Experts estimate it took about 20 years to construct the Great Pyramid of Giza. The leaders in charge of the project could not afford to be shortsighted, because they knew the only way to achieve their lofty goal was to steadily, diligently work, despite the time it took. But they also had to work smart by using all the technology and tools available to them. Can you imagine workers attempting to labor in the quarries with anything but the best chisels and hammers? And how difficult would it be to set each giant stone perfectly without the use of levers or ramps? It wouldn't have made sense to attempt the project without them, and may even have been impossible.
The same can be said of building a brand for your company. It's not something that can be done overnight, and proper tools must be used. Just having an official logo and signage does not mean you have a brand. It is much more, and includes expectations, past experiences and what people say, think and feel about a business. The brand is what people think about when they see the logo, and it is part of what motivates people to return and do business again. Clearly, building a brand is no easy process and will probably take years to complete, but, like The Great Pyramid, it can be done if you use the best tools available and work smartly.
Some of the best tools to expedite building awareness and recognition to build your brand are on the Internet. Aside from the many brand-enabling tools available online, the Internet is also a great way to build a sense of community with customers, help others become aware of your company, and help create positive energy around it. You can also find great expert advice on how to create a strong brand. Let's go over this in a little more detail.
As I mentioned before, a logo is not a brand. But clearly your business needs a logo if it is going to be recognized by anyone. Logos are the visual representation of a brand. Until recently, entrepreneurs basically had three options available to them when getting their company's logo. They could hire an ad firm, find a freelance designer, or they could design a logo by themselves.
Unfortunately, each of these options has serious drawbacks for business owners with time and budget constraints. Ad firms are expensive and aren't designed around meeting small business owners' needs. They tend to take a long time with in the design process too. Freelancer designers may be a good option, but they can also be a gamble, since it's difficult to know how qualified they are; and with only one brain working on your project, the chances of ending up with a design you like are less probable. The last resort for many entrepreneurs has been to design the company logo by themselves. But many times these ambitious business owners don't realize how difficult graphic design work is, and they end up with a logo that puts their business to shame and makes it difficult to create a positive impression of their company.
Luckily, the emergence online design services offer affordable solutions specifically designed around the needs of entrepreneurs. Many of these companies offer custom design services that include logos, stationery, websites business cards, brochures and even promotional products. Look for a company that offers more than one designer per project, provides specific deadlines for their work, offers a money back guarantee and offers custom design, not just clipart.
After getting a logo, you can even use an online legal service to get your icon trademarked and get your copyrights.
Without a doubt, one of the greatest breakthroughs the Internet has brought us has been the ability for people with common interests to be connected. As a business owner, there are a few ways to create a sense of community with your customers and give your company a "face."
Weblogs—more commonly called blogs—are a great way to build awareness of your company and build a sense of community around your business. Blogs are a sort of online diary that anyone on the Internet can read, comment on, and even subscribe to. Company blogs take a lot of work, but can effectively help current and potential customers see inside the company and come to understand your unique culture more fully.
You can blog about anything, but you will get more traffic if the blog is helpful, interesting and a good resource to your readership. Make sure your blog has a consistent format and topic; otherwise people won't return to the blog because they won't know what to expect. Lastly, don't be afraid to show personality in your blog. It's one of the best ways to build a relationship of trust and loyalty with customers.
Get people talking
Another great way to build awareness about your company is to create and host an interesting event. Events have always been a good way to get people talking, and doing them online makes it more affordable and easier too.
For example, LogoWorks, held an ugly logo contest, where businesses voluntarily submitted their ugly company logos for a chance to win a logo makeover, complete with free promotional products and other useful items with their new logo on them. We narrowed the submissions down to the worst of the worst and had a "people's choice" style vote where anyone could go online and rank the logos.
People swarmed the website for a chance to see the ugly logos and cast their vote. The contest became a huge success, and the media was quick to latch on to our interesting competition. LogoWorks got a great deal of publicity out of it, but there were other benefits as well. People who'd never heard of us were visiting our site and learning about us, and the contest was a great opportunity to show others what kind of business we are: a fun-loving, exciting company that cares about small businesses and has tools to help them succeed.
Our ugly logo contest created tons of positive energy and really boosted awareness and curiosity about our company. The internet was perfect for that kind of event, but it can be helpful in other ways as well.
In building a brand, the Internet can also be a great resource for expert advice and information. There are literally hundreds of branding experts that provide free resources for business owners like you. Look for sites that appear reputable, have up-to-date content, and whose authors have solid credentials. You can learn a great deal about the process of branding by using these resources.
Another way to gain knowledge for branding your business is by signing up for online branding seminars—often called webinars. Webinars are online classes and other learning sessions that are interactive and taken live with other participants. These classes usually provide professional instructors that will point you toward new tools and ideas that will help you build company awareness and presence, and many classes come at no cost.
Using the Internet is one of the most effective ways for small business owners to begin to brand their companies in a meaningful, lasting way, and for most entrepreneurs, it is one of the most affordable ways to build awareness and long-term loyalty. Remember, it will take time, but the reward is well worth the investment.
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