Q: Why do some companies who claim they are experts on “XYZ” topic then go about asking everyone for advise on it and constantly make mistakes with “XYZ” topic?
A: Just like you’ve said, this is a perfect example of inconsistent branding showing up in places other than logos and website ads. I agree completely that you must consistently show yourself as an expert on all public avenues. Everywhere you go you are selling. So if you’re “The Manners Lady” as a business, don’t go to a dinner later and be rude, because when you least thing people are watching for your brand consistency, they are. Likewise, as per your example here, if someone is “The Facebook Expert” it’s damaging to their brand when they constantly make mistakes on functionality with their Facebook page.
Q: I know branding is more than logos, fonts and pantone colors, but I’m abysmally bad at knowing where to start! How do you make sure branding reflects you and your service well. Where do you start and what are some pitfalls?
A: Well, some of the pitfalls were described in the past question. That’s kind of a big deal: being consistent and having integrity. When it comes to starting with your branding, you need to be clear on your company, your values and your clients first. From there a simple rule of thumb is: Messaging, Logo (Visual Branding), Business card, Content for brochures and websites, Brochures and websites designed, Regular promotion through blogging, videos, social media, etc. But at that point we’re moving into other marketing techniques. Don’t let the massive scope of where you could go and what you could do detract from taking those first, simple steps. I highly recommend taking the 5-Day Branding Challenge to get started.
Q: Can you talk about how many colors to use or what colors mean? What shapes are best? Lettering or graphics? Should I have a simple logo for business cards and something more detailed for a large shop sign?
A: Lots of great questions! Here’s the thing I’ve learned in working with tons of clients regarding their visual branding: every business is different and is going to need a visual style that is a little different. Some, like DyeSigns by Pamela, are famous for a rainbow of colored scarves and therefore having a rainbow of colors in their logo makes sense. Others want to convey a more classic or simple look to make their business so they might use only 1-3 colors. I want to emphasize graphic designers spend years, lifetimes, learning the subtle nuances of mixing color, shape and font to represent emotions and concepts. There is no easy way to explain it all, nor do you as a small business owner have the time to learn it. It’s not your genius work.
That’s why I recommend hiring a designer for the visual design of your logo. A good designer will coach you through the process and give some basics of why these shapes, colors and fonts work ideally to attract your prospects. Your focus should be on understanding the core of your business. You can find more information on how to talk to a graphic designer for a successful visual brand in my article about logos. I recommend your logo be the same whether it’s on a shop sign or a business card. There may be two shapes (a vertical and horizontal) of your logo, but you want visual consistency on the actual layout and image of the logo.
Q: How do I shift a microenterprise from the brand being “just me” to being a full company of staff and services added?
A: That’s a great, big question! I have couched businesses through this before. Often times it requires a focused rebranding strategy. Some key questions you want to ask yourself include: “How do I want current clients and long-term prospects I’ve been keeping in touch with to perceive this business as it evolves?” “What is really changing?” “Why is this change AWESOME for my clients?” “What are my customers likely to be afraid of when I announce this change?” “Now that we’re growing, what is most important to my clients and prospects?” This may give you some insight in how to approach your new branding. You might even take these questions and add them to the 5-Day Branding Challenge, see what you turn up. Transitioning from one brand to another takes some advertising/marketing and messaging all around the change and why it’s great. Don’t just surprise people with it. Talk to them, explain what’s going on… answer those questions I just asked you – and put it in a letter to them.
Q: What is the difference between corporate iconic brands and our personal, more authentic brands?
A: Roughly about 3 billion dollars a year. No really, that’s roughly how much Nike spends on their branding and marketing every year. When you have that sort of money, sure, you can make a $35 generic looking swoosh “iconic” – but you had to spend a ton of money to imprint the concept that swoosh represents into their psyche. As a small business owner your logo has to be much more a work horse, working with your marketing rather than against it. You don’t have a 3 billion dollar sledgehammer – so you need to think more authentically because clients resonate with authenticity without causing bankruptcy.
Q: Entrepreneurs typically have more than one thing going on at a time. Should those things be branded differently or similarly? Should there be an umbrella for the whole? What should branding represent: the work, the person, the organization?
A: I spent about 8 years in a family business as their in-house marketing manager. You’re right, we can go all over the place. Their main business was repairing analytical equipment like you see on CSI. But they also: sold refurbished and cheap parts, repaired vacuum pumps, sold gas generators, etc. So how did we brand? Branding fell into two categories: What fits seamlessly with the main business and what does not? For the gas generators and vacuum pumps, those were spun off into separate businesses with their own unique branding. They then cross promoted. For the parts and our “retainer” service, we kept those as main-business branded services. They had logos and messaging, but they were always “A division of TTI” and resonated with TTI’s branding. So the short answer is: what services jive together and what does not? Ultimately how do you want to be perceived? Important note: The main focus was always- ALWAYS on repairing analytical equipment. You don’t want to cause overwhelm and confusion not the point that prospects get decision paralysis. Some add-on services may have to be things you mention after a sales call, when those add-ons make sense, rather than putting it front and center with your main service.
Q: I have a physical product and don’t know how to communicate the brand and attitude to a designer. How do I know when I’m ready to create my brand? I have clipart I’m using now. Should I sell something first using what I have and then see how everything evolves?
A: When you’re just starting your business branding can be a little frustrating because you’re going through a lot of things all at once to set up. Believe it or not, you’re probably doing some branding work already, especially if you’ve created an elevator pitch. I’d definitely recommend the 5-Day Branding Challenge to help get you started on clarity around your brand and attitude. When just starting out some clip art or a cheap generic logo may be the way to go, as long as it’s not completely fighting your messaging. I know very successful brands/businesses that when they just started out didn’t even have a logo or had a $30 logo until they started getting a little headway. They’ve had near 4-5 rebrands on average as they keep stepping up their game into a bigger and bigger way. Don’t be afraid of getting it “perfect” for use for the next 15 years. Evolution is part of success.
Q: When should I trademark my brand?
A: Trademarking is a pretty big deal. It’s involved and not cheap – not something I recommend when you are just starting out. Obviously make sure your company name is registered legally as a business, but when it comes to trademarking I leave that for when you’re getting pretty big. You’ll want to discuss that with a lawyer who specializes in that. Remember that trademarking will pretty much shoehorn you into a name/concept for a long time, which again is why I don’t recommend it for most small businesses. You’re going to evolve in the names of your workshops, maybe even of your business. There are some cases where you may be ready, and if you feel you are I do recommend talking with legal counsel to get it going. Don’t do this alone!
Q: Why is branding important in a small business like mine?
A: A lot of small businesses start out with little to no solid branding. I get it. Budgets are tight and sometimes you just have to get started somewhere. I have seen businesses last up to 8 years without purposeful branding – but they were fighting their lack of a brand. It takes more energy and time, more effort, to convince a prospect to trust you when you don’t have consistent branding. Imagine trying to ride a 1 speed bike uphill. That’s marketing without a brand. Now imagine riding a 10 speed bike uphill. Huge difference, right? That’s what branding does for your marketing: it multiplies the power of your message and service and helps you reach prospects easier.
Would you like help with your branding?
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