This is the 4th part in the ‘spend or save’ category of posts. This series aims to advise people who new to business on what (and what not) to spend their money on in the early days of starting their small business.
In the modern world, most business is marketed, generated and completed on the internet. Many business owners don’t even need to see or speak with their clients anymore. Effective and professional looking branding is important. However, the type of business will dictate the type of branding, design, image and look that is required. And this article is not about branding design. That’s down to the business owner to know and understand their industry.
What I can advise are some general principles:
Branding and logo (spend modestly): – keep it simple – not only is a simple design more memorable, but it’s actually easier to manipulate for different media etc. Think of EasyJet – their logo is simply the word ‘easyJet’ in Orange using ‘Cooper’ typeface. easy eh? If you have a good idea for a logo then spend a modest amount of money on a designer to create a professional image for you: avoid your well meaning friend who offers to do the design for you – that gets awkward. Remember to get copies of your logo(s) in various file formats and in different resolutions and optimised for different media. Name them so you understand what they’re for! eg: logo_forprinting.jpg, logo_highres.jpg, logo_website.jpg, logo_blackandwhite.jpg, logo_Facebook, etc. Then file them and look after them!! Your designer will advise on the technical details of best file format etc.
Website (Save your money): Your business product, goods and services should, by and large, be able to sell themselves. If you think a professional website and sleek branding will make up for a crappy product/service then you’re wrong.
So, if you’ve got a good product or service, then, in the early days, don’t worry too much about spending lots of money on the best website in the world – remember – as you develop your business, you will want to develop and add to your website. Really, think hard about what your website needs to do – unless you need a commerce site that sells and controls stock etc then you can probably start with a simple one-page site! Especially if you are selling services – eg, a beauty therapist simply needs, initially at least, a page to inform potential clients on basic information, contact details and map/location. Then, after a few weeks, think about additions that you want to make – eg, the beauty therapist may wish to add a simple bookings system. I can’t advise strongly enough the need to build your website as an iterative process. Don’t spend thousands of pounds on a website that becomes defunct after a few months when you realise that you need to tweak and modify your business and services.
Avoid showing off your knowledge with pages and pages of information. I’ve made this mistake – it’s tempting to try and demonstrate knowledge and expertise by writing lots of text about what you do and how great your business is etc. Actually, people don’t want to know that – they simply want to know what your business can do for them – it needs to inspire trust (eg, there is a real geographical location, a photo of staff, some accreditation, testimonials and possibly a short resume of experience/qualifications). If people think that they can trust you to solve their problem/need for them, at the right price, then you’ll get clients.
To summarise this advice on websites: save money initially – check out some of the DIY services for websites. They won’t be suitable long term, but in the short term they’ll probably give you the initial online presence that you need.
Photography (save your money): Good photography is expensive – however, there are various sites providing free stock photos. This blog primarily uses unsplash.com for photos. Check the licensing arrangements. DIY photos are usually terrible so, unless you’re really capable with a camera, don’t think you can use your own photos otherwise your website will look amateur.
Social Media (save your money): Social Media is easy to use – no coding or technical expertise is needed. If you don’t know how to use Facebook, or Instagram then learn and read some guides. I’m seeing more and more people make their enquiries for my businesses through social media and with the website bypassed altogether. You will probably meet people offering to do social media for you… ignore them – at least until you know what your marketing strategy is.
What’s your marketing strategy? Well you could spend some money on a marketing consultant to put together a plan for you – I did this when I started Proudhouse and it was really good – the service and business plan was already a strong idea, so when I spoke with a marketing consultant she was able to give me really good, fresh ideas about how to market the business and she attached the ideas to a timeline to follow. That was worth the fee. And the social media was just part of a wider marketing and advertising strategy.
In the early days at least, a modest budget spent on tasteful and simple branding/logo can go a long way. Be careful – a relative of mine once spent £3000+ on a start-up website in the nineties, only for the business to fail a few months later. Concentrate on your great business idea and good service which is supported by branding and website. Great branding and social media alone can’t make a great business.