You’ve started a new business. Congratulations! So now what? In our 20+ years as graphic designers, we’ve seen a consistent pattern amongst small business owners and it goes something like this:
“I’m starting a new business! I don’t know what I need or what colors I want to use…
and I don’t have a business name yet…but I think I need a logo and a website and….”
Slow down, sister! We share in your excitement of wanting to put your big beautiful business idea out into the world, and we want to help you make it look amazing, we really, really do. BUT, like anything, you can’t build the house without laying the foundation first. We’ve talked to many small business owners who jumped the gun on their branding (or rebrand) and ended up feeling resentful of the whole process. You many think having a beautifully designed, cohesive brand is out of reach. It isn’t.
You can have the brand of your dreams, whether you’re DIY’ing it or hiring a designer. If you’re wondering how to brand your business, here’s 9 things you should know before getting started:
1. Business name
It’s pretty much impossible to design a logo without a name, so let’s start here. Your business name might be your own name or something symbolic or meaningful to you and your clientele in some way. Read up on some important details you should be aware of when selecting your name (like making sure someone else doesn’t already have it).
2. Target audience
Hey guess what? Your brand isn’t really about you. It’s about your audience. Who they are, what they like, where they live, where they shop, what kind of car they drive. When determining your brand, you’re really figuring out who it is you’re selling to. When it comes to determining color, fonts, and style for your branding, you will need to have an idea of what appeals to your target audience and what best communicates your message.
3. Who is designing your brand?
You have two options: design it yourself, or hire a professional to help you. When just starting out, many small business owners opt to create their own materials. If you’re well-versed in design software or an app like Canva, this may be a good cost-saving option for you in the early stages of your business. However, if you are not especially design-savvy, we recommend that you work with a designer or you may find yourself frustrated and never quite getting that branding off the ground. As your business progresses and matures, we always recommend working with a professional designer to up-level your branding and to ensure it is cohesive, polished, and in alignment with your level of service.
4. Color palette
Our favorite way to gather ideas? Pinterest, of course. It’s a wonderland of color and mood board ideas. We recommend collecting images that represent the color and vibe you envision for your brand. You can then use these images to create a mood board and color palette for a consistent look and feel across all of your materials. If you work with a designer, she will likely create a mood board for you.
5. Logo design
After you’ve determined all of the above, you can start creating a logo! Do your research and look for inspiration to help you define a design direction. Once again, Pinterest is your friend. If you’ve run across a logo design that you love, save it! Don’t copy it, of course (Not only is that bad form, it’s a violation of intellectual property), but DO use it as influence to inspire an original design for your business. We recommend that you look at the logos of your competitors as well so that you can know that your idea will resonate with your audience, but also to make sure you don’t look too similar to others in your market.
6. List of marketing materials
What kinds of marketing materials will you need? A business card is the most obvious, but think about all the ways you might be marketing and where you will be using your logo, and make a list of everything you will need for print and digital use. Some of most common start-up materials are: a note card to send thank you’s to clients; a hang tag or label for your product; social media templates; headers for Facebook or Twitter; a rate sheet or a newsletter template. But you may also have t-shirts, tote bags, packaging and signage. List EVERYTHING you will need now and within the next 12 months.
7. Social media accounts
Decide which social platforms you’re going to use and where you are most likely to connect with your customers. Set up those as business accounts so you can utilize their built-in analytics, be sure to write an engaging bio and consider using a social media calendar or planner to organize and schedule your content in advance. Make sure to secure the SAME name across all platforms if at all possible, and to use the same profile photo for easy recognition. Use those platforms to excite and engage your followers in your branding journey before it’s up and running. People LOVE an online survey, so you can even share aspects of the branding process with your audience and get them to weigh in.
8. Website splash page
Before you build your website, you may want to first put up a splash page. A splash page is a one-page site that lets your visitors know that you’re open for business, that your site is coming soon, and directs them to where they can contact you, follow you on social media, and sign-up for your newsletter even before you launch.
And the pièce de résistance, your website! Even if you’ve got a massive social media following, you still need a website. This is your storefront on the web and your clients will be expecting to find you there. When it comes to building a site, you have many options: WordPress, Squarespace and Showit are the most popular. Each have their pros and cons, so you’ll want to research before deciding which platform to use – whether you are building the site yourself or hiring a designer to do it. We will be giving a run-down on these three in a future post, so if you sign up for our newsletter, you’ll be able to get our two cents on this topic.
We hope this list provides you with some clarity and direction as you embark on your new business venture. If you want more tips on how to think about and plan for your branding, sign up for our newsletter and you’ll be updated on our next post!
Gili & Heidi