11 May Smart Branding For Your Small Business
What do you think when I say Nike? What about McDonald’s? Did a swoosh and a golden arch come to mind? Probably. And if they did, that’s a great example of what we’re talking about today: branding.
Branding, by definition, is what you create (name, symbol or design) that distinguishes your company from anyone else’s. And both Nike and McDonald’s are strong examples of how the imagery created through branding can stick, even when the company itself is not right in front of you.
From the moment you wake up, to when you close your eyes at night, commercials, print ads, radio commentators, mailers, and billboards inundate you with ad information about businesses you may or may not find relevant. These messages are part of a constant barrage, and can leave you wondering, as an entrepreneur, how you can make your branding matter, and how to make it stand out.
To start things off, there are some questions you should be asking before even thinking of starting to brand your company. Take some time, now, to write down your answers:
- What is the mission of your company? What are you trying to achieve on a daily basis with your business?
- What are the benefits and features of your products or services? What sets you apart from your competition?
- What do your customers and prospects already think of your company? Do you have feedback from customers (don’t shy away from reaching out for some)?
- What qualities do you want people to associate with your company?
After you’ve answered these questions, make sure that you take time to research and back up the answers you wrote. When running a business, never assume you know what your customers want. Always do your research.
When you’ve first started your business, the idea of creating a great logo can be really intimidating. Something to remember is that you don’t have to have the perfect design right off the bat. Give yourself the time, and the space, to experiment and be creative. It will probably take a few tries to get the logo just right, and that’s okay!
Take Starbucks, for example. The logo that we know today took 40 years to create!
Of course, we all hope that our logo ideas hit the mark on the first try, but the fact is that it takes a lot of behind the scenes work in order to create things that impress and influence for generations.
In your own quest to conquer your logo design, start off with looking at other logos in your industry and taking notes on the pros and cons of each design. Then, take your answers to the questions above and start piecing together an idea for what you’d like your design to incorporate.
Remember these three things:
1. Keep it clean, keep it classy
Not only should the image be something that can be translated to anything from a business card to the side of a truck, it should also be something that’s crisp and clean (avoid clipart and photographs).
2. Consider your industry
Depending on the industry, you should take into consideration the kind of fonts, colors, and images you use. For example, if you’re representing a business that’s geared toward creative-minded people, using paintbrushes or a paint palette would be a great way of portraying a pivotal part of your business.
3. Have fun with it!
Your company is an extension of Y-O-U. Find something that’s meaningful to how you want your business portrayed and something that really speaks to what you want the business to be.
Building a story around your logo is also a great way to bring out the culture of your business. Whether you share the vision with your employees, advisors, or investors, make sure there’s a foundation that backs your logo design.
Going back to the story of Starbucks, they’re also a great example of having a story to back their branding. They even have a blog post dedicated to it. The point is, take your time building your brand and, with it, your logo. The Starbucks brand wasn’t built in a day, and your business doesn’t have to be, either.
Step 2: Creating A Great Logo
Now you have your list of ideas for your logo – great! But what’s next? In order to make your branding matter for your business, it’s very likely that you’ll need to outsource the work.
But before you start panicking over the high prices designers have quoted, realize that your beer budget doesn’t necessarily have to exclude you from realizing champagne ideas.
We get that, especially when you’re starting off, it can seem intimidating to find someone to work with on your ideas, but try these resources for finding the perfect person to make your vision into a reality.
- Crew is a community that is built around the idea of excellent work being readily available to those with the ideas to create it. It allows freelancers, designers, developers and studios to build projects all while being a community that is readily monitored to ensure consistency and quality.
- Upwork is a marketplace of clients and freelancers that matches you instantly with freelancers who are fitted to the needs of your business. After putting up a posting and narrowing down your list to a select few freelancers, you have the opportunity to look at their portfolios and you can also see their work history and client feedback.
- Envato is an internationally-driven project marketplace that allows creatives to sell digital assets and collaborate with business owners. From videos to logos, to blog themes, and plugins, this is a great resource for building your business while being able to work with freelancers on a variety of projects, long after your logo design.
- Network your network: This may or may not come as a surprise, but your network is a valuable resource. Post on Facebook, tell friends, and mention it to family members that you’re looking for someone to do some freelance design work for your business. Referrals can be one of the best types of reference for getting work done, but ensure that you look over portfolios and examples of anyone’s work before you commission them to do yours—past work can tell you so much about what you’re paying for.
- Get creative: Finding the perfect logo is all part of your entrepreneurial journey. Don’t be afraid to experiment with work on sites like Fiverr or find a freelancer on sites such as Craigslist. Whatever works!
Once you’ve found your perfect logo, make sure to take the necessary steps to trademark it to keep other companies from using it. Nobody wants to see their logo being sported by another business. Apply for your trademark by visiting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website.
Step 3: Create A “Voice” For Your Brand
When you’re starting your business, it’s important to realize that your brand should speak for you more than just visually. Once you’ve created a logo, start to think about how you want people to perceive your business’ ‘voice.’
Imagine the voice of your company as if your business were standing in front of each potential client introducing itself. Would the conversation be friendly? Conversational? Formal? Funny? Think about who your target market is and how they would react to the conversation that you’re portraying. Remember, you want them to want to continue the conversation!
A great example of a company using its voice to draw in customers is a technology company with a following of over 120 thousand. Why? R/GA has expertly tapped into their target market (amongst others) on social media. Their Twitter feed is light, friendly, conversational, and sarcastic, leaving readers wanting more. R/GA is also a great example of word of mouth marketing. The marketing happens without R/GA reaching out to each person individually because people talk about the content that is being shared.
When you’re creating your own voice, really take into consideration who you’re trying to reach.
Amidst the noise of thousands of marketing campaigns, how will you stand out?
One way is to develop a tagline. This means putting together a short and sweet statement that really encapsulates what your brand stands for. Not sure how? Try this tried and true method to finding your perfect tagline!
Task 1: Write what your business stands for:
Take a minute to jot down every word that you would associate with your business. There are no restrictions here, and there is no limit of words. You can also visit your website and write down key phrases that are used.
Task 2: Write down your benefits:
What are you offering your customers? Write down why they should care about your company and how you can help them.
Task 3: Write down your features, strengths, and selling points
Write down what sets you apart from your competition? What makes you different? Why should potential customers choose to spend time and money with your company?
Task 4: Brainstorm
Here’s the fun part! Using the list of words you’ve now created start piecing them together to create sentence structures that could make a tagline. Have fun with it, this is a no stress activity that doesn’t require for you to get it right the first time.
Task 5: Question your tagline
Now for the kicker. Start asking questions about your top tagline ideas. Don’t be afraid to run it by a few of your close work partners, either. You’ll want to ultimately have it pass these questions:
- Is it visually appealing?
- Is it easy to say and remember?
- Are you speaking in a language and tone that your customers can understand?
- Does your tagline promise something that you can deliver?
- Does your tagline use different words from your company name? ( No need to repeat words that are in your company title)
- Do people like your tag line? (Bring in the judges!)
Finding an example of a great tagline probably isn’t as hard as you think. Just look at some of your favorite brands, including (but not limited to) Nike’s “Just do it,” McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it,” or Apple’s “Think different.” And while these companies have short and sweet taglines, don’t think that’s the only way to make an impact. Sometimes short and sweet is the answer. For everything else there’s Mastercard.
Step 4: Integrate Your Brand
So you have your tagline and your logo. You’ve trademarked the design. Now, it’s time to create an action plan for what to do with everything! Integrating your brand with your logo is crucial to creating an effective brand image in the mind of your customers.
It’s important to come up with a marketing plan that shows not only where your target customers are, but how you can reach them with branding that matters. This is why your logo’s consistency is key—make sure you have a high-quality logo that is versatile enough to work from business card to billboard.
To start things off, when developing your strategy, start considering the ‘where.’ Where should you be sharing your message, along with your logo? This goes back to your target market and customer. If you’re trying to reach out to musicians, try marketing yourself in spaces where they would be found – whether that’s venues, shops, or even festivals!
The process of weaving your brand into every aspect of your business starts with you.
When the founders of Krochet Kids International started their non-profit business built around empowering women in underdeveloped parts of the world, through knitting and crocheting, they not only had a business model, but a product that became an essential part of each of their wardrobes.
Their t-shirts sported their logo and their business model of empowerment. This model went so far as to have the founder, Kohl Crecelius, adopt their classic red beanie as a permanent addition to his daily appearance, becoming known by it (a tradition he’s passed on to his infant son, now).
This branding strategy, while seeming small, tells consumers that the founders of this company are serious about their product.
When you’re starting out, make sure you’re integrating your branding into how you speak to customers, what you wear, and even your email signatures. If you’re going to start a movement, the movement starts with you!