Small Business Series: To Brand or Not to Brand

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If you’re considering starting a new business, or you already have one, you may be asking yourself whether branding is truly necessary. We see where you’re coming from. The word “branding” conjures up images of expensive logos, aspirational taglines and mucho dinero spent on a fancy pants website. But in truth, every business — no matter how big or small — should take the time to establish its look and its personality. Why? You may not be Apple or Nike, but how you represent yourself in the marketplace — from your business card and email signature to what your invoices and proposals look like — play a direct role in how potential customers’ perceive you and your business. Contrary to popular belief, establishing a brand doesn’t have to cost you your life savings. Here are three simple steps to building a brand for your business.

1. Invest in a logo.
No matter what kind of business you run, the key to good branding is consistency. Think about what kind of image you want to project and infuse that into everything your business touches, starting with a logo. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a logo. Your logo can be a scanned image of your signature, a monogram or a simple image that represents your business. If you know a graphic designer, but don’t have money to invest in a logo, ask them if they’re open to bartering services. Once you have a logo, incorporate in onto every single thing your business sends out. Your business card, your email signature, any proposals for commissioned work you send out, your online storefronts, whether it’s Zazzle, Etsy or eBay, your invoices, your LinkedIn and other social media profiles. A logo helps imply professionalism and credibility, and the more people see it, the more they’ll remember you.

2. Business cards.
Get some. Hand them out. Include your logo, a brief description of your services and your direct contact information. If possible, design them so that they reflect your website or logo. Use the same colors, the same fonts and the same images. Check your local coffee shop, doctor’s office or other retail shop to see if they have a special area where local entrepreneurs can showcase their business cards.

3. Get a website or online portfolio.
There are plenty of online platforms out there that will let you build a simple, clean website or portfolio for free (look into WordPress, Squarespace, or Weebly among many others). If you’re technologically challenged, a simple Facebook Business Page might do the trick. Use your logo as your profile picture, flesh out your “About” section and use your newsfeed ad your portfolio section. Whether you have an all-out website or a social media page, be consistent in your language from platform to platform. If you hand out a business card, send an email or someone happens to Google your name, having a destination that showcases your skills will help seal the deal and establish your credibility.

Happy branding!

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