According to a Nielsen Survey, 59% of consumers prefer to buy new products from brands familiar to them. What is a small business or, harder yet, a solopreneur to do? How do you compete with established brands?
First, take a deep breath. Chances are your business or service is not competing with Disney or Apple. That is not to say, however, that you do not have a lot of competition in your space. Most likely you do – a lot of it – which makes branding even more important to a small business or solopreneur.
A professional appearance builds credibility and trust. People are more likely to purchase from a business that appears polished and legitimate. But what to do and where to start?
There is a huge body of information on branding. Everybody has their take on what works and what doesn’t. Branding is an industry unto itself. But for all the knowledge and expertise out there it all boils down to the basics.
1. RESEARCH THE COMPETITION
Before you do anything, you need to figure out about your competition. Thoroughly research your industry, so you understand exactly where your brand needs to fit into the marketplace and where there are opportunities. Pay attention to your competitors' branding. This will help you understand the general norms of your space, but also help you create a unique brand to set you apart.
Don’t forget to get all the trademarks and copyrights necessary for your business! As a small business or solopreneur, you can do a lot of the work yourself with a few simple internet searches.
First, conduct a domain search to find out if your domain name is available. For more information on what a domain name does, check out this useful article. There are numerous domain search engines – Godaddy, Google, Name.com for example. Be patient; you may have to come up with several names before you find one that is available. Do a basic search over at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to check for conflicts if you are creating a trademark.
Remember, to get good handles and usernames on all the major social media profiles. It should be easy for your customers to find you on all platforms.
2. KEEP IT SIMPLE
When developing the visual identity for your business, it's always a good idea to keep it simple. If you have the budget, work with designers and brand professionals. If not, you can do it on your own. A good brand is memorable, timeless and versatile. Think of the brands that pop in your head. Simple, right?
When it comes to logotype — the type-only part of a logo — stay away from using excessively expressive type. Stick to the basics, so your brand doesn’t look dated in a few years. Sans-serif is always a safe choice. Keep colors to a minimum and steer clear of using 'dimensional effects' like drop shadows, which look dated and tend to not reproduce well in print applications. You also need to consider how your logo will look like as a tiny profile image or a thumbnail for other social media platforms.
3. BE UNIQUE, NOT CRAZY
After you have researched your competitors, you should have a good idea what’s out there. Now the trick is to differentiate yourself without going over to crazy town. Your branding should represent what your business does.
A logo for a freelance writer will look very different from that of a tech startup. While there is some benefit to staying within specific industry frames of reference, it's important to not fall into tired old clichés like a lightbulb or the omnipresent globe. Not only are these overly predictable, but they may also cheapen your brand because customers will automatically associate your logo with all the other tired ones out there. Again, keep it simple. Create a logo that is memorable and establishes a link between the user and your brand.
4. BE CONSISTENT
Your brand needs to be consistent in every medium and every communication. This includes business cards, social media, website, etc. Establish brand guidelines that outline usage of everything from typefaces to colors and follow them. Customize all your social media profiles, so they look and feel consistent. Buy decent business cards – numerous online print-on-demand services like Moo, 4by6 and Paper Chase Press can create high-quality cards and stationery for a reasonable cost. You want to always speak in a consistent voice that is appropriate for your target audience.
5. BE PROFESSIONAL AND POLISHED
Imagine searching for a vendor. You find a young upstart company with a bold name, like Marketing Experts Inc. or Information Technology Solutions LLC. Then you are offered a business card, with their bold name next to, an address of a local bedroom community or even worse a P.O. Box.
Solopreneurs and small start-ups are much more common today, but vendors and customers can still be cautious about doing business with you. Fortunately, the gig economy makes the possibility of a virtual office an affordable reality in the greater Herndon area. Now you can rent a professional address with mailbox space and even phone service to make that right impression to clients and customers.
6. BUILD A GREAT WEBSITE
Does anyone even own a phone book or look at the Yellow Pages anymore? No matter what your business does, chances are most people will find you via the web. Your website is your shop window to the world. It needs to be excellent. Make sure your website is simple, easy to navigate and functions across all platforms. Think about the design of your site for mobile first, since an increasing amount of customers will be viewing your site on their mobile devices.
Make your website user-friendly by minimizing the number of clicks it takes the user to get where they want to be. Invest in professional photos and make your visuals as large and appealing as possible. Tell your brand story in an authentic, compelling way and make sure people can easily contact you. Update your site frequently to give people a reason to come back again and again. Be aware of trends in your business and your community and adjust your web content accordingly.
There is an abundance of information about branding. Below are some additional articles and tips that may help.
If you need additional resources or advice on branding check out the Small Business Development Center in your area.
Office Evolution Herndon -- 205 Van Buren St. Suite 120 Herndon, VA 20170
Minutes from Dulles Airport and centrally located in the Herndon Business District, Office Evolution Herndon keeps you in the center of the action without the long commute. We're just a short drive from Ashburn, Reston, Sterling, Chantilly and other nearby communities. When the new Silver Line Metro Station opens, you'll be within a 10-minute walk. For those who drive we have Free Parking. Outside the office, we are a great location for work or play. Walk to Worldgate Centre for premier shopping, movies and dining. Get lunch at fantastic local restaurants, or head to Reston Town Center.
Written by: Martin Gruszka
Office Evolution has more than 70 locations open, 140 units sold in markets across the country and is poised for further growth as the demand for affordable and safe, workspace close-to-home continues to rise.