A regular query the studio gets asked is "what exactly do I need to launch my business with a bang?"
Clients obviously want their incredible products or services to be noticed but often feel overwhelmed by the process or unsure of how much they should dedicate to design and marketing – both in time and money.
This guide will give you fellow crafted business owners a step by step guide to starting your company with a bang; to get your business as successful as possible in the shortest time frame, to help you feel comfortable when allocating budgets and to have a solid base that you can continue to grow from.
Just work through a stage at a time (no skipping steps) and you'll be celebrating by sipping margaritas on the beach in no time.
I know this isn't easy; there are so many options out there from local studios, online freelancers or international agencies that choosing any direction seems an impossible task. But you can limit down your search with a few questions:
• Is it important that you get to meet the designer in person? If so, local designers/studios or agencies will be your best bet.
• How's your budget? Typically, freelancers will be the least expensive (due to less overheads), then smaller studios (again, overheads are fairly small) then your international agencies can come in at millions.
• What do you need? A logo? Then consider a freelancer. A complete brand design package including packaging, a website and social media marketing? Look for studios or smaller agencies. An international campaign that consists of design, advertising and marketing? You'll likely need a large agency.
• Have companies you look up to got any recommendations?
• Check sites like Dribbble or Pinterest (searching for whatever service your looking for ie. 'brand design'), see which designers or agencies you're drawn to.
• Once you have a shortlist, check their sites. Which companies align with your ethos? Which sound like they're talking directly to you? Which ones make you excited? Which ones have great results? Then take this smaller list and contact them by phone or email – you'll know as soon as talking to them which one is the right one for you.
At the studio, new branding clients will always be asked questions like these, potentially in a meeting or they may have a form to fill in. The answers are the most insightful start to a successful brand (and always so great to read!).
• What does your company do?
• What exactly do you want to be known for? Be specific. Is it an unbeatable product feature? Unrivalled results? A life-changing service? A way of life? A feeling? Even if you make/do/are other things, what do you want your hook to be? (Eg. Virgin Atlantic obviously sell flights, but their hook is a fun, modern and cheeky personality coupled with easy and luxurious flying.)
• What's your story? How did your company come about?
• Who are your competitors? How do you differ from them?
• Who do you stalk?
• Name three famous people you'd invite to your company dinner party.
• What are your company goals? Short term and long term.
• Whose in your tribe? What is an ideal customer like?
• If your business already exists: "I've heard people say my company is amazing at…". If this is a new business, use the same sentence but about yourself instead.
• Describe your company in 5–10 words. It might be useful to think of your company as a person ie. masculine, understated, modern and witty or intimate, organic, feminine and luxe.
• If it's a product, where would it be sold? If it's a service, where would it be advertised? (Money no object for both.)
• What exactly do you want to get from this project? It could be in terms of design assets (ie. logo, packaging range design and website) or measurable successes (ie. 300% sales increase or getting my product sold in Selfridges).
Now it's so easy to gather any design inspiration we want through sites like Pinterest, Design Sponge, Designspiration and Ffffound (to name a few), it can sometimes be difficult to know where inspiration ends and copying begins.
Whilst I'm a big believer in using these kind of sites to start to find out what kind of style you like or what works for your brand, after this initial haul it's time to stop researching and start playing. If you use other's work as too much of a source for your own design, you'll only ever be a second-rate version of them.
Yes, take inspiration to see what the markets up to, to find your style but after that it's time for your designer to put their own pen to paper and create something that is entirely bespoke and entirely ready to elevate your own business. If your asking them to do anything but this, your cheapening your future success and if they're trying to pass you a design imitation, they're cheapening their own industry and taking you down with it.
Following your choice of designer, your questions and the brief, your research and inspiration it's time for your visual brand to be created. This will include a logo (sometimes multiple versions) and all or some of the following: sub marques, font choices, colour palettes, patterns and illustrations.
This is an amazing process where you see all your vision become tangible. A good designer will show you the work in stages so you can ensure it's exactly as you hoped (usually split into initial concepts, development, then artwork). Always feel you can share your thoughts and any amends you'd like – a bad designer will take it personally, a good designer will take these on board, and a great designer will share their thoughts to combine their expertise with your wants and needs to give the best end-result possible.
This may be intermixed with stage 4, depending on what your needs are and how your designer likes to run things, but the stage takes your visual brand and extends it into your key marketing tools such as packaging, website, stationery, print/literature, photography styling and copy writing among many more.
These areas are used to tell your story, to smoothly say why people should be buying from you, to give full information about your product or service and to encourage people closer. Extending your brand to these key areas will enable your ideal customers to notice you, buy from you, remember you and recommend you – exactly how your business becomes successful.
Do you think you should be on Twitter? Facebook? Posting images of cats on Instagram? What about advertising in a glossy magazine versus your parish newsletter?
Before we jump right in, it's good to remember not all press is good press – how and where you talk about your business is vitally important for establishing your brand. How would you feel about Tiffanys advertising their engagement rings in your black and white photocopied library newsletter? You'd think they'd lowered their previously high standard, right? But if an artisan chocolate company advertised their products beautifully in Vogue, you'd think they must be worth the money. Talking about your business in the right places will cement exactly what your potential customers think of you. The cheapest does not make the best results.
The same goes for social media, running these campaigns can take up a lot of time new business owners rarely have so think carefully; if your 'tribe' are over 50 and looking for highly-crafted walking sticks (what a business!) advertising on Instagram may not be worth your time. However if your tribe are under 25 and looking for a new bar, Facebook or Twitter (with #wearesoverycool hashtags) may be the way forward.
With social media, think openly about what you can post about – look back at your questions and what you said you wanted to be known for. If you're a florist, obviously you want to show pictures of your work but if you want to be known for making beautiful, relaxed arrangements for beach weddings, you'll want to show dreamy, hazy images of the beach, of a gauzy bridal gown… Think about what you're ideal customer wants to see and also what they want to know – could you write a blog or Facebook article on how to style flowers at home? Or how to keep arrangements for longer? Providing information people want to know will drive your tribe right to your site.
Just to touch on PR opportunities also: there are great articles out there on how to send your product to a magazine or how to get a well-read blog to feature your service. Think about where your tribe will spend time then do everything in your power to get those places to talk about it. It's free, it definitely isn't easy but if you make it, it will be more than worth it.
And finally, consider: networking, trade shows, informational events your tribe will intend (could you do a presentation or workshop?), holding your own event or personally writing to those you want to notice you (could you include a sample or gift?).
Consider this: you own a highly traditional (and pricey) wedding event planning business, everything visible about your brand is perfect, but then a team member swears in a client meeting, you're always late, your answer phone message is barely audible and you write down your notes in the back of a tattered notebook with a blunt pencil.
If you've spent time and money setting up your brand to its highest potential (or even if you haven't) ensuring the rest of the way your brand works is just as perfect is of the highest importance.
Think about how you introduce your company when meeting people for the first time, what you and your team members wear, your way of taking notes, your email voice, your organisational skills, the way you answer the phone… all the way down to your desktop screensaver. Potential clients will notice everything, and whether they consciously take it in or not, these little things will be ultimate deciders as to whether they buy from you.
The great thing about running your own business is it gets to be the business you want it to be – if you hate skirt suits (hollah), you don't have to wear them; if you create and sell modern athletic clothing that you love wearing, guess what? You get to wear that. If you're an artist that always has ink stained fingers, run with it. Things have changed drastically from Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl, you get to wear what you want, run your business how you plan and say what you'd like – the truer you are to yourself, the easier it will be for your tribe to find you.
Following each stage it's so important to assess how things are going. They won't always go how you planned, some will be amazing and some will be flops.
But always think of the less that desirable outcomes as "fascinating!", never awful failures that make you question why you're doing this anyway and wonder if it would just be easier to be a binman (true story).
Keep the wins going and ask yourself if there's anything you can to capitalise on them. Assess why the flops flopped and don't throw them out too fast – maybe the idea was great but the promotion didn't reach enough people.
If you're finding it hard to allocate time to build your brand or to allow a budget for brand creation services, just think about the following thoughts. And notice some of them won't cost you at all.
• How you feel when you phone a company up with a complaint and they deal with it in such a pleasurable way you actually come out feeling great.
• Do you avoid products, even though you know they're great, if the packaging is bad? What about when buying it for a gift? Are you drawn to new products because they look great on the shelf?
• How would you feel if you found a company you loved and respected, then visited their website only to find it hasn't been updated since 2005?
• Who do you buy from if there's a choice between a cheap product/service versus the company that makes me smile every time you use them as well as giving you better-than-hoped-for results?
• Which companies do you recommend to your friends and family?
• Do you judge companies/products or services by their 'cover'?
What do you think? Have any of these worked for you? Are there any you're going to implement (in order please)?
If you'd like to discuss this further or want to get started, it would be great to hear your thoughts.