Branding on a Shoestring

- January 29, 2012 2 MIN READ

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My business turned one this week, which means it wasn’t that long ago that I was sitting on my couch trying to figure out what I wanted my business to stand for and what kind of experience I would provide. Essentially, what my brand would be.

12-months down the track, I am more focused on sourcing clients and keeping them happy, than worrying about my brand. Why? Because it was the first investment I made, and now it’s done. Dusted. And I can enhance and develop it as time goes on, rather than starting from scratch while I’m busy with clients and book-keeping and the million different hats that SME’s wear.

So what are the most important elements of start-up branding on a shoestring? Here are my picks:

1. The look

This is a no-brainer, really. If you want to be taken seriously as a business, invest in a designer and web developer to create a professional-looking logo and website. This includes an email with your own domain name (please). It doesn’t have to cost the earth or be overly complicated, but will portray your business as a serious player and allow you to sell your product or service with confidence, rather than leave you mumbling at networking events and client meetings, ‘ah, yes well I’ve only started and haven’t quite got business cards yet but do you have a pen?’

2. The message

Just as important as the look, is what you are actually saying. Whether it’s status updates on social media, your website content, or pitches to potential clients, your message will define your brand. Before you get all gung-ho into world domination, make sure you sit down and define what the values of your business are and what your key messages will be. What five things do you want your business to say, every time you communicate? What evidence do you have to back up those claims? It’s often hard to be objective about your own business and it’s strengths, so if you’re not confident about doing it yourself, hire a communications expert to help you flesh it all out. And then it’s done! See?

3. The audience

Looking and sounding great is all very well, but it won’t do you any good if you’re shouting from the rooftops in the wrong suburb. Have a think about who your clients will be—what do they read? Where do they live? Who do they interact with every day? These questions will help you define your audience and allow you to target them much more cost-effectively. For example, instead of advertising in a metropolitan newspaper, you may find your audience tends to read a particular niche publication. So, give the editor a call to see if they’d be interested in telling your story.

Keeping these elements—look, message and audience—in mind when planning and budgeting for your business will help you create a lasting brand from the word go, so you can spend your start-up phase networking confidently and keeping your clients deliriously happy.

Sarah is a freelance copywriter and communications specialist with more than 10 years experience, who helps businesses connect with their customers and inspire them to buy. As the owner of Sarah Marie Communications, Sarah helps a diverse range of businesses tell their stories using copywriting, editing, PR and event management solutions