How do small businesses distinguish themselves from competitors?
Is it having unbeatable service? Great prices? Waving a big cardboard arrow on a street corner, dressed as an organic smoothie or whatever it is they’re selling?
Here’s something to consider. Whether you’re an online retailer or have a downtown storefront, a killer logo can make your company’s name stick. A logo is the first thing that comes to mind when people think of certain companies. The moment you hear “Nike,” the swoosh is swimming around your subconscious. It’s a symbol you’ll remember more vividly than any pair of Nikes you ever own, simply because logos are extremely powerful branding tools—for businesses of all sizes.
Here are a few DO’s and DON’Ts to keep in mind when coming up with your logo.
DO: Check out what competitors are doing. Getting a sense of the logos that small businesses with similar target markets are using is a good starting point when designing your own.
DON’T: Copy them. You want to set yourself apart from competitors, not align yourself with them. This might be complicated in some industries. For example, should the logo for your all-natural line of lotions be a shade of green or brown like every other logo on the all-natural market? Maybe. If you think it helps show customers that your practices meet green industry standards, perhaps you will settle on a logo similar to those of competitors. But it’s also possible that a non-traditional logo could give you an edge. If others in your niche are branding their websites with similar logos and color schemes, yours might stand out if it’s different—for the better.
DO: Write down the message your business conveys. The purpose of a logo is to give visual form to your business’s identity. Knowing exactly what you want to express to customers is essential when choosing a logo, especially for a small business. Smaller companies typically only advertise online or in print publications. It’s giants like Nike and Apple that get commercial spots and billboards. Your logo should rise to the challenge of making a mark on a potential customer’s memory, even if they only see it for a nanosecond browsing the web.
DON’T: Forget a symbol or custom typeface. Some logos feature just the company name, without an associated symbol or image. If you decide to do this, your typeface (font) better be out of this world. You’d want to have a designer create a custom typeface. Don’t use something from Microsoft Word. A custom typeface is actually a good idea no matter what, so your logo can be as unique as your business. And it’s helpful to have some kind of image that reflects your company. A body shop might use a tire in its logo, for example. This symbol can either accompany your business’s name, or stand alone as the logo itself.
DO: Be creative. You don’t have to use an image that literally represents what your business does. Some of the best logos, like Nike’s swoosh, aren’t completely literal representations. You might incorporate a more figurative or subtle symbol. Going the abstract route can be risky, but it pays off when done right.
DON’T: Cop out with clip art or stock images. Your business can’t express any individuality if you use designs that have already been widely circulated. Even if you know exactly what image you want depicted in your logo, it needs to be an original design. This is an easy way to get ahead of competitors. Entrepreneurs are busy people who wear many hats. They often don’t have time to invest in the process of creating a standout design. Find a way to be someone who does have time.
DO: Hire a designer. Unless you can swear by your graphic design abilities, hiring someone to bring your vision to life is a must. Designers can make sure all the little details are taken care of, like checking that your logo looks good whether enlarged or scaled down to half an inch. You can even get designers to compete for your business on websites like Logo Arena. Logo Arena lets you choose a designer after looking at contest entries submitted by designers around the world who want to win your specific project.
A logo is a major piece of a small business’s identity. If you poke around online, you’ll find designers with varying specializations: start-ups, businesses that like to stay off the beaten path, owners with high profit margins and more. See what’s out there for your business. The right logo is worth some extra time and money.