Write a Business Plan; Build your Brand

As I’ve started writing more and more about branding, and helping to explain the idea to others I keep coming back to the fact that building your brand is as critical to the planning of a new business as writing a business plan. Your business plan could be very thorough and formal, or something more simple, but nearly every business coach or expert will tell you how critical it is. The same goes with building your brand. A recent article in the New York Times has this quote: For startups and small businesses, branding can often take a backseat to other considerations, such as funding and product development. This is a mistake, as a company’s brand can be key to its success. Dollar for dollar, it is as important and vital as any other early steps. Dollar for dollar. That doesn’t mean you need to spend an arm and a leg, but it does mean that time & money used… Continue Reading »

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10 Questions to Help You Position Your Brand

Identifying a strong and usable brand involves both looking at yourself and looking outward to find a niche. In my first 10 questions, I focused on the introspective part of branding—helping to define yourself. These next 10 questions are aimed at discovering where there is an opportunity in the marketplace. Questions to help you position your brand Who are your direct and closest competitors? By category, specialty, location, etc. How are you different? In some industries there are a lot of very close competitors: for example if you run a dry cleaner in a big city there are probably many, and you could differentiate yourself on location, price, service, etc. Who are you indirect competitors? For example, restaurants are also competing with grocery stores and magazines are competing with web sites. What would be involved to define and defend your unique brand, based on your answers to 1, 2 and 3? Are you able to articulate how you are different… Continue Reading »

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10 Questions to Help you Identify Your Brand

Branding can be a complex subject. As a designer, I tend to focus on the look & feel of a brand, but there is much more to it than that. Creating a unique and memorable brand will make you (your company or product) stand out. However figuring who you are, can be a difficult job. And it’s essential to do this work before developing any graphic systems. The process involves both introspection as well as a keen view of the competition. This list of questions focuses on you and your company’s identity. Check back shortly for additional questions to help you identify your position within the marketplace. Introspective questions: If you were a celebrity who would you be? Oprah, Will Ferrell, Tiger Woods, George Clooney, etc. Each of these names brings to mind a certain set of characteristics. If you were an article of clothing, what would it be? Sweat pants, faded blue jeans, stiletto heels, perfectly tailored black suit…. Continue Reading »

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5 Tips for Working with Fonts

Most small business owners find themselves creating their own proposals, presentations, reports and memos. They don’t have the time or the money to have a designer available to create everything. Here are few tips to use fonts wisely so your materials still look professional. Limit the number of fonts. That long list of typefaces that comes up when you go to choose a font can be mesmerizing. However, stick to one or two only. You can still use the bold and italics within each typeface. A few combinations that are tried & true are: a serif face for long running type and a sans serif for headlines; a sans serif for body copy and a fun, decorative font for headlines; serif type for the main copy and serif type for sidebars. Even better, just choose one typeface for the entire piece and only change the size and weight. Don’t underline anything other than a link. Underlined text is now universally… Continue Reading »

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Naming your Business to Attract the Right Clients

One of the most exciting parts of starting a business is coming up with a name. The name becomes central to the brand and can help you define your target audience. The Senior Citizen Barber Shop I read a fun story about the local Senior Citizen Barber Shop and how it got it’s name. The full story is in the Portland Press Herald and below are the key passages: Q: What did the shop used to be called? A: Longfellow Barber Shop. That changed when the hippies came out in the ’60s. It was kind of funny, the telephone company called up and asked me, “What do you want to put in your ad?” I wanted to say something about senior citizens, but they kept saying you can’t do this, you can’t do that. Then finally she said, “Let’s start over. What’s the name of the shop again?” I told her “Senior Citizen Barber Shop.” She said, “When did that… Continue Reading »

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