Starting a small business is exciting yet daunting. Getting your administrative and legal ducks in a row is so overwhelming that by the time you get to the more creative side of things - like logos, colours, and slogans - you are exhausted.
Underestimating the importance and power of building a solid visual foundation for your business can cost you dearly in the long run. Agreed, the backbone must be in place but supporting it with the right look and feel will immediately up your game and make your niche market or competitors take note.
"Employing a professional creative to guide you on your brand and brand identity is undoubtedly an investment in your company. Entrepreneurs are often multi-skilled and they can multitask, but some things need to be outsourced. Crafting the visual and digital elements of your business are definitely best left in the hands of specialists," says Craig Meiring, Director of Banter, a digital agency in Boskruin, Johannesburg.
"I am sure many of us know a guy who 'designed' his own logo using Wordart or asked his cousin's son, who took art lessons in Grade 5, to come up something decent. Remember, first impressions count and nowadays consumers are savvy enough to recognise a 'home-made' brand."
So what are the must haves when it comes to setting up your business or growing an existing establishment? Here are the top eleven:
1.Business name or slogan
Naming your business is like naming your kids: They carry this name for the rest of their life and they soon start to 'look' like their name; it suits them. In other words, the name should go with the industry or type of business.
A tagline, also called a slogan, is a good idea if your name does not say it all. A tagline is a short set of words that people associate with companies. For example, Nike would not be Nike without the Just Do It!
2.Logo or woodmark
Most big brands almost never change their logos. So, don't go solo on this one. It is essential that you get your logo right by crafting a graphic or icon that will stand the test of time. Having said that, one must also be able to adapt to the ever-changing marketing landscape.
If you are a "solopreneur" and use your name as your business name, a wordmark will work best for you. A wordmark or logotype is the words of your company or product name set in a specific, fixed way.
3. Key colours and palettes
A single colour speaks a thousand words. Colours affect people on a subconscious level and they form a first impression of you and your business based on shades and tints. When deciding on the colours to represent your business, ask yourself what feeling you want to evoke, or what personality you want to project.
4. Corporate typefaces
It looks untidy and conveys carelessness when you use different fonts and font sizes in a document. Something as seemingly unimportant as a typeface could make people see you in a good or bad light. Decide on a specific font and size to use in all your communication and marketing material.
5. Consistent styling on images
Invest in the services of a professional photographer to take pictures of you, your staff members, or products. Also for your social media profiles. Have you seen those social media profiles with no photo? Scary, hey? Even more scary are the ones that were obviously taken at a matric dance in the late 80s.
6. Corporate stationery
Corporate stationery includes business cards and letterheads. A simple lay-out without clutter allows for brand awareness. Your contact information is essential. Few things are as frustrating as having to search for a phone number or an email address.
7. Email signature
Your business can have an impressive look and feel off the screen, but it also needs a strong and consistent message digitally. Your email signature is the business mark left with clients after every email interaction. Maximise your email signature with the latest software to enable database building, campaigns, and links to drive traffic to your social media profiles.
Your website is the face of your company in a digital space. It needs to be attractive and easy to use. Websites can indeed make or break a business. To ensure the success of your website, it is important that the strategy, content and images are well thought out. And when you get your own domain you don't have to use an @gmail email address any longer. It just looks more professional and that you are serious about business.
9. Social presence
Social media is a must for small businesses. It is an inexpensive way to stay in touch with clients and advertise your products and services. However, it is important that once again the look and feel of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn covers are consistent with the rest of your stationery. Your bio on Twitter and Instagram is also vital. If you cannot string two words together, get the help of a copy writer to pen down punchy info.
10. Branded assets
Signage, pull-up banners, flyers, gazebos and t-shirts. All these branded assets take your business 'outside' and are an effective way to create brand awareness.
11. Database management
Constant contact with your client base is another cornerstone of any business. A customer relationship management (CRM) or bulk messenger system not only stores and manages your contacts and database, but it can be used to communicate effectively and gather vital information during the relationship-building phase.