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Small Business Branding: Make a Strong First Impression Online

Posted byMon, Mar 4, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

Hey, even Linda Rondstadt knew with just one look. And your prospects should, too. Marketing online moves fast, so make it easy for them to recognize you in cyberspace.

You need a brand. And a good graphic designer can help visually depict yours. Whether you are a startup or an established company, when people visit your website, receive your email or visit your company’s LinkedIn page, they should know it comes from your company. It’s the instant recognition of McDonald’s golden arches, Nike’s swoop and Apple’s…apple that you’re going for.iPhone and branding_blog small You only have a few seconds to make an impression before your visitor decides to browse further or leave your site, so think of branding and style as a way to quickly reassure them. 

It doesn’t need to be expensive or hold back projects. Some large companies can afford to spend eight months on branding exercises, but today—and especially among small business owners—you have to keep up the momentum of business. I understand. A good designer will actually help you maintain speed. When you meet, they will ask you about your business, mission, prospects and desired customer base, competitive differentiators while getting a feel for who you are, culture, values and other intangibles—all things that create an idea of identity. From there, your job is to offer feedback.

If you are starting from scratch, consider creating a logo, electronic letterhead, business cards and perhaps an email banner that carries a consistent visual theme through to the website. Website work may involve the input of a Web designer, which is a different skill set. Some designers do graphic and Web; most firms have both disciplines.

How do you find a designer and start the process?

  • Ask around various local networking groups. If exchanging cards is the purpose, why not find out who designed one you like?
  • Evaluate designers’ portfolio and clientele, look for you in there. It’s a good idea to find a designer akin to your company, because they have a better understanding of your world. A small business may not fare so well with a large agency that caters to Fortune 500 clients. I got lucky. My designer, Carin McBroom from Kern Graphic Design, owns a small business and works with small business owners, but she came from a large corporate environment. She can do a quirky invite and sleek, elegant annual report design. This is the range I really wanted.
  • Organize your thoughts about who you are, what your company does, goals, values, mission, etc. Your designer is building a picture to represent you; the process will be faster if you can present a clear vision.
  • Finish creating your corporate identity before starting website work. I learned this the hard way: you won’t be able to give your Web designer appropriate guidance when you’re still creating who you are, visually. Once you have a clear look and feel, a Web designer can run with it.
  • Update all social media sites with your logo and any styling for consistency. It’s also a good idea to get professional headshots and use the same picture for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social sites. Don’t make your visitors think or wonder if they’re in the right place, make it easy for them to spot you.

Now that you have a corporate image, find out how blogging increases traffic to your site.

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Terra Hoskins, principal of inbound marketing consultancy Hoskins Interactive, writes from experience. At the helm of a startup, she’s experienced the bumps along the way and is grateful to understand the process from scratch up to high profile Fortune 500 rebrandings. She wouldn’t know what to do in PhotoShop, but she’s very grateful for all in her life who can. Expertly. Contact Terra at terra@hoskinsinteractive.com

* Photo by: geerlingguy via photopin cc

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