Many years ago when first contemplating the idea of starting a business, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I loved designing and loved helping people, so the gift industry was where I felt I belonged. I became an award winning designer and my business was doing ok, but not what I had hoped. I had a great website, beautifully designed brochures, and had memberships in the Chamber and other networking groups, but my customer base was just not growing as I had hoped. I had the products, but the customers were few and far between. It was then I was given some advice that made some huge changes in both my business and, eventually, in my career direction.
I had a background in customer service, so I had no problem talking to people. I had this beautiful website and high quality designed brochures, but there was something missing. It was then that a good friend of mine showed me the problem; my business was not branded. While I had a website and brochures, there was nothing in their designs that linked them together. The business had nothing that truly identified it and left it in the minds of customers. The idea of branding my business had never crossed my mind, but as soon as she pointed it out, it made sense. You think of many top companies out there today and you immediately visualize a symbol that represents them. For example, we all see the golden arches and immediately think McDonalds. This was something my company just did not have and something it desperately needed. While my marketing material was beautifully designed, there was nothing within them to identify the business. The first thing I did was create a logo which both identified my product and my business name. I changed the color scheme of both my site and all other marketing materials so they all had the logo and all followed the same basic design and color.
People say it takes consumers 5-7 times to see a company name before they feel comfortable doing business with you and having all your marketing material reflecting a brand makes that much easier. The idea being that whatever you design, it is something that identifies the business and the products you represent and that you take that concept and have it follow through in everything you do. The idea of branding is something that should be considered and put into place at the start of your business; however, it is never too late. Should you find your business in an unbranded state, do everything you can now to create that brand and see what a difference it can make. Branding made a huge difference in my business and my customer base grew greatly.
The biggest lesson this advice taught me in the long run was that it didn’t matter how great a product I had, without customer recognition, I was never going to see the sales and customer growth that I was looking for. Many small business owners have expertise in their product or service and that is where their focus is. They do not have a background in marketing and may not even know where to start. However, for any small business to succeed, a marketing plan needs to be in place and followed through on every day. Branding your business from the start helps to make your marketing efforts more effective and in the long run will prove to be your biggest marketing piece.