Most small business owners are surprised to learn that building a brand doesn’t have to be expensive. Sure, creating a brand can be challenging (and daunting), but you are already working hard at it each day with every happy customer interaction, every sale, and every new product you place on the shelf or on your website. And you likely have all the assets you need to get started immediately. Stop viewing building a brand as a distraction to your business and start seeing it for what it truly is – a way to accelerate your business.
Here is a quick and easy guide for how to build a brand on a budget, including where to skimp and where to invest.
- Start with a Professional Logo
Many opt to skip the well-reputed (and likely well-paid) advertising agency or pricey graphic designer, and create a logo at a more affordable price point by using an online, do-it-yourself logo maker. Make sure that your new company logo can be modified for a variety of marketing materials such as a storefront sign, your company website, your email signature, or your menus. A high quality logo design usually comes in multiple file formats to prevent the degradation of the image when it is scaled up or down to fit a specific medium. You want the image to be sharp and clear, whether you blow it up for a large sign or want to shrink it down to make a mobile app icon. Do not skimp on these extra file formats because it could end up costing you more time and money later.
- Find a Message that Matters
Leave the snappy advertising messages to the Don Drapers of the world, and instead choose a message that captures your customer experience and describes your business. You want your brand to be easily understood and associated, which is hard to achieve when your slogan is heavy on the puns or overly clever. One of my favorite industries for messaging inspiration is men’s razors (not kidding). You’ll be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t associate “The best a man can get” with Gillette and its catchy jingle. But Gillette has considerable competition in the men’s razor space, with two fairly recent companies that combined convenient door delivery with a streamlined experience and aesthetic. Meet Harry’s (founded in 2012), “Exceptional shave products sold online at a fair price,” and Dollar Shave Club (founded in July 2011), “A great shave for a few bucks a month.” For both of these businesses, the messaging is equal parts functional and memorable. The taglines 2.0 describe the customer experience clearly and set customer expectations. Harry’s can tailor to a higher-end customer by touting its exceptional unique selling proposition, while Dollar Shave Club is up front about its focus on value, without skimping on great quality. Find your message by focusing on what your customers love about your products or services. Invest the time in this. It’s worth it.
- Focus on Visibility
Now that you have your message and visual identity, place them where people can see them. Is your logo design and company message included in the signature of every single email sent from your business? How about on the top of your invoices, menu, or list of products and services? Do a quick survey of all of the materials that you use every day to make your business run and ask yourself if it makes sense to brand them. You want to add your brand and contact information to items that are easily seen and frequently used. Put your website on your team uniforms (easily works on the left chest of a polo) and your phone number on the back of your t-shirts to make it nearly effortless for potential customers to contact you. Put lawn signs with your logo, website, and phone number at your current job sites, or leave flyers with a special offer for new customers at the counters of other local businesses. These economical branded items spread your company name while driving new potential customers. Start with a small batch of products to put into use and figure out what works best for your business.
- Make it Practical
Building a brand is not reserved solely for those who have hefty budgets for 60-second spots during the Super Bowl. Two of the most practical branded products are business cards and custom pens. In fact, a recent post in the Schumpeter blog on the Economist discussed why business cards are more important than ever, even with our professional and social lives migrating online more and more. Business cards remain to be the easiest, most economical, and practical way to exchange contact information with new connections. They make it easy to reach out again and remember a person or business. Custom pens are another great branded option for spreading your contact information. Think of a custom pen like a business card you write with – you are literally putting your contact details at your customer’s fingertips. A pen has a long life span and is often shared. A potential customer could use a pen for months, even years, and with every use, your business name, phone number, and website will be in plain site.
- Make it Consistent
Whether you are designing a new banner for your next tradeshow or the sign to grace your storefront, keep the look and messaging consistent to start building your brand equity. By reinforcing the same visual and verbal cues, you are increasing the likelihood that your existing customers and potential customers will remember your business. Keep your colors the same, and use the same core visuals, especially in your messaging. Case in point: Southwest Airlines was a pioneer in this when they changed their brand messaging to simply be their website. On March 16, 1995, it became one of the first airlines to have a website, and twenty years later, the company continues to generate over 70 percent of its revenue online. How did this innovative and clever brand pull this off during a time when websites weren’t the preferred source for purchasing travel? Simple. Every time the Southwest Airlines logo was seen, southwest.com was also seen. Every single time. Whether it’s your website, your phone number, or a request to be reviewed on Yelp, repeat that message everywhere you put your brand. Your future customers and business will both benefit
About Dena Enos
Dena is the Vice President of Marketing for LogoMix, a self-service branding and marketing platform for small businesses, featuring the easiest and most powerful logo maker online. The logo maker can be found at freelogoservices.com. She has scaled global teams in customer acquisition, CRM, brand marketing, public relations and social media. She draws on more than ten years of senior leadership experience, from startups to publicly traded companies. Follow her on Twitter @DenaEnos.