Creating Your Image
Before you consider any kind of advertising, think about how you want your customers to perceive your business: Your business image needs to reflect your vision and your goals for it. Of course, that vision also needs to appeal to your target market.
If you make teddy bears, then a “cute” image would represent your product accurately and would probably appeal to your potential customers. If you haul away junk cars, “cute” is unlikely to work unless you can use it a humorous way. And if you're an accountant, humor might be a tricky concept to pull off, because you need an image that reflects your professionalism and credibility.
Creating an image is a balancing act. You want to stand out from the crowd so that customers will remember you, but you don't want to stand out for the wrong reasons and inadvertently turn your customers away. If you're unsure of the image you want to portray, you can use some easy ways to figure it out.
Start with the product or service that you're offering and list all of its attributes — any words at all that you could associate with it. (For those teddy bears, the list could include: cute, cuddly, handmade, baby-friendly, custom-made, high quality, huggable…you get the idea.) Then think about the benefits that people would associate with your service and list them. (The vehicle removal service's list might include: convenience, helping the environment, improving the neighborhood, deterring crime, etc.)
Now look at your lists. Which of the words best describes what your business is all about? That's an excellent place to begin brainstorming ideas for your image. While you could certainly do this on your own, it could be useful to enlist the help of a friend or family member here: The energy that's produced in brainstorming from more than one perspective often results in excellent ideas.
Many businesses use advertising agencies or public relations specialists to help them create an image or a marketing campaign. Agencies and specialists aren't cheap, but if they produce creative ideas that fit the business, the investment pays off. Assess, though, whether you really need them — and ensure they're a good fit for you and your business before hiring them.
As discussed in Chapter 8, your business name is often the first impression a customer gets of your business. As you develop an overall image for your business, the name should fit the picture and support your promotion efforts. If it takes you five minutes to explain what your business name means, it's probably not helping you. Pick a name that communicates clearly to potential customers the product or service you provide or an important element about the business that you want them to remember.
A short, snappy slogan can reinforce your image while providing more information about the business than a name can convey alone. You can add it to business cards, flyers, stationery, and pretty much any piece of advertising that you produce — repetition reinforces the slogan and makes it easier for your target audience to remember it. To be safe, you should check that no one else is using the slogan that you've come up with, and you should protect yourself by trademarking it, to ensure that no one else can use it without your permission.
Like a slogan, you don't necessarily need a logo, but it can help to reinforce your image, and gain the attention of your customers. Logo development ranges from computer software clipart (free for use) to custom abstract designs created by a graphic artist. As you might imagine, the former is far cheaper than the latter. If you're graphically inclined, give it a try but don't be afraid to spend the money on a professional if the logo is important to you. It needs to look good and work for the business.
If you're developing the logo yourself, ensure that you're using your own original art or design or what's known as “clipart” — banks of images that are free and available for public use. Otherwise, you open yourself up to a lawsuit from the art's rightful owner.
It's important that your logo is versatile. You'll want to use it on letterhead, envelopes, business cards, invoices, and possibly on bags, packaging, signage, advertising, etc. Make sure that your logo works well in one color — four-color logos look great in four colors, but when they run in a black and white newspaper ad, they sometimes lose definition. And, if you're having stationery printed, one- or two-color printing will be significantly cheaper.
Ideally, any printed piece of paper coming out of your business should work to reinforce the image you want to promote. While all of the basic printed pieces that you'll likely need — such as letterhead, envelopes, business cards, and notes — are available in blank form for you to print from your own computer, seriously consider having these items professionally printed.
Office supply stores offer a wide range of templates and designs to choose from, and they can often print your stationery, particularly business cards, quite cheaply.. Think about your computer printer: If you have an expensive laser printer that will produce a top-notch professional result, then by all means go for it at home. But if your printing capability is not high quality, you run the risk of having business correspondence that looks cheap and unprofessional (business card stock with perforated edges is a particular giveaway). This is unlikely to be the image you're going for.
You'll need to choose paper for these printed pieces. The number of different colors, weights, brightness, and textures available are astounding — pick something that appeals to you and that reinforces your business image (bright colors might work well for an event planning business, less well for a lawyer).