Would you prefer …
3. Brand evangelists?
Or to make this more clear …
A. Fanatic blog commenters?
B. People who buy from you?
C. Customers who purchase your products and/or services, trust you, brag to all their friends about you, and keep coming back for more?
The choice is easy, right?
Okay, now think about all your touchpoints, from logo to tagline to website.
Is there cohesiveness?
A visual story, combined with words of clarity, working in harmony to articulate what you do AND who will benefit from what you offer?
Clarity of message is about combining information in an appealing, user-friendly form … what you do whittled down to its core.
So do you think you’re correctly branding your business?
If you’re reading this I assume you do want a clear, distinctive message that not only brings in customers, but positions your business as the “go-to” source.
Well guess what? Step one of this mission often means slowing down.
What do I mean by that?
Well, let’s use a new company website as an example.
You’ve been in business a couple of years, you’re doing okay, but you realize your site is outdated.
You need a site redesign. Duh!
But … here’s what many small businesses do: They come to a guy like me and say they need a new website, and want to move right into design. The combo of copy and positioning? An afterthought.
This happens nine times out of 10 and I don’t blame them. Web sites are visual. Many are beautiful and you’re naturally attracted to eye candy.
I get it.
But I think it’s far more important to focus on a few things before you take a dive into design.
So, if you’re planning on creating a new logo, brochure, site or a mix of any visual branding, take a look at the following. If you’re skipping these steps it is time to re-tool and re-focus.
1. Articulate your “why” in the form of a simple paragraph.
Plenty of businesses don’t start at the ground level when it comes to branding. The form first, function second mistake.
If you’re feeling stuck or want to start anew and gain more traction online, you probably need to step back and think about how you’re positioning your business.
Take a look at this and come back.
Is this an exercise you’ve completed? If not get busy.
Don’t spend an hour on it, spend all day or break it up into a week’s work. Why? Well, this my friend becomes the foundation of your marketing, branding and strategic design efforts.
If you have a mission statement. Great.
If you have marketing materials, even better.
But you know you need to improve them, right? Well take these pieces and whittle the words down until you reach your core – the essence of your business. This is an exercise in clarity and trust me, it will help immensely.
Your little statement helps clarify everything about your brand and becomes the filter that all things runs through.
Why should you spend so much time on it? To make it the best you can of course, AND it becomes forever etched in your memory. You want this statement retained in the old noodle.
So if you’re too focused on all things visual, step back and think about how you are positioning your business.
2. Now work to craft everything around this statement.
Pay particular attention to your ideal customer and their pain point.
Who are you trying to reach and exactly what are you solving for them? If you’ve taken the time to go through step one, it shouldn’t be so hard to start creating a plan focused on those you want to reach.
Remember we are still in the planning stages AND this is a mix …
A. Start thinking about copy.
What tone are you looking for?
What type of writing will appeal to your ideal customer?
Do you want to weave in story in the form of blog posts?
B. Start thinking about design.
Have you thought about the strategic use of color and typography? Is there a particular visual style you think will work with clients?
If you have other materials planned down the road, think about them NOW! How will this look apply to marketing materials three months from now? Again, cohesiveness is key, so you need to focus on that now.
Yep. With the foundation you’ve just established it’s time to map it all out.
If this is a rebranding, think about everything, and I mean “everything” … from email marketing to blogging and social media.
Think about the process as and incremental rollout. What elements are most important? Which medium should you tackle first? How in the world will you budget this? And how will these projects all work together?
Once you have an outline in place, then it’s time to …
4. Call in a professional.
This is a major step because it’s extremely important, plus it takes time and effort to find the right person for your job.
After all, you wouldn’t take your car to any mechanic, right?
Steps 1,2 and 3 are relatively simple, but they will save you time, money and frustration. Plus you’ll be armed with a plan when you call someone in.
And here’s how you should approach it …
Combining steps 1-3, write out a creative brief, and please do make it BRIEF – two pages max.
A. A distilled one paragraph statement that describes what you do, why you are unique and why customers should buy from you.
B. Some examples of what you like. This could be as simple as the URLs of a few websites you love … not just for the way they look, but for their design, copy, and ease of navigation. (step 2 makes this way easy.)
C. A basic outline of what you want to do and when you want to make this stuff happen. A budget range is helpful, but not necessary.
So there you go. If you want to start designing something now, read this post again and see if you can’t map out a plan of your own before you pick up the phone.
Note: I would love to thank Stephen Lahey for having me on his podcast. Here’s the link if you would like to listen to me discuss branding done right. And please take the time to check out Stephen’s site, it will be well worth your time.
Craig McBreen is Principal of McBreen Design. A Puget Sound area branding and visual design firm which helps small companies bring their purpose to life with branding, graphic design, content marketing and web design services. Get in touch.
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