Before you think about a brand or a website or business cards or marketing…

Most of the businesses I work with have been around for a while.  They already have a logo and a website and some print material, and we work together to review and develop their marketing strategy and / or refresh their brand, website, content marketing and so on.

The businesses offer different services and target different audiences, but the story of how they created their visual brand is often startlingly similar.

Here’s the story:

The founder comes up with a business idea.  They spend a day coming up with a catchy business name, then a few hours coming up with an interesting tagline, and another few hours sending the name around to friends to get feedback, and yet another hour or two tweaking the name based on all the input they received.

Name: sorted.

They then invest £750 getting a logo designed (or sometimes they spend 15 hours doing it themselves).  They end up with three possible designs, which they send out to friends and ask them to choose their favourite, and then panic because the design their friends like isn’t the same as the logo they like.  They spend 10 hours working with the designer to tweak and tune and refine and revise until they have a logo that they like and that their friends like.

Logo: sorted.

They spend hours searching around for a website designer and eventually agree to pay £2000 for a website.  They then spend two days writing content, a couple of hours reviewing and giving feedback on the site, and a few more hours asking their friends’ opinions about the site before revising the content and the images again.  Finally, the go live.

Website: sorted.

They pay £200 for snazzy new business cards and letterheads.  They hand out 10 cards, most of which are given to friends, all of whom politely say how lovely they look.

Stationery: sorted.

They spend a further day setting up social media profiles, inviting their friends to connect or join or like, depending on the channel.

Social media: sorted.

They then spend another day or two admiring their visual brand…

Now it’s time to start marketing and selling

Now they need to start marketing, which is when they discover that they haven’t thought about their product or service or even their business in any depth.  Sure, they can talk about it superficially, but do they have a clearly defined target audience?  What are their business objectives? How will they build the business? What do their packages and offerings look like (in detail, not just the blurb on the website)? Where will products be made and how will they be delivered? What’s their sales process?

It’s at this point when many entrepreneurs and business owners realise that they may have lots of visual material and content, but they aren’t sure how to market themselves so they have no business, and in spite of the lovely logo, they have no brand.

What happens next?

So many businesses get started this way and run into problems.

Some give up, having invested significant time and money.

Some simply soldier on and tweak and tune along the way.  As long as the business remains small and only has a handful of employees, this can still work.  It’s not all doom and gloom here!

Sooner or later, those who make it work find that they have to change their creative marketing to reflect who they work with and what they really do.  That’s usually where I come in, but this post isn’t about businesses who have already reached this point, it’s about businesses that are starting up.

Why does this happen at all?

A lack of strategic planning before starting the business. It’s that simple.

Sometimes business owners can’t be bothered or think it’s unimportant, particularly if the business is one individual.  Sometimes it’s down to necessity – an income is needed immediately, or the business has come about because of a consulting or training offer, and the name, website and so on are developed based on that one offer.  Sometimes it’s down to personality – the enthusiasm just takes over!

How can entrepreurs and soon-to-be-new-businesses avoid this pitfall?

DON’T DO A THING UNTIL YOU’RE CRYSTAL CLEAR ON WHO YOU ARE (OR WHO YOUR BUSINESS IS), WHAT YOU OFFER, TO WHOM, WHAT YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE (YOUR OBJECTIVES) AND HOW YOU PLAN TO MEET YOUR OBJECTIVES.

Sorry for shouting, but this important. Until you know the answers to these questions, you don’t really have a business.  You have an entity that is “winging it” and hoping for the best.

My advice

My advice:  don’t spend another minute on logos or telling people about a business that doesn’t know what it is or where it’s going until you have clarity around these questions.

That’s it!

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Until next time…

Suzanne Whitby / Marketing Specialist, Creative, No-BS Business Mentor

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