Creating the right image

The last thing you want to do is lose custom because existing clients fail to recognise you

Adam Bernstein

COMPETITION for business is tough enough as it is and with the advent of the web it’s never been easier to find alternative suppliers; it’s so important to ensure that your firm stands out from the crowd.
Part of successful marketing is in developing the right image for your business. Get it wrong and you’ll be assumed to be a fly-by-night cowboy. Create the right image and you’ll do well. But where do you start?

Decide on the image
Consider what image you want to project. Here you need to look at what others do. A bank, for example, wants to be seen as low-risk and conservative; a tech company as a risk-taking innovator. As a flooring specialist, you’ll want to be thought of as reliable, honest and hot on service and detail.

This leads to the next point – who are your target customers? Are you aiming for the mass markets or are you trying to portray a bespoke service? Are you after local trade or do you trade with customers some distance away? Do you entirely contract or do you service retail customers? Lastly here, what is your competition doing? The logical thought would be to ignore what those that are failing are doing with their image.

The reality, however, is that you should examine what all your competition is doing. Aim to emulate successful firms and their image while avoiding what isn’t working. That said, don’t meet your rivals head on: instead, draw on what they do best and then make it better.

Build the identity
With the basic thought processes complete you need to create the image and the process begins with a logo – the most visual of ways that you’ll communicate with your customers.

Here you need to be consistent with your message and logo which should appear everywhere – on your premises, business card, stationery, in advertisements, on brochures and so on. It’s the one thing that will identify you to clients from a distance. Because this is such an important part of your image you need professional help.

Don’t cut corners on your logo - in the long run poor communication of your image will cost you more than a designer ever will, especially if clients know the logo has come from a piece of standard software.
But before you can brief the professional you need to think further about what you want before they start. Take time here – muddled thoughts and miscommunication are fixable, but you’ll be paying for the privilege.

There are four key elements:

Colour is critical to success so think what it means to you. Reds, yellows, oranges and other bright colours are seen as being avant-garde, market leading and fun. Clinical colours are the whites, greys and blues, while blue, grey, darker greens tend to suggest older, more mature and establishment – the colours of financial institutions prove the point. If you’re stuck on which direction to go, start by discounting those colours you most definitely don’t want.

Next comes thought around the typeface – font – that you want associated with your image. Look around for examples that you like; consider what’s used in newspapers, in adverts, in magazines as well as by other firms in your sector.

Do they suggest professionalism or do they just look amateurish? Get the image in your mind, look for examples and brief your designer who should do the rest.

As the saying goes, a picture can be worth a thousand words. So, if you do decide on some form of graphic in your image make sure that it’s easy to understand, and that it makes sense in the context of what you do and what you want the public to know about your business. Graphics should be part of your message and not the key part of the image you create.

The last point here concerns the tagline - the slogan that often accompanies a logo. Think about the one-liner that you’ll feed to your designer. ‘Finger lickin’ good’ and ‘Every little helps’ are well known for promoting KFC and Tesco. What will yours say?

Use your new image
You’ve invested time and money in creating a new image for your business, you now need to use it – everywhere – letterheads, invoices, business cards, envelopes, email, website, signage and packaging.
(A brief note on email and web – register a domain for your business. It won’t be expensive but will look far more professional than a yahoo or gmail free account ever will).

Of course, you may have an image you feel works in part. If that’s the case, don’t throw everything away, use what works and discard the rest.

Your logo, for example, may be well recognised. If that’s the case, bring it up to date with a small redesign and build into a revamped image.

The last thing you want to do is lose custom because existing clients fail to recognise you.