We’ve all seen it – and maybe done it. We spend money on lawyers or accountants to build our business the right way, but when it comes to something like a logo or a website, we think, “Why, my neighbor’s teenage niece knows how to use Illustrator! Maybe she can do my logo for free.” Or, “I just need to get a simple website up. Let me just slap together a DIY template and get the page up and running.”
While these are steps you may need to take initially to get your business off the ground and money coming in the door, skimping on a well-thought-out and intentional brand strategy long-term can cost you way more in sales later on. This fundamental mistake is what inspired me to write my book.
Branding does not have to be some big expensive effort that only large companies can afford. If you run a small business, you need to spend time thinking about and conveying your brand as well – at whatever budget you have to spend. Brand is more than just your logo or website – it’s your essence, your core. It’s the experience people have with you, the impression you leave in their minds. So you need to really think about what you want that impression to be and ensure that you communicate it consistently in three important ways: visually, verbally and experientially. Only with consistent exposure to your brand promise in every touchpoint will customers connect with you and become rabid fans, thus increasing your profits long-term.
And while brand is more than the visual identity, your design look is still a key part of it. Buyers make decisions subconsciously and need to be attracted to your look and feel first before they will learn enough to buy from you. Just like dating, your appearance does not define who you are but it does factor in to initial first impressions. So why do so many entrepreneurs try to cut corners on the very first thing that potential customers will see?
Hiring unqualified people or designers who don’t ask you anything about your value proposition, differentiators, or target audience is not the way to save money. I talk to many people that threw away money because their brand strategy was not baked yet. Good design is a skill: it’s a skill that involves taking a message and communicating it visually, not just creating a pretty picture. You will lose more in lost sales by getting this part wrong than you will save on cutting corners.
And guess what? That brand strategy will do more than just inform your visual identity. It will serve as a compass for other marketing investments: partners, advertising, events. Basically any decision your company makes will be a smarter one if you start with the brand strategy first and use it as a compass. This helps you avoid throwing away money on what I call “random acts of marketing” and ensures that you only invest in activities that move your business forward.
If you need to save money, the best thing entrepreneurs can do is to first sit down and create a clear, strong brand strategy before any marketing, design or development takes place. This entails defining who you are, what you represent, what feelings you want to evoke, what value you provide, how you price things, who your ideal audience is, and how to best reach them. This requires sitting down and answering some key questions. People that don’t do this first and launch into creating a website or investing in marketing programs are just throwing their money away. When you have no destination, every road looks like it leads somewhere.
Know thy audience and thy brand strategy and you will know the best design options, communication vehicles and marketing tactics in which to invest. Translation: only pay for things that will move you forward and give you a return on your investment. Saving $1000 and then ultimately losing $10,000 in sales opportunities because you didn’t connect with your target customer does not seem like a good investment strategy to me.