share ideas with. If you are great at Instagram, could you provide support for someone who in exchange can help you with something you are not so good at?
Early on I signed up to Travel Blog Success. Although the group is travel-focused, their blogging webinars and the private support group has really helped my blog grow. You can find out more about them here.
#7 Start collaborating
I started to connect with other like-minded brands, mostly female adventurers. Once a relationship had been built, I then looked at collaborating on events and adventures.
Working with someone else doesn’t only half the work that you have to do but also provides exposure via their followers.
#8 Run giveaways
People love getting free stuff! I contacted a handful of adventure companies and asked if they could provide some items that I could use in a giveaway. In exchange, I offered a review on Love Her Wild of the item or a post on my social media platforms. Companies jumped at this as it was an advertising opportunity for them.
Once I had some items, I ran a giveaway, selecting at random who had signed up to my newsletter. Every time I have done a giveaway I see a boost in sign up/follows and I also like that I can ‘reward’ my readers for their loyalty.
#9 Engage, engage, engage
Social media pages are a gateway to my blog and everything else I am doing.
If you want to grow your social media pages, you are going to have to start engaging and interacting. Engagement is not just about getting new followers though, it’s also about keeping and valuing your existing ones. The same principle applies to blog comments and emails.
If you want help with your social media, check out my social media guide to getting more followers.
#10 Get to know who you hope you will become
My bookmark bar is full of the sites of all the companies and influencers who I’d like to be on par with one day. I read their blogs, comment on their posts, attend their events. The best learning comes from other people and being familiar with my industry and what is successful now gives me an ongoing stream of good ideas.
I also have a few people I follow that I don’t like. I find it just as valuable understanding what it is that I don’t want my brand to be!
#11 Get rid of the fear of putting yourself out there
How have I got to where I am today? I faked it till I made it! This actually takes a lot of guts. I built a website that made me look better than I felt. Spoke on stages with confidence that I wasn’t feeling inside. Went on an adventure that was tougher than I thought I could handle. When I see opportunities or meet people I admire, I give myself a nudge to put myself forward to say ‘hi’ even though I feel embarrassed.
You feel stupid/small/scared but it works. Eventually, you will lose these horrible feelings and start to believe you really are who you are pretending to be. You’ve got to get rid of the fear of rejection and stop worrying about what people will think.
Bonus tip: enter awards
I learnt this from a lovely lady I met at a start-up networking event (see #2!). She told me to put yourself forward for awards. It seemed like a really odd thing to do but has been such a useful tool for growing my brand.
One of the awards I put myself forward for was the Next Generations grant and I won! I got mentoring, a cash prize as the winner. Soon after I then found out I’d been selected by Business Leader magazine as their top 30 Inspirational Entrepreneurs. They’d heard about me as the winner of the award.
I was sure I wouldn’t win. But with all these opportunities you chase on the way up, it’s just about putting yourself out there and trying!
Ready to start building your brand?
When I interviewed Laura Try about how she made a success as an adventurer and ocean rower, I especially loved when she said ‘you throw everything at the wall, see what sticks, do more of that. Then throw more stuff at the wall….’:
Building a brand took trying lots of ideas and pursuing the things that worked. But also not stopping there. You’ve got to keep thinking of new areas that you could try or pursue. The brands that grow fastest are the ones that are original and creative with the things they try…while also being consistent in the areas that really matter.
Got any questions or and ideas that I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments box below.
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