Your Logo: 5 Reasons to Invest in a Professional Design

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Your Logo: Clip art or Graphic Designer? Does it Matter?

This is Part 2 of our Marketing Tools Checklist for Small Business.  This is where we elaborate on one of the critical tools for branding  your business, the logo. The logo is #2 on the checklist, but we’re starting with a discussion on logos because it’s not one of the tools that you can that you drop into an envelope and send to your customers by itself.  For a start up,  it’s a building block that when combined with all the other marketing tools will set about doing the job of branding your company.

When used effectively, it becomes is the most highly recognized part of your marketing and advertising efforts.  The thought is that this branding will translate to increased sales and growth for your business. It’s a tried and true method used by companies large and small with tremendous success.

There’s always a question of when and how it should be created.  Some experts feel that you should invest in a professional logo design from day one.  Others think you should wait until your business is established to invest in a logo.  Here are some things to consider regarding how much you should invest in the logo whenever you decide to create your design.

Here’s a common scenario… You’re just starting out, maybe your budget is tight and you’re not sure if you should invest in graphic design services for your logo.  You have no graphic design experience, but how hard could it be, right? With all the off the shelf graphic design programs and royalty free clip images, you get the idea that you can use your computer to create a logo for your business.  Problem solved. Right? Well…maybe not.  Before opting for this do it yourself (DIY) choice, please take a moment to think about your business, and your long term goals.

A poorly designed, low quality image may send the wrong message to potential customers.  There are a number of things to consider beyond the image itself.  Think of the impact your logo will have on your ability to do the kind of business you want to do, as well as the kinds of relationships that will be impacted by your logo design:

1. First Impressions Last – Have you ever received a business card that was printed on the family ink jet computer? Think about how that made you feel when you saw it, versus how you’ve felt when you received a professionally printed business card.  Low quality, home printed materials are a good indicator that you’re a rookie who probably doesn’t have the resources to obtain quality items.

It creates doubt in the minds of your customers. They think that if you don’t have the resources for professional printing, what else is missing?  It’s important to present a professional image and highlight your strengths to build confidence with your customers.  Remove as many doubts, blaring red flags and fears as possible about your business and your ability to handle the job.

A professional marketing package will take you a long way to reaching that goal.  Therefore your logo, coming out of the gate should be polished to present the best possible image for your company.You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.

In essence, your logo will play a major role in setting the tone for your business and it should speak to the character, values and quality of the products and services you’re offering, as well as the audience you want to attract.  For example, if your business theme is happy, fun and carefree, that should be reflected in your logo.  If your logo design unintentionally sends the opposite message, you may miss the audience and the business opportunities you’re looking for.

2. The Long Haul – Over the life of your business, your logo will be placed on every marketing piece, every piece of letterhead, invoices, business cards, advertising, signs, billboards, apparel, proposals, business plans, your website and so much more.This is your brand, the icon used to identify your company.  It’s a unique combination of symbols, colors, and shapes that your customers, employees, the general public, and even your competitors will associate with the great experiences they have (or will have) with your company.  You want it to represent you well over the long haul.

3. Credibility – Even though money may be tight in the beginning, investing in a professional looking image  will go a long way toward seeing your business recognized and taken seriously by investors and those you intend to do business with.  Changing logos can be devastating for any business. Once your customers get used to seeing your logo and they make the connection between the symbol and your business, there’s no turning back.  Change the colors, change the background, but when you change the logo, you’re forcing your customers make the transition to learning what that represents all over again. In some ways, it’s like starting from square one.  When was the last time you saw a major brand change their logo?  You won’t see it much unless there is some catastrophe that is associated with a brand that makes it virtually useless.  Brands become intangible assets that companies spend a ton of money to maintain.

4. Pride… Not Embarrassment –  Think of how you feel (what descriptive words come to mind) when you see the logos of popular brands.  When I’m out riding in the car with my three year old grandson, he already recognizes “Toys R Us” from viewing their signage.  It brings a reaction that usually results in his asking me or his parents to visit the store.  This is  branding at its best.

Think of how you want your customers to feel when they see at your logo.  How will your employees feel wearing your logo or handing out their card with your logo imprinted on it?  When they look at your marketing materials, what feelings do you want them to have? Pride or anxiety? You certainly don’t want them to give out marketing materials with a low quality clip art design, do you?

Think of your business, and what you hope will come to mind when potential customers, investors and prospects receive your materials? Do you want them to think of descriptions like excitement, strength, integrity, stability, happiness, style, class, fun, tranquility, energy etc.  Or do you want them to anxiously smile and say something like, don’t call us, we’ll call you?  If you want to be recognized for the image you’re trying to project, consider these factors when selecting the method for creating your logo.  A great logo will work well to promote your business and will eventually stand on its own.  A low quality logo can make the most knowledgeable person seem lack luster.

5. Print-ability– When you think of how your logo will be designed (DIY or graphic designer) keep in mind that a professional designer will (or should) provide you with camera ready, color separated art files that can be taken to any printer that will handle your marketing materials.  This means that your logo will be created in a vector based program like Illustrator and ready for high quality printing.  Raster based programs will create images that result are low quality and when enlarged, will result in a stair step, pixel based image that has blurred, distorted edges.  Printing companies, including promotional product manufacturers will charge more to convert your files to a vector based format.

All things considered, that simple little symbol, shape or combination thereof along with colors, word choices, and fonts; when pulled together, says a lot about your business.  Make sure it says the right thing, and illicits the responses you want from your customers when they see it.  Once you have a prototype, ask your team members, friends and family for feedback.  Ask them how they feel or for words that describe how they feel when they look at your logo. If there’s a match between your intentions and their impressions, you’re on the right track.

I can’t think of any instance where you would want to send a  message that says low quality, cheap or amateur if you’re trying to build and grow your business.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on your logo but you should invest time in finding a professional to create your design.  You should also have a general idea of the theme, color, fonts etc that you might want to use.  And by all means, consider the factors above before crafting this very important business tool.

A Marketing Tools Checklist for Small Business

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If you’re starting or managing a small business, you know that choosing suppliers, creating products/services, distribution, accounting and other aspects of the business can result in many 16 hour days.  It’s easy to become so focused on “operating” your business that you’re not actively “marketing” your business.

To help your business work smarter, maintain growth, and to help it weather any economic storm, it’s important to incorporate an effective marketing plan.  And contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t have to be a painful process… with the right tools.

Here are 9 tools to consider when implementing a marketing cycle that fits your business, one that’s affordable, measurable and repeatable.  The goal is to have a process in place that continually keeps your name in front of existing customers while attracting new ones. So think about each of these, and ask yourself how these items will fit into your marketing mix.

1 Social Media

It goes without saying that social media has become one of the most popular marketing tools for small businesses.  And while social media has major benefits, (including the fact that it’s free) it should only be part of an overall strategy for marketing your business.

The biggest thing to consider is how your target audience is using social media. Are your customers using social media to interact with various companies? Does social media affect their buying decisions? If your audience is not on social media sites for business reasons, you may want to focus those efforts on other areas.  However, if you are providing useful content to your customers that will make their lives better, the resulting interaction may have an impact on sales.

It’s easy to abandon some of the old yet well established standards, for social media alone.  However, you may find that using some of the old with the new, will give your marketing efforts a solid foundation that allows you to make a better connection with your audience.

The goal should be to create a system that will allow you to consistently plan, implement, measure, adjust (if needed) and repeat.  It’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket.

2 Your Logo

Many entrepreneurs will overlook creating a logo during start up, possibly because of money and/or time. However, first impressions last, and you’ll want to create a polished image from the beginning.  Your business needs a unique visual hook so that customers will readily recognize your company.  Something you can splash on your business cards, stationery and anything else you can think of.

You don’t have to spend thousands on a designer to create an icon that expresses the essence of your business.  By networking with other entrepreneurs you’re bound to run into a designer who will charge significantly less than big design firms. You may even be able to barter or trade services to make it more affordable.

3 Business cards

Many marketing gurus say that a great business card can be your most effective marketing tool. Pack it with as much information as it will hold, not just contact information. Good graphics are important, but not as crucial as actually describing what your company does in a line or two. Maybe put the contact information on the front and list your products or services on the back.

In any event, your business card must stand out from the crowd.  Make it memorable, so that prospects will want to keep it or store your information for future use. Remember that the number of people who are using smart phones has increased in recent years, so if your contact information makes it into their phone, tablet or other media device it will be available when they are ready to make a buying decision.

4 Your Website

You should get this up and running before you open for business.  If your company doesn’t have a website, you’re missing a major marketing opportunity.  With the increasing use of smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices you need a website or blog that is enabled for mobile devices.

Websites serve to provide your customers with company background, product information, and customer service.  Blogs work to start a dialog with your customers with content (product information, ideas and tips) that will help make their lives better. They can also be used to educate customers about your industry.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a site with all the site-building options now available. But it should be well-designed, and at the very least provide a way for your customers to learn about what you do.  It’s critical to place information on the site so that customers can contact you for more information.

Using the website as the primary ‘marketing material’ is an exceptional idea. If it’s designed well and easy to navigate, it will bring in new business and provide a base for prospects and established customers to keep in touch.

5 Brochures

This can include virtual brochures in PDF format on your website, as well as four color paper handouts. In any case, it’s important to have some brochures, because they can cover a variety of general needs that no other single marketing document can handle, ranging from price lists, service menus, product information, etc., that are versatile enough to be distributed in print format or online.  They can be handed out at a trade show or used as a handy mailer for people who want basic information about your company.

6 Company Apparel

Be your own walking billboard! Of course we think this should be VERY high on your priority list.  Include promotional apparel to announce new products/services, give them out to employees and customers, use them as summer uniforms for a cool alternative.

This tried and true method is very effective at spreading the word.  Remember that wearing clothing with your company brand can start tongues wagging everywhere you go.  Interested prospects will take down the information on your apparel or even ask you what you do.  Once the conversation starts, whether in person, by phone or on your website, you will have an opportunity to give them your sixty second elevator pitch (discussed later as tool #9), a business card or an invitation to visit your facility for a free sample or a “test drive” of some sort.

And don’t mention the additional traffic you’ll get if your apparel includes your web address. Unrivaled exposure is one of the best reasons to use promotional apparel, and why it’s so popular.  There are other items available, (like auto items, hats, bags, tool sets, household items, sporting goods, personal care items and office supplies) for custom printing.  Contact us for more information.

7 E-mail Signatures/Marketing

Don’t let any e-mail escape your computer without tagging it as a marketing message. Come up with a catchy e-mail signature and include your name, business name, contact information, pitchy tag line, a web address and even a one- or two-line announcement at the bottom of the signature about a new book, product, seminar or service offering you’ve announced.

The same rule of thumb for social media is true for email marketing. It can be very effective if your audience receives your messages. However, if your customers receive so much spam, that your email is caught in their junk folder, reaching them through this method may not be effective.

I’m not saying that you should totally abandon email marketing, but if you’re not getting results from your email campaigns and resources are limited, you might want to shift your efforts to other tools and areas.  The bottom line is that every small business should have a growth plan that provides both an online and offline presence.

8 Special Information Packets

Depending on the initial focus of your company, you’ll need to develop packages of materials that are formulated around particular needs.  If sales are hugely important at the beginning, you may need to come up with a folder full of brochures and spec sheets. If public relations are an important early consideration for you, you’ll need to produce some press releases and a media kit.

9 Your Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch is a strong, 30-second spoken speech that could convince someone to invest in your business in the space of an elevator ride – it’s a growing and popular marketing tool. Think of doing a version targeted for potential investors and one for potential customers.

This “pitch” will convince investors and customers that you’re the best at what you do, and that engaging with your business is essential.  You can also commit your elevator speech to paper, or modify it into a “mission statement,” and hand it out readily along with your other marketing materials.  Place it on your website for customers that are introduced to your company through a search engine or another online channel.

It’s easy to get caught up in the work and forget exactly ‘what’ your marketing and how to keep your business thriving through good and bad times.”  Receive tips and  ideas on how to create a marketing “system”  that uses these tools in future articles.