When I started my etiquette business 20 years ago, I hired a college
student named Ed to design my logo and website. It was a quick, easy and
inexpensive way to get my name out into the world.
However, when it came
time to update my materials, Ed was nowhere to be found. He left town and
did not provide me with his new contact information. I ended up hiring a
more expensive and reputable company to design all of my marketing
materials and it made all the difference in the world. Even today, my
website is my number one marketing tool. It establishes me as "The
Etiquette Expert." It's my brand.
Your brand is equally important. It is the first symbol people see, it is
the last thing they remember, and it is the theme that runs throughout your
entire marketing strategy. Big corporations like Coca-Cola, Google, and
Apple spend large sums of money and time determining and establishing their
brand. So why shouldn’t it be that important to a smaller, more
entrepreneurial company? It should be.
If you are just starting out on a shoestring budget or if you have created
a business in random chunks, without a formal brand strategy determination,
it’s never too late to put a brand in place.
But before you do, you must first be aware of the most common branding
mistakes many entrepreneurs make.
1. Amateur logo.
Nothing screams “inexperienced” more than a homemade-looking logo. Even if
you are proud of what your teenager came up with, take the time and spend
the money to hire a professional graphic designer specializing in branding
and logo development. Your designer will also create graphic standards
defining the color palette, visual style, font size and style, and usage
requirements for your logo. Use these standards to set the tone throughout
your entire marketing campaign.
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2. You have no consistency.
If you started getting inquiries before establishing your brand, you
probably had to rush to get basic marketing materials in place. Your
business card, letterhead, social media banners, website, marketing
brochure, handouts, labels, invoices, and more should all carry a themed
and branded look. Use the same font and colors throughout.
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3. No motto.
Big companies create a tagline or motto that encapsulates the message they
want to convey. “Think different” is Apple’s, “Let’s Make Today Great” is
Kellogg’s, and “Go Further” is Ford’s. Products also carry slogans:
remember Alka-Seltzer’s “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz” and Burger King’s “Have it
Your Way”? Develop a catchy tag line that represents the benefits your
clients and customers will receive. Can’t afford to hire a marketing
company? Hire a freelancer by the hour.
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4. Not monitoring the competition.
Before you brand, check out your competitors. They have a similar—or the
same—audiences as you do. Research similar businesses in other markets as
well. Look at their logo, tagline, overall look and feel, and any marketing
materials you can access. Review their websites to see how their services
stack up to yours. Note any good ideas and revise them into your own unique
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5. Not knowing who your customers are.
Not everyone is your customer. In fact, knowing the data on exactly who your customer really is can result in an incremental
241% return on investment, reports a Clickz study. Hone
in on and “own” a niche. For example, my niche is business etiquette. That
means that I target my marketing efforts to corporations, colleges and
Specializing in a niche requires less investment than mass marketing, and
comes with the bonus of free word of mouth advertising and brand loyalty.
Niche market members are passionate about their interests, values and
hobbies and are more likely to talk about those interests and your brand
with others in their network. They also are more apt to keep coming back
Spend some time reviewing your current brand, and if it needs work, make it
your top priority. After all, it is the lasting impression that defines
your business and will keep you in business for many years to come.
Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the
Protocol School of Palm Beach. A version of this article originally appeared
on Entrepreneur. Copyright © 2017 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.