First let me apologize, I should have had this posted a few weeks ago. I got wrapped up in producing some exciting invitations! Now on to the issue at hand!
Part II- How to Get Started with Your Brand Development. In Part I, I blogged about why it is important to brand your company, now I want to discuss the question my clients, colleagues and friends seem to always want to know: HOW DO I GET STARTED. I am going to outline and discuss the steps I think are important in developing your company brand.
1. Research, Development & Creating a Plan: This is very important and lays the foundation for all of the following steps. Not only will it help you more easily develop your brand, it will build a strong foundation of principles and philosophies that will guide your company as it grows.
- Research- Look around. Research other companies: Who (as a company) do you aspire to be? Look at your successful colleagues. How do they market their companies? What about them causes you to seek them out? What is your competition doing? Speak to colleagues, both in your industry and outside of it, explain what you are trying to do, and get their feedback. As small business owners, we should all have colleagues/companies we aspire to be like. This helps us grow as individuals and businesses. It helps us approach our business with fresh eyes and new perspective. The hardest thing in my opinion about owning a business is stepping back; when you are too close to something it can be hard to see what's right in front of you.
Be careful here; I am not in any way suggesting you copy your competition or fellow colleagues. You want your company to be unique and individual in its marketing and branding, but sometimes seeing how someone else approaches something will cause that genius idea to fall loose in your own mind.
- Development- Now that you have done some research it is time to dive into the development of your company. Ask yourself the following questions and write down your answers; this will help you further organize and grow your business structure and will also help you later when you sit down with a designer/studio.
Who are you as a company? Who do you want to be? What do you want for your business's future? What makes your company unique in comparison to the competition? Who is your market/customer base? What's the SINGLE most important message you want your potential customers/clients to understand about your company and its services from the first moment?
Do you have colors, shapes, etc. in mind when you think of your company message?
- Create a Plan- Now that you have a better idea of who you are and where you want to go, answer these questions.
What is your Budget? I know this is tricky... but be realistic. When considering this question, keep in mind: "You DO get what you pay for." That goes for Design & Marketing Services, as with anything else. You have to pay for experience and knowledge. If you are serious about your brand development, you should pay for the experience and knowledge of a professional who will get you results.
What is the scope? What does your company need? Consider the following: Company Tag Line, Logo & Stationery Design, Website, Collateral (brochures, newsletters, direct mail, postcards, etc), Advertising (print and internet), Press Kits or Presentation Packets for Publications and Potential or New Clients, Blog, E-Marketing, Trade Marking, etc. These are some suggestions of things you will need in order to successfully reinforce your brand.
I'm going to give you some standard rates and some standard pros and cons to hiring a Freelancer vs. a Small Design Studio or Agency. To move forward and have your brand developed you're going to need a Graphic Designer. A lot of small businesses chose to use freelance graphic designers to save money. I have been a freelance designer, worked for a small firm/agency, and now own my own design studio, so I can provide perspectives from all sides.
- Freelance Graphic Designer, Writers and Marketing Professional- You can get a talented freelancer that can concept and design anything you need. The standard rates are $50-$85 per hour. This is dependent on the experience and talent of said designer. And most freelancers will work with you on their rate if you do more than one project with them. This can be the most affordable way for small business to create and develop a cohesive brand. The downside to this is that it's difficult to find a designer who has the experience and skills to help you with writing, strategy, marketing and design, and art direction. There are designers out there who are very talented and can do all of those things, but they are rare, and usually you will end up having to find freelance writers and marketing/PR professionals to work with the designer so that you can effectively complete everything involved. This can get expensive because each of these freelancers will have their own hourly rate. The other downside to this is you may end up with a group that hasn't worked together a lot which may add time to you projects and result in conflicting messages in your brand.
- Small Design Studio/Firm- Often this is the route that makes most sense, because small design firms have a network of writers, strategists and marketing/PR professionals that they can call on and work with on a regular basis. The rates can be anywhere from $75-150/per hour. But again, most design firms will work with you on price if you are doing multiple projects with them. I have even given package project prices at significantly discounted hourly rates to both save my clients money, and ensure I have a contract for a few projects. The benefit to using a small firm that is you have a team that has worked together on many projects and each have their own expertise, which will often make your brand campaign more effective. It's hard for a designer/artist to effectively create strategy and write copy all while trying to create a look and design. So when you take this route, you have a team that will be top notch in each area instead of one person trying to do it all.
4. Work Closely with your Team Creating Artwork: Now that you have found and chosen an artist or team, trust them to do what they are good at. Take their recommendations and think them through. Remember, they have a fresh, objective perspective on your business. You may not always agree, and you may override their recommendations sometimes, which is okay. Just remember that this is their area of expertise, and they are professionals with experience and knowledge in this area. This is your company, however, so if you are ever opposed to a design or idea, speak your mind. But also remember you may be too close and might need to step back to fully consider their recommendation. Any professional designer or firm will find a compromise if you are completely opposed to something.
5. Practice What you Preach: Once you develop your brand and start putting your message out there, make sure that you practice what you preach. Your company must deliver on what it puts out there: Nothing works against your brand more than not delivering on what you're selling.
Thanks for reading!