Branding–on a budget

Branding your business is one of the most important steps you can take to position yourself for success. While I recommend working with a branding professional to maximize the power of your company’s image, I know that some small businesses want to make a consistent and powerful impression on their potential clients but don’t have a lot of money to spend on branding. Read on for three ways you can create a powerful and effective brand for less!

1. Find out what your clients say about you: Open your lines of inquiry to anyone who has had experience with you and the product or service you’re selling: clients, former employers, friends and family. Ask them what they tell people when they’re recommending you. How are you perceived in the marketplace? What are people saying about you that excites—or dissuades—your potential clients?

2. Use your knowledge to empower your business: Critically analyze your feedback, highlighting the best and worst of the comments you’ve received. How can you change your offering to emphasize the aspects that your clients value most?  Take a hard look at all the ways you’re interacting with your clients—directly, through email or face-to-face meetings, and indirectly, through your marketing efforts—and strategize ways to put a spotlight on the best you have to offer.

3. Make smart marketing decisions to get the most bang for your brand buck: Think carefully and critically about communicating your brand through a selective array of marketing materials optimally suited to your target audience. You’ll want to establish a consistent look, beginning with a strong logo that should evoke a feeling or mood in your audience that will be carried throughout the rest of your materials. Equally important, you’ll want to ensure you are using the right marketing strategy to attract the right clients.

What’s your color?

Pantone swatches

One of the most important aspects of your graphic identity is the color combination you choose to represent yourself. Color tells a story and evokes emotions, and when used consistently, can make a significant impact on your target market.

When choosing colors, be sure to choose the right combination for what you do. Home Depot’s signature orange gets people excited, energized, and thinking of construction and home improvement–but that same orange would send exactly the wrong message when applied to the logo of a funeral home. Your business should use colors that fit with its purpose and its spirit.

Once you’ve chosen a color combination, you should use it wherever possible to connect it consistently with your business. Don’t stop with your website, brochure, and business cards—bring color into your office, into your clothing, into your office supplies and accessories. I often wear red when attending networking events because it helps people connect me with my business, and I’ve gone so far as to work with a client’s interior designer to select a logo color palette in keeping with the decor of their office. Consistency is key when using color to enhance your brand!

To ensure your colors are consistent in print, your designer should assist you in choosing Pantone colors: special inks that guarantee your colors will come out perfectly every time rather than the hit-or-miss color representation you may get from printing in CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black–four ink colors that combine to create a full spectrum). If color is a critical component of your brand representation, you’ll definitely want to make sure your business cards are the same color as your letterhead, your envelopes, and your brochures, and Pantone inks are the best way to do so.

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