Your Ultimate Branding Checklist

Your Ultimate Branding Checklist

Your Ultimate Branding Checklist

Your Ultimate Branding Checklist

A step-by-step guide for small business startups

If you’re starting up a small business, I know you’ve got a lot on your plate right now. And you probably have a lot of money going out and not much coming in yet.

It’s a hectic time, and I am guessing branding is one of the many things on your to do list. Maybe it’s near the bottom because it seems less urgent than other tasks. Maybe it’s even been tossed in the too hard basket because you don’t know where to start.

Branding can be a huge exercise, involving applying design and marketing expertise to every layer of the public face of your business.

But for those of us starting lean and keen, it can also be a case of knowing what’s essential, and what’s nice to have. What to do now, and what to roll out later. What you can DIY – and when it’s best to call in the professionals.

Follow the steps in my Ultimate Branding Checklist to get your business ready and raring to go! I have also created a downloadable version, which you can use to mark off your progress and record important info about your brand.

1. First, you need a logo

The good news is – step 1 is one of the most fun ones on the list! But it’s also the one where you really need to do some soul searching when it comes to DIY.

If you choose to design yourself (or have your niece who’s learning Photoshop in school do it) you need to make sure not only that you have those mad design skills, but also a good understanding of how the technical side of print and web graphics works. It’s why I would say that if you hire a professional for any part of your branding process, it should be your logo.

A professional graphic designer will be able to provide your logo in a range of file formats, resolutions and colourspaces, to suit the full range of print and digital applications. This will save you having to spend money down the track having your logo re-drawn so it can be printed properly. It will also save you from having your logo look dodgy on things when you use it – think pixellation, weird cropping, or an annoying white box around it when you’d rather have a coloured background.

If you can afford it, you should also consider having your logo designer create a style guide for your brand. A well designed style guide specifies typefaces, colour palettes and graphic elements as well as alternate versions of your logo. It’s an investment that keeps on giving, especially if you plan to do your own marketing in-house.

A good logo design should be one of the first things you do when starting up a business. Partly because logos can be a pain to change down the track. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but if you have built any sort of brand recognition amongst your customers, a drastic change can be damaging.

But apart from that – you will be surprised at how often that pesky old logo keeps turning up on old forms, online directories and other people’s websites! Getting a professional looking logo right from the get-go means you can then start using it in all your branding and marketing activities as you roll them out.

2. Set up a profile on Google My Business

This one is definitely an essential – and has the added bonus of being an easy and totally free essential! Whoop whoop!

Having a Google My Business profile means that when someone googles your business name – as well as any relevant results Google returns – they see a dedicated listing for your business. The listing includes all of the info you add to your GMB profile, and can include photos, posts, opening times, offers and reviews from your customers.

This is a fantastic boon for businesses who are not yet at the stage where they can afford a dedicated website, as it allows you to get an online presence for free. But it is also a must for businesses who do have a website, as a GMB profile helps immensely with search engine optimisation – that is, getting your website to rank higher on Google searches. It also allows people to call or message you with a single click from their mobile, and contains a bunch of other great features that make for a perfect intro to online for small businesses.

3. Set up a Facebook Business Page

Facebook Business Pages are another free resource that your small business should definitely be tapping. Not really a social media kind of person? Well you are now.

In 2018 Sensis reported that 79% of Aussies were social media users, and of that group 94% used Facebook. It’s an audience that just can’t be ignored. But having a Business Page on the platform is not only useful for the ‘follow and like’ stuff, but it is also another great way for businesses without a website to create a legitimate web presence, and for those who do to improve their search engine rankings.

Creating a page is fairly simple, but make sure you create quality graphics for your profile icon and cover image that are consistent with the rest of your branding. Taking the time to write some good copy for the ‘About’ section is also a great idea. It’s an opportunity to describe what you so and to sell your business to your potential customers.

Oh – and make sure you post something, at least every now and then. Even if you are not ready or able to launch into a planned, goals-driven social media marketing campaign yet. Posting something relevant from time to time helps to let people stopping by via the search engines know that your page is current and you are open for business.

4. Business cards – they’re still a thing!

OK, so most of us aren’t meeting face-to-face at the moment, but the time will come again. Be prepared for that time with a snazzy business card.

It’s amazing how enduring the humble business card has been in this digital age. They are used extensively in networking and business-to-business situations. They are fabulous for jotting down appointment times in service-based industries. But if you design your card cleverly, it can also economically double as signage, packaging or a marketing tool.

Whether you decide to go with a pro or DIY, the options for business card design are almost endless. If you do need to DIY, this is one of the times when you will be glad you got a good quality designer to create your logo. Perfect logo artwork makes using online templates much less frustrating, and ensures the end result is flawless. And yeah, I say this a lot, but don’t forget to keep your cards consistent with everything else to be sure your branding is on point.

5. Industry-based essentials

Depending on your industry, there are a couple of extra essentials you need to take care of at this point.

If you produce a product, now is the time to design your packaging. Packaging can form a significant part of the cost per unit, especially for luxury brands who use high-end materials, printing and finishing techniques to package their products.

For start ups, however, packaging is often something created on the office printer and assembled at the kitchen table.

Packaging is necessary in the sense that the product needs to be wrapped or contained. But it is also an essential source of information about the product and your business, as well as a huge marketing opportunity.

So much of the decision making when buying rests on the visual appeal of the product. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be done well on a shoestring, and it’s another moment when a little bit of professional graphic design can go a long way.

For example, investing in a professionally designed template that you can adapt and print yourself is one great way to get home-made labels that look the biz. Or having a designer create your logo and a branding style guide which you can follow to DIY packaging glory. A good packaging designer should be able to put their knowledge of print and production to work for you, so you get a solution tailored to your product and budget.

The other industry-based essential is for those who have a shopfront. You’re gonna need signage. And you are definitely going to need a professional for this one.

Sign writers are amazing professionals whose focus is the creation and installation of signage. Their knowledge covers a huge range of materials, construction and printing techniques. A good sign writer can provide advice as to what signage you might need, as well as any hoops you may have to jump through with regard to council permits, etc.

Design work can either be done by your graphic designer or the signwriter themselves – but it will definitely need a bit of professional know-how. When briefing your sign writer, make sure they are aware of any existing branding you have in place, such as business cards, so that they can utilise similar colours and typefaces where possible.

6. Get a domain name

There’s no need to wait until you are ready to build a website. Buying a domain name as part of the process of setting up your business allows you to make sure you own the most relevant one right from the start.

Domain names need to be paid for by the year but are cheap and simple to register – the hardest thing is coming up with the perfect one! There are tonnes of registrars out there to choose from, just check out the web to find the one you like best. Or drop Powdermonkey Design a line – I’d be more than happy to help.

Another great advantage to having your own domain name is it means you can create your own, vastly more professional, email address @yourdomain.

This is often done when setting up a website, because you get email hosting with most web hosting plans. But if you are still a long way off from having your own website, it is well worth looking into email hosting plans. In fact, if you have a Microsoft 365 Business Plan, you will have email hosting already available to you. Having a custom email address is a branding must, and will give your business a huge aura of legitimacy and trust.

7. Create an email signature

It’s a sneaky little thing that can have a big impact on your branding. The email signature. It’s an opportunity to add another layer of professionalism and legitimacy to your business. It can also be a chance to spruik your website and social profiles by providing links directly to them.

Setting up your own email signature is quick and easy. The main thing to know is that signatures created within your email client are going to display differently from device to device. Some might show the signature larger; some smaller. Missing images are common, either because of broken links or users opting to block them in their settings.

When designing your own signature, ensure that all of the text elements of the signature are actually text. Don’t be tempted to create a JPEG that includes your name and all your contact details – when this image fails to download, your correspondents will be left wondering who just emailed them.

Another useful tip is to pick a common typeface for your signature. Like one of the ones that shipped with your computer when it was brand new. This will help make sure that for most users your signature is appearing as intended.

An alternative to the DIY email signature is to purchase an HTML signature. Just like a website, these signatures contain code that provides the device receiving the email with instructions on how to render the visual aspects. This means your signature gets to the other end looking just the way you want it. A professionally designed HTML email signature is a nice thing to add-on when you are having your logo done. But a DIY version does a great job when you are starting out lean, as long as you design it with care.

8. It’s website time!

Finally the big kahuna. The website all of your own. A website is definitely a business branding essential, but it is also one that involves some outlay of time and / or money. Which is why it is all the way down here at number 8.

By utilising free options like Google My Business and Facebook Business Pages, startups can begin trading without this outlay. This means more time to develop your products and services, decide on what you need from a website, and to establish cash flow.

If you are running an ecommerce business, a website of your own might become more of a priority than it is for others. But you may still choose to start up with as little outlay as possible by leveraging online selling platforms like Ebay or Etsy.

There are so many options when it comes to getting a website. The choices run the whole gamut from freebie website builders that come with your hosting, to hiring a developer to create a completely bespoke site. Choosing the best web design solution comes down to assessing your own skill level and the amount of time you have available to do it. Then weighing this up against your budget. If you need a bit of a hand with planning your website, I have put together a nifty checklist and downloadable Website Planner to help.

You can create a DIY website pretty cheaply, but you will need to set aside a lot of time. Both for initial design and for regular maintenance going forward. There are some really slick DIY web building apps out there that offer ease of use and cool templates, but you will pay a premium for them. This can be well worth it, however, if you need to make a lot of content changes to your site and want to keep things as nimble as possible.

Even professional website design covers a lot of ground. You can choose from marketing experts who create sites with a focus on SEO and traffic. Graphic designers who place an emphasis on the look of the site and the user experience. Developers who are masters of functionality, security and all things back-end. Like any big purchase, it’s just a case of working out what is most important to you and your business.

Building a brand takes time. By keeping it front of mind, even when you first start out, it can end up being one of the most valuable assets your business has.

#branding #branddesign #logodesign #webdesign #websitedesign #signwriting #graphicdesign #smallbusiness #microbusinesslegend #microbuisness #startup #entrepreneur #creativeforthepeople #powdermonkeydesign

Your Ultimate Website Checklist

Your Ultimate Website Checklist

Your Ultimate Website Checklist

Everything you need to do or delegate to get your new website up and running

There is absolutely no doubt about it anymore – if you’re running a business it needs an online presence.

In Australia, Internet use is pretty much ubiquitous. Consumers use the web not only to find products and services, but also to research, compare, and ultimately make decisions about who they will buy from. And with COVID-19 forcing everyone indoors, we will be living more and more in the digital space.

So you need to be seen in this digital landscape. But the process of generating this online presence can seem slightly mysterious. The myriad of different options can be confusing. And the whole thing can easily get shelved in the day-to-day of running a small business.

However, with the pandemic slowing many businesses to a standstill, there has never been a better time to work on you business, rather than in it. Creating and perfecting your online presence is an ideal way to tackle the downturn.

To help cut through all this noise, I have put together a checklist that covers everything you need to consider, plan and do to get your business online and in front of the masses. Use it together with my downloadable Ultimate Website Planner to create your own tailored online strategy.

1. The first step is to strategise.

Define your goals, and everything else will flow from there. Work out exactly what you need your online presence to achieve – now and going forward. Completing a formal marketing strategy is a great way to drill down into this, and there are a bunch of great templates available online that make it really easy.

2. Do you need a site? Or can it wait?

In a perfect world, every small business would have its own website. But when you’re starting out, the budget is often tight and there are a million potential demands on your cashflow. A great way to tackle this problem is to plan a staged approach to online – starting with free options like Facebook and Google My Business. Depending on what you need your web presence to achieve, these platforms can be fantastic ways to show your face online whilst planning and budgeting for a dedicated site of your own.

3. Buy a domain name.

Purchase your domain name early – they are cheap to buy and getting the right one is important. A good domain name should be short, relevant, easy to spell and also to type. Consider adding keywords or your location to help you get found in search results. Decide which top level domain is best for you – .com, .com.au – or something completely different. Buying a domain name well before you plan to build a website is a perfectly legitimate strategy. Not only does this ensure you snag the perfect name, but it prevents others from snapping it up in the meantime.

4. Planning – ask yourself some questions.

So you already know what you want your site to do. But assessing things like your budget and how much time you are able to allocate will help you decide on the best solution for creating the site. Also – taking the time to think about the details now will mean you have all the answers when it comes to briefing a professional designer or developer.

Plan not just for the short term, but consider how your site might evolve over time. Websites are easily adaptable, and you can use this flexibility to grow your site with an expanding business, or to deal with short term cash flow by having your site built in stages. Download my nifty Ultimate Website Planner to help you really nail the planning phase of your site.

5. Consider branding.

Ideally, your identity should be in place before you design your site. If you don’t have the budget for a professional rebrand or logo design, carefully consider colours, typefaces and other graphic elements. Cross reference with any existing marketing material you have (like your business card) to make sure they are looking consistent. Check out my 4 rules for small business branding – there’s some great tips in there for branding on a budget.

6. Get hosting sorted.

There are plenty of options out there – research and find the one that suits your budget and needs. Many DIY website builders offer hosting as part of their fees, and some web designers (including Powdermonkey Design) also offer design packages that include hosting.

7. Content creation.

What does you website need to say? How does this content need to be divided up into sections or pages? What images need to go on the site? Either create this content yourself or consider hiring a professional copywriter or photographer to do it.

If you choose to DIY though, find yourself a trusty editor. Make sure you get a second pair of eyes on your copy to check for spelling or grammatical errors, which are notoriously hard to spot in your own work. If you are using your own photos, be brutally honest with yourself – are they well lit, well composed and of good resolution? If the answer is ‘no’, it might be worth hiring a web designer who is also skilled at photo re-touching to give your images a bit of a lift (hint: I know someone!) Another great option is purchasing stock images, or downloading free ones from Pixabay or Unsplash.

Obviously, knocking off someone else’s images and copy from elsewhere on the ‘net is a big no-no!

8. Design & build.

DIY or hiring a professional? Web designer or web developer? When opting to DIY, consider the time involved as well as any ongoing fees. Another thing to think about is the possibility of a total rebuild if you later decide to hand over to a professional, and how this will work. For example, if you choose to create your own website with WordPress it’s easy to hand it over to a professional designer when the time comes. But when using DIY package builders such as Wix this can be trickier.

Also – If you get your site professionally designed but plan to add content yourself, consider the platform your designer is using. Can they provide a solution that allows for simple edits, and do they provide any training or support you might need?

9. What else do I need?

Last but not least, it’s time to think about the little extras that go along with a website, such as an SSL certificate, security, email accounts, updates and backups. Will your web designer be sorting these out for you, or do you need to organise them yourself?

Taking the time to check all the boxes when it comes to website planning can help you to decide on the best solution for creating your site. But it can also help keep costs down when paying a professional to design your site, or to save time and heartache if you opt to build it in-house. Either way, you will have a web presence that is optimised for when you are now, and where you plan to be in the future.

 

#workingon #webdesign #hosting #domainname #smallbusiness #onlinebusiness #entrepreneur #microbusinesslegends #creativeforthepeople #powdermonkeydesign

Do I Need to Trademark My Brand?

Do I Need to Trademark My Brand?

Do I Need to Trademark My Brand?

It’s a question many people ask themselves when they are starting a new business – “do I need to trade mark my business name or logo?”

The short answer is no; you don’t.

But SHOULD you trade mark your logo or business name? The answer to that one is a bit trickier.


Trademarking vs. Registering a Business Name

Before we take a deep dive into that, I’m going to clear up one aspect of the whole trade marking thing that sometimes comes up when I’m working with start ups. Registering your business name isn’t the same as trade marking your business name. In order to do business in Australia you need to first apply for an ABN (Australian Business Number). Then register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. You don’t need to register your business name if you want to trade under your own name, but you still need an ABN.

This registration with ASIC is really just a case of registering to trade – letting them know you’re there and you’re legit. It doesn’t provide you with any ownership or protection of your name (or your logo). And it doesn’t guarantee that you aren’t infringing on someone else’s trade marked business name.

When you trade mark your business name or logo (or another aspect of your business) you obtain the exclusive legal right to use it. Registration of trade marks is done through IP Australia and involves an application process. There is also a fee for each business class you wish to register your trade mark in. Their website is full of great info and also has a search feature so you can check whether the thing you want to trade mark has already been trade marked.


To Trademark or Not To Trademark?

Which brings us right on back to the question of whether or not a small business should trademark their name or logo.

There are a few things to consider. Top of the list when starting a business is usually money. According to ASIC, it costs roughly $250 to apply for a trade mark. And that fee applies for each class of business you wish to register your trade mark in. Plus if your application is rejected for any reason, these fees are not refundable. So there’s a very real chance you could be laying out some serious dosh to make your trade mark happen. Especially if you need to go through the process more than once.

For most new small businesses every dollar counts and every spend needs to be on something essential. And whether or not a trade mark is essential is going to depend on your circumstances.

Give some thought to what the chances are of someone ripping off the IP you wish to trademark, and what the impact to your business would be if they did. Are you trading under your own name? It’s probably unlikely someone else in your industry will copy your logotype. Does your business only operate in a small local area? Perhaps this means your competition is limited and a clash of interests is unlikely? Do you feel that if someone was to start using the same name or a similar logo that it would be a deal breaker for your business? Or do you think you could recover from a re-badge pretty easily?

 

Think Timing…

Trade marking might also be something you want to do but that you decide can wait until you reach other business goals or milestones. Perhaps this can be worked into your business plan as something you do when cash flow allows. Or when you feel your brand has started to gain some traction and become valuable enough to trade mark.

Whether or not you decide to trade mark your business name, it is well worth checking before you start your business to see if the name you want is already trade marked. Just in case you are inadvertently treading on someone else’s toes! It’s also a great idea to check up on any domain names you might be after at the same time. Although bear in mind registering a domain name doesn’t give you any rights to use a certain business name either. That way you know you have a clear path to the identity you want for your new business, and won’t have to spend time or money repairing any branding mistakes down the road.

#microbusinesslegend #entrepreneur #businessstartup #smallbusiness  #trademark #creativeforthepeople #powdermonkeydesign

4 Rules For Small Business Branding

4 Rules For Small Business Branding

4 Rules For Small Business Branding

Starting and running a small business is daunting. No doubt about it. The number of things that need to be weighed up and decided upon is endless, and varies so much from industry to industry that even seasoned business people can find themselves on a very steep learning curve.

 

The main focus during the start up phase nearly always ends up being money. The whole, “do I need to spend money on this?” thing, as well as that other old chestnut; “how do I keep the money coming in?”

 

For business with a customer focus (that’s most of us) who are looking to create and maintain a reputation, strong branding is a key part of the process. How you brand your business can have an impact on several aspects of your sales cycle, from grabbing the attention of potential customers, to reassuring current ones, to generating repeat business.

 

Large corporates, of course, have the luxury of spending big bucks on agencies or even employing their own teams dedicated to making sure their branding is always on point. For the small- or micro-business, though, branding can seem like a sidebar. Something you shove on the backburner until the business takes off. Or – you know – “I’m a plumber and I’m good at plumbing and people will realise that when they hire me so why would I need to worry about my brand??”

 

Now obviously, as a graphic designer my first piece of advice is always gonna be “invest in a great logo”. But branding doesn’t end once that’s sorted. with a healthy respect for the image you are projecting and a little bit of diligence you can create a strong brand with even the beeriest of beer budgets!

 

Here are my 4 essential rules for managing your own small business brand to perfection:

 

1. Keep it consistent

This is the name of the game, my friends. If you can maintain a consistent look and feel across all the visual aspects of your business, you’ve got a brand! You can hire marketing professionals who can drill down into every little thing for you and style it, but for the cash-strapped startup, consistency can be achieved just by paying attention to the little things.
 
If your designer has provided you with a style guide, make sure you use your corporate fonts and colours for any documents you generate in-house. Check your social media profiles are all using the same logo, and that any header images team with the theme. Think about your social media posts and keep them consistent in tone and in look – if you’re creating images for your posts get those corporate typefaces and colours in there wherever possible. When outsourcing design work for things like promotional flyers or a website, use the same designer for everything – or choose one who has a good understanding of the importance of branding (some designers like to play a little fast and loose with your established style).
 

2. Consider your target market

If you’ve written a business or marketing plan, you will already be familiar with who your target market is and what they are into. But if you haven’t yet gone down this road, now’s a great time to give it some thought. Once you know who your customer is you can begin to tailor your branding towards this demographic.
 
The most obvious way to tailor your brand to your target market is to choose a visual style that is likely to appeal to this group, but you should also consider the content you generate and the language you use to write it. If the people you need can relate, you are part way there!
 

3. Mind your spelling and grammar

This stuff is so important to the image a business projects. And we aren’t paying enough attention to it any more.
 
Proof read and correct any spelling and grammatical errors on everything your business puts out into the world. It is cheap, it’s easy – and it can make a huge difference to the way potential and existing customers view your brand.
 
Don’t limit your proof-reading to printed matter like brochures and reports – be sure to give all your email correspondence and social media posts a good checking as well. The rise of social media and the DIY-ness of it all means that many businesses are cranking out content that’s barely intelligible – which doesn’t inspire confidence.
 
Don’t get me wrong – the odd typo happens to us all, and they can elude even the most fastidious proof reader. But nothing should go out without a few read-throughs and tweaks to make sure it makes sense and sets your brand in the best possible light.
 

4. Resolution, baby!

I know it comes under the banner of boring designspeak, but image resolution is important.
 
Nothing looks dodgier than a pixellated logo or graphic. Like bad spelling or grammar, it can really effect the image your business is putting out there.
 
Choose a designer who will provide you with your logo files in various file formats and sizes, and then file them away (regardless of whether you can open the files on your computer). Web logos and graphics need to be low-resolution to optimise page loading times, so don’t assume that you can download your logo from your webpage (or images from someone else’s page – yikes!) and use them for printing.
 
Another hot tip is to never squash or stretch your logo when scaling it – always preserve the ratio. If your designer has provided a style guide you might also find she has created a series of ‘do’s and don’ts’ around using your logo, and these should always be followed. If not, just use your common sense (don’t place it on a crazy background so you can’t read it… things like that).


And for bonus points…

Remember that your business branding is closely tied to your marketing and overall business goals, so to really nail that branding it is important to spend time on preparing formal marketing and business plans. I know that sounds daunting and time-consuming, but there are a number of fantastic planning templates out there that make the process a breeze. Whether you are taking the DIY route, or overseeing a graphic designer or branding professional, a solid knowledge of what your goals are and who your market is will make all the difference to your end result.
At the end of the day, your brand is one of the most valuable assets your business owns. When your business is in the start-up stage, every day can feel like a slog – but by keeping one sneaky eye on your image, you can make sure your brand is working as hard as you are to bring customers through the door.
 
Go to it small and micro business legends!