Branding on a Budget
In a nutshell a Brand is the face of your company which sends out a message to your customers. Creating your brand takes time and at many stages in your company lifecycle you can decide to re-brand to keep fresh in the market or to even target a new audience.
So how do you create a brand that will stand out and give the right message you want to get across? If you have the budget then it’s a good idea to leave it to the professionals. There are many branding and marketing agencies who have in depth knowledge and experience in creating brands which stand out from the rest but of course this can be costly which limits it only to startups with a good financial backing. How does a lone entrepreneur or small team startup create a brand image and message at the same time as keeping costs low? This really depends on how lean your startup will be and here I will list a number of tips and tools which you can pick and mix depending on your budget and level of expertise or knowledge in certain fields.
Outsource your professionals
The fundamental strategy when branding on a budget is to eliminate the need for an agency and self manage the whole process yourself. Although this will save you tremendous costs it will also be very time consuming. The first task is to build your team of professionals and the most cost effective way to do this is to outsource it to quality designers, developers and experts in countries where it is more affordable. There are a whole host of freelancers available on www.peopleperhour.com who provide hourly or project based rates for specialised skills. Go through the website and look for logo designers (and always thoroughly check their portfolio and recommendations by previous clients) who will design your logo and usually a set of printed stationery such as business cards, letterheads etc.
The great thing about people per hour is that it only releases the money once the whole job is complete and you are happy with the work and until then they hold the amount in escrow.
Next find a web developer who can set up WordPress themes (we will discuss in detail in the next section). In addition to these you should also look for freelancers who specialise in SEO/ PPC marketing (this is to get you to the top of Google searches) and writers who can write press releases should you use PR. Depending on your product or service you can also find a whole host of other freelancers from animation specialists to make commercial ads to photoshop specialists to retouch photos. See which services you need and search for the right team to help you with this – more often than not, once you get in contact with a good developer and designer they can do most of the projects for you.
Use Templates personalized for You
Now this is a top tip which many designers and creative people will debate over but whatever the argument may be the cost you will save using templates will be huge. A template is creative material (from a business card to website to brochure to animated video) that has been designed by professional designers and developers and is then sold to multiple companies who can then in turn personalise the template to their own needs and publish it in their own name. www.themeforest.com (for websites) is my favourite however there are lots more such as www.envato.com (for a wide range of material). The WordPress developer (that you find from peopleperhour.com) will setup the website theme you choose on www.wordpress.com which is a global platform to create and manage professional websites. This gives you an “off the shelf” backend for free (or very low costs) and a high quality “front end” website chosen by you and personalised by your developer at a considerably lower cost than designing a website for you.
The cool thing is that even though the template can be used by other companies once you add your logos, customize the colors and content its hard to recognize it from the original. These websites themes can be simple as an informative website to a photographers portfolio to an online shop selling multiple products.
You will be surprised at the templates you can find and how much time and costs they will save you. Anything from Facebook background pictures to event invitations and the list goes on.
One of the most cost effective and fastest ways to get your brand out to your target market is through Social Media. This is a great way to create a brand without having to spend too much money and is the foundation to get your brand message out there today! It’s important for all companies to have a social media presence however the response will differ depending on each industry. Remember Social Media is great for brand awareness but not necessarily to generate highly qualified leads. There are a whole host of social networking sites out there which are used in a variety of ways. Facebook Pages allows a comprehensive and informative overview of your business or brand with a paid advert option to increase the number of likes through their ad network. Instagram on the other hand is completely free (up until now) and relies on hashtags to gain popularity. Google Places is great to help customers find your location as it is connected with Google Search and Maps. It can be time consuming to manage so many different accounts, this is where social media management tools such a Hootsuite.com can help. This is an online tool which can manage most of your social media accounts through one main dashboard. Not only does it allow you to post the same post to multiple sites it also generates detailed reports which you can gain useful insight to use and grow your presence further.
Keep in Contact with everyone
Whatever marketing and branding you do try and capture data at every possible avenue. Add newsletter signup forms on your websites, have registrations at any events you do or create an excel sheet with the email address of everyone you meet, friend or foe. It is important to keep in contact with everyone that is aware of your company and the best method to do this is through email marketing. You can do something as regular as a monthly newsletter to one off promotions offering a discount – this really depends on the nature of your business. Chances are if someone has shown interest in you but it doesn’t translate in to a sale or business relationship they will more likely come back to you when the time is right provided you keep reminding them you are still there. Mailchimp is a globally used online email client which is easy to use, with multiple templates and an organised database to send email campaigns to your database. If you dont like any of the templates in Mailchimp you can purchase thousands from market.envato.com and easily upload this into Mailchimp and edit accordingly. You have spent time and money on getting these leads, now its time to foster a relationship with them which is the most cost effective way of sale and more importantly repeat sales.
This article is in a series of articles to give tips on affordable ways to promote your brand. If you have any specific questions on any of the topics raised in this article please contact the author firstname.lastname@example.org.