“Know what the feel and heart of your brand is.” ~ Kelle Boyd, Founder of Ann Kelle Designs. It always comes back to a decision. Everything about our lives and businesses comes back to core decisions. What is your business? Who do you serve? How do you serve them? What is your customer service standard? What’s the best way to train your team?
When you answer these questions, there’s a new set waiting to surface. And that’s OK. It’s the questions that drive the business–and how you answer them can make you stand out.
After reading Visual Marketing, the new book co-authored by Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, and speaking with Kelle Boyd, an artist who turned herself into a successful small business owner, I am inspired to pay closer attention to my company’s image.
When you’re solving problems for clients, creating products for customers, managing your staff and contractors or just trying to navigate all your mail, phone calls and email messages, it’s easy to miss some basic decisions when it comes to your visual marketing.
- your visual message can and should reinforce your mission and your story,
- you can afford help sooner than you think,
- you’re not good at design and you need help sooner than you think,
These can’t be ignored and don’t have to be.
After talking with Anita and Kelle, it occurred to me that there are three marketing things that many small business owners do wrong that we could easily do right—on any budget.
#1. The Confused Vision. It’s Time to Get Clear.
Anita, along with her co-author David Langton, provides 99 proven ways for small businesses to market themselves with images and design. And as I read their book, Visual Marketing, I was inspired. I now have a list of ideas that I’m implementing one at a time.
But even the best ideas have little value if the vision is muddy.
Surface Designer Kelle Boyd says you have to “know what the feel and heart of your brand is” before you get started. If you don’t know who are you, what you stand for and whom your product serves, then anyone can redirect your business for their benefit.
The beautiful thing is vision doesn’t cost money, so any small business can afford it. Just decide to get to the heart of the business—take the time.
#2. The “I-Can’t-Afford-It” Excuse. It’s Time to Get Help.
Not everyone is an artist or designer. In fact, most of the small business owners I know just don’t have the “eye” or the skill to lay out their own visual designs.
When they do it themselves, they often end up with print items that look second-rate. And their rationale is, “I can’t afford to pay someone to do it for me.” But your visual message is directly related to the public’s perception of your product, and that impacts your bottom line.
You can’t afford to wait.
In a recent interview, Anita suggests that you spend your money on a quality logo. This advice makes sense because a good logo gives you a color scheme and an image that you can use on all your marketing pieces.
If you cannot afford to work with a design firm, Kelle suggests that you hire a college student who is studying and practicing design. That way, you save money, and the student builds his or her portfolio.
#3. The Inconsistent Message. It’s Time to Say What You Mean to Say, Every Single Time.
Establishing a clear vision and figuring out a way to deliver a consistent message can take time at first. And that’s OK.
I know that Apple wants me to “Think Different.” Many U.S. citizens know that Burger King wants you to “Have It Your Way.” And the blog readers at AnnKelle.com on some core level know that she wants “to see you smile.”
When you know the vision—spoken or unspoken—then it’s easier to establish a consistent message that your audience will respond to.
These three actions cost more time than money. But they can help you build a brand—a message, a marketing image (whatever language you choose)—that resonates with your people.
Decide to match your visual message with your core vision, and then run with it.
Oops Photo via Shutterstock
Consider adding great photo stills and video to your website and blog posts with essential meta data to increase search engine visibility. Images are powerful ingredients in a successful recipe. Show yourself as a leader or expert. Include a photo of yourself speaking to others at business gatherings. A picture is worth a thousand words of plain text.
I think visual marketing was the least of my priorities last year and I’m glad you raise this topic in this post. I’ll surely look forward to spicing things up, on the visual lane. Branding is not really a hit-or-miss deal if you’ve made proper research, I’d say. Thanks and more success this 2012!
Jamillah: I got connected with the creators of my logotypes and blog banners through my blogging and podcasting. I interviewed John Cox & Allen Forkum on my EGO blog on December 4, 2003:
EGO: First of all, I want to thank you very much for your work with the EGO logotype. Do you want to tell my readers how you came up with the logotype?
FORKUM: The initial idea for the logo was a graphic solution using the word “ego” to form a person’s face, but the results didn’t really connote egoism strongly enough. I knew John could illustrate a heroic, proud man so that is the tack we took. The original drawing had a square border around it. We eliminated that so the man would be the highest graphic element in the logo. The sphere was meant to connote a lofty peak or even the world itself.
COX: Heroic was what I was shooting for. There was power in his stance that I think captured a sense of joy and determination. I really wanted to work simple, simple, simple.
I had an podcast interview with Allen Forkum on my birthday, May 25, 2006, and with John Cox on May 23, 2010.
I had my core vision established right from the gecko when I start blogging in 2002. I got the visual image made for me by editorial cartoonists John Cox and Allen Forkum.
I am very grateful for this article. Visual design is at the core of how credible your company comes across and is perceived by your target market. Poor visual communication of your company often leads to your prospect moving on to the next. Get it right and increase your chances of turning a prospect into a lead. Thank you for reinforcing this topic.
Happy New Year guys and thanks for the comments.
I was thinking, in order to keep momentum I’m making one new visual upgrade a month (3 months in and it’s working so far). Just want to keep using the lessons learned.