Small Business Strategies: Developing your branding materials

guy with colored pencilsWhat’s in a brand? A strong brand will express the essence of what makes one company stand apart from the rest. You’ll want your branding materials to reflect the personality and values of your company. And you’ll need to make sure those brand materials show consistency across media, so your website looks like your sales presentation looks like your brochures. Here’s a checklist of materials you might want to include in your branding toolkit.

• Website You’ve got to start somewhere, and the website is as good a place as any. If you don’t need to do business via e-commerce, then your site doesn’t need to be a complicated project. Four or five pages could be plenty. Think of the website as your online brochure. There are plenty of do-it-yourself options out there, but try to pick one a template that looks as professional as possible. If you can afford to have someone design and develop a site for you, do it. Or have a designer work with existing software like iWeb, which omits the need for a programmer. The interesting thing about websites is that a small business can stand as tall as a larger company online.

• Blog site I’m a big believer in blogging for small business owners, and now it’s easier than ever and often free. Sites like wordpress.com allow you to choose from a large variety of established templates and then plop your content in. You can pull free stock photos from Google Images, or pay a subscription fee to photos.com or some other stock house for unlimited usage of professional photography. In most cases, you can add additional pages to the blogsite about you, your company, your products or services. For some small businessses, a blog site might even be an appropriate choice instead of a website. If you do both, focus on offering useful information or interesting tidbits on the blog site and leave the selling for the website.  

• Presentation format Will you need to take prospective clients through a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation when you’re trying to win a project? Do you need a sales presentation in a paper format you could show to someone one-on-one? These materials should spring from your brand look, using the same colors, typefaces, logo and so on. Sometimes it’s worth the money to have a designer develop a template for you that you could use over and over. Beware of trusting your own creative skills with PowerPoint, unless you really do have some design talent. One of the fastest ways to make your company look unprofessional is to show a presentation that looks homemade.

•Advertising Will your marketing plan include paid advertising? Newspaper and magazine ads, radio and television spots, outdoor boards and online ads all deserve a professional touch. If you can’t afford an ad agency, get creative and trade out services with a local ad shop. If you’re starting a bakery, maybe they’d trade an ad campaign for free birthday cakes for their employees and clients. Or see if you can talk a freelancer into taking on your campaign in exchange for a week at your vacation condo or a truckload of firewood or tax preparation or whatever you have to offer.

• Collateral Do you need a sales brochure? A catalog? A newsletter? Once again, the look and feel of these materials will reflect the caliber of your brand, so don’t put out something that compromises your brand. You might want a brochure that includes roughly the same information you have on your website. Or you might want individual sales sheets for various products and services that you include in a folder. That way you can customize the sheets you include for each prospect, by having a number of sheets tailored to specific services or expertise, and including only the ones that apply to that specific prospect. An inexpensive way to do this is to find a standard folder you like at the office supply store, have an art director or designer create the individual sheets in a PDF format, and then  the sheets as needed on a color printer in your office, or even down the street at Kinko’s.

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