Welcome back to the series… if you’re just tuning in, you may want to read Part I: Are You a Hobbyist or a Professional… finished reading? Excellent. A pretty good read, no? So, this next part is relying on the fact that you’ve thought long and hard about your creative business future and have decided that you are… a Professional!
You’ve set yourself up with all of the appropriate licenses and governmental requirements, you have a 5-year business plan, you’ve got some money set aside with a budget & you have a fantastic support system in place.
Of course, if you’ll be selling your services or wares in a bricks and mortar shop & taking on a lease or rental agreement, there are all kinds of stuff involved with that and I’m going to assume that since you’ve done so well with everything so far that you’ve researched and taken care of of everything you need to for that, too.
You have a trusted accountant and lawyer in place, right? No? Ummm… you might want to invest in them… they could really prove to be beneficial for the right kind of advice BEFORE anything goes wrong!
Soooo… you have a name, a business license, a shop (with a real door or strictly online) and hopefully some wares or services to fill it.
How are you going to get the masses to come visit you?
PART TWO: YOUR IDENTITY AND BRAND
Obviously there will be some marketing involved and a specialist in this area is often recommended if you’ve never done this before or it’s really not your forte. A grand opening or big party to announce the awesomeness that is your new venture takes some organizing and you’ll need some flyers, advertising cards, a media kit or catalogue, thank you notes (always have those handy!), a shop banner (again, 3D or digital), product tags or labels and of course, business cards. NEVER leave the house without business cards – they will be a very important part of your marketing strategy… you can find a prospective customer in the most unlikely and benign places and what better way to direct them to your business information that that helpful little card?!
That sounds like a lot of stuff to have on hand, right? Well… it is. And believe me when I say, it will make your business life 10x easier if you tackle this now rather than on-the-go or as orders come in.
“But wait, “ I hear you say, “doesn’t that mean that I’m going to have to lay quite a bit of money to get all of this created BEFORE I even get any sales?”
Yup. That’s what I’m saying.
I’ve seen some business grow into their brand and through their trials and tribulations come to understand what it is organically, to great success.
And conversely, I’ve seen countless others try to skimp on this step by surging ahead without a clear vision of what their business is at its core and how they want it represented to their customers or simply ignore this step completely in deference to their budget (or lack thereof). Unfortunately, often without great success.
WHO AM I? WHAT’S IN A NAME (AND FONT AND COLOUR AND STYLE)?!
What’s the most important bit of information on all of that marketing material? That’s right… what you’re selling, your contact information and your business name. So, you’ve chosen your name and you’ve written out your manifesto or at the very least, your mission statement. Wait… you haven’t? Hmmm… that might be a good exercise to undertake before going forward. Ok… all done? Great. So, where was I?
Ah yes… you now have an identity. A clear sense of what your business is, what you’re selling and why and who you hope to sell it to.
Now you just have wrap all of that information up visually and offer a snapshot of it to your customers. Consistently. You need a brand.
How do you do that? Well, as a designer myself, I would obviously recommend one. They are trained to listen to you carefully and extract just the right information required through shrewd questioning, to be able to effectively interpret your answers visually, to understand and be proficient in the mediums, nuances and elements that are required to best articulate that interpretation and be technically capable to create the files required for a variety of print and digital output.
But, I would also highly recommend that you take your time with choosing a designer. This will be a big investment; so it deserves whatever time it takes you to seriously budget and feel good about it. Research them. Review their portfolio – do you like what they’ve produced? Look at their About Page; does it reflect someone that you feel you could work with? Ask for references… this will be a much better representation of their testimonials! What are their terms? Does it seem too good to be true? Well, you know what they about that… if it seems like it, it probably is. Do they have a contract? No? Walk away! Contracts may be scary, but they actually protect both of you – client and designer.
If you feel comfortable in creating all of this yourself, then fantastic! It will keep those costs down and will further underline the “you”ness in your branding. The best advice that I can give is to be HONEST with yourself; if your main reason for doing it yourself is to keep costs down, I would strongly urge you to reconsider. Poor branding can leave you with serious setbacks and honestly keep you from playing with the big boys!
Branding isn’t only relegated to visual representation; in this day and age of social media, it’s also about what you say. If you use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkdIn, Dribbble, Google+ or any other social media, be sure that your “voice” is consistent with your visual representation and reflects your mission statement or manifesto.
BUDWEISER, MARTHA STEWART, TARGET: FIND THE LINK
A beer company, a modern DiY handmaker and a department store… seriously? They have a link?
They absolutely do.
The have an incredibly strong, wide-reaching and instantly recognizable iconic brand.
3 separate industries, 3 incredibly different histories, but 3 brands most people in the western world recognize… in fact, Budweiser is said to be the most recognized brand in the entire world.
So, what do their brands have in common? Let’s first look at their brandmark or logo.
Budweiser has s a fairly odd name written in a script on a simple badge, but most of us recognize the standard brown bottle, the distinctive typographic brand-name in its signature red colour and of course, the simply but cleverly placed gold bottlecap (simply turned upside down to resemble a crown) to reflect their slogan, “The King of Beers”. Genius, right?
Martha Stewart’s trademark name and signature blue colour is reflected heavily in all of her branding and it remains consistent. While her branding has changed slightly in recent years to accommodate her line of crafting kits, supplies and tools and homewares, what’s the thing we all recognize instantly whenever we see a product of hers?
Her name in large white letters in a simple serif font.
Target. Everyone knows Target, right? Even those of you who pronounce it “Tarjay”?! And how do we best recognize Target without even having to see its name?
One shape. Two styles (one smaller filled circle within a second larger open circle). One colour. Instant recognition.
A red bullseye. On a vast sea of white. Oh, look. There’s a Target… quick, pull over, I need some guest towels for your mother’s visit.
READY FOR A (RE) FRESH START
I recently had a client who started her handmade business out of a desire to help others that found themselves in the same situation as she had been in while raising her daughter. She couldn’t find what she wanted at a reasonable price or readily available, so she began making it herself. When other mothers asked her about it, she explained her situation and found that she wasn’t alone in her predicament and whammo-bammo, her business began.
Because it happened organically and without much thought of the process or which steps to take when, she found herself in a position of uncertainty. She found that she was working herself to the bone, not making much of a profit, loving the fact that she was helping people in a similar situation to hers, but not liking the fact that all of this creating, producing and working was taking more time away from her family. Which was who she started this whole venture for in the first place!
She realized that something had to change. So, she actually went back to the beginning and began from scratch… the right way! She approached me at this second stage, knowing that her life would be easier if she had a cohesive brand that accurately represented her business ethos. We created a great brand and she was then able to effectively move onto the next step… understanding what set her business apart from those in the same industry.
… stay tuned next time for PART THREE: WHAT SETS YOU APART
Geri Jewitt — The Languid Lion
Geri Jewitt is a designer gone rogue from Corporate who now owns The Languid Lion, handmaking eco-friendly invitations + stationery, paper decorations & illustrated art prints in her Paper Boutique as well as helping those who are in need of fresh design! She is also the editor of The Lion’s Den, a blog where she writes about love, life, design, colour + handmade.