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Archive for October, 2009

Logo Design for Small Businesses and Start Ups

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

marketwebsiteseriesIf you choose to go for a logo then ‘good’ logo design is absolutely essential for any business despite what some may think.

Lets face it, some huge companies have simple text as their logo – many TV manufacturers go with a simple font rather than colourful design but then is that so it can be subtly placed on the front of the equipment? No, they are all logo’s – each and every one of them and they are consistent, wherever you see Philips the logo is exactly the same.

Some companies choose to have a picture logo or a fancy font and its important to get it right as a small business start up, if you choose to change it later on it can become expensive as you will probably have paid to have your letterheads and cards printed by then so think carefully now it will save you money and effort on rebranding later on!

Don’t get us wrong, simply designing a logo and splashing it over your paperwork won’t make customers buy your products. Good logo design will give your small business an identity among the corporate world and it is unique to you and can be identified because of its colour or image and it provides you with a clear identity.

Think of your company as an image, think about your products and services and how you want to be branded as a modern company or do you have more traditional values. Also consider who your clients are and what your future goals are. A good logo design is vital and aimed at making your small business or start-up look professional. A logo should be designed by a true professional who will find out about you and your business but only if you want to shoehorn a logo design into your budget, constraints like this can limit your choices but should not completely hinder them.

No matter how simple or fancy you choose your logo to be you have to be consistent and that is exactly what branding is about. Good logo design is about standing out from your competitors and creating trust and building confidence with customers. When approaching your logo designer go armed with information such as what image you want to give, as we mentioned before you might be a forward facing modern company but your business image might be more traditional.

How do you want customers and others to view your company and at the same time make sure that designer is right for you – are they particularly eccentric when they sit down and brainstorm images and ideas or do they go for simplicity, should you decide to go the professional route make sure you speak to one or two logo designers and get a feel for their art and imagery before selecting the one.

For good pointers on logo design for your small business and effectively branding your company name try our ‘Communicating Confidence to Customers Through Branding’ article coming up.

How much does a website cost?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

howmuchWell this is a difficult question to answer and to coin a well-known phrase it’s very much ‘how long is a piece of string?’  Rather than start with ‘how much’ we need to identify things such as what is the the website for? Who will use it? What are the goals and objectives of the site? And lots of other questions so that we have a firm platform to start the quotation process.

Websites can be as simple or as complicated as you like and that goes for design as well but when it comes to business you only get one chance to make the first impression and a naff website will blow that for you.

So pricing, what to expect?
Lets look at a marketing brochure website that displays info about a business and invites a person to make contact. Well a good graphic designer will charge £300-£400 for a layout and ancillaries such as extra buttons etc. Then to turn that into a website that is coded to standards and looks the same in all browsers and is search engine ready (ie it’s been specially optimised to maximise its effect in search engines when people are searching for a service or product that you offer) then you’re looking at around £500 upwards depending on many variances. So for the website itself then budget for something in the region of £800-£1000.

Wait, it doesn’t end there…
Don’t forget you need great copy for your website that engages people and calls them to do something and makes them want to get in touch. There’s no point having a great looking website if the text on it lets it down, and it’s not the job of the web designer to write this! Hiring a professional copywriter might cost you around £100-£300 depending on how much text is required for the full website. And last but by no means least, what about a logo? You need great looking branding that will make you stand out from your competitors, a logo will cost from £150 up to say £400 to design, however a logo designer will supply with all the files you need for a website or printing of business cards and other marketing materials in the future.

If you’re needing something more complicated such as E-commerce or a database driven website then this will cost more and can go up into the thousands depending on your exact requirements

The DIY Route
OK so building a website is something that can be done yourself but when it comes to presenting your business is the DIY route really going to save money in the long run? I mean would you pull your own teeth out to save a bill from the expert dentist? How much damage would pulling your own teeth out do without the proper tools and expertise? The same goes for web design. Not using professionals will save you money but at what price?

Using cheap professionals
WARNING: There’s plenty of folk out there who are offering websites for £100 or less even but if you are serious about your business is a £100 primary marketing tool really going to make you the next big thing and a success? People are fickle, you get just a few seconds to capture them and keep them on your website rather than them clicking away and spending their money elsewhere.

So, if you buy cheap then you will pay dearly; that’s the best advice you can get. If you pay too much for something then all you loose is that extra you’ve paid, if you pay too less than you risk loosing the lot and your reputation at the same time!

Business Branding for New Ecommerce Businesses

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

marketwebsiteseriesWe all remember when Marks and Spencer rebranded after its terrible announcements of losses some years ago and plenty of companies have done this over the years (Aviva, Abbey, Midland Bank) but more recently the brands have been pinning their luck on advertising their brand as a heritage – perfect for those that have been around all that time but how to carry out business branding if you have a new business?

We’ve added some pointers below that are not aimed at providing a fail-safe for branding your new business but hopefully will give you some idea of how to take your company to the next level and start making your own history:

Firstly its important that any business carries a strong brand and a good image as it helps its reputation and trustworthiness from clients. New ecommerce businesses need to focus on business branding and from selecting a good company name; domain name and designing an image – a logo – of your company will build a good strong resilient company that can survive the recession.

Existing Business Stepping into Ecommerce
If you have an existing brand and are simply new to ecommerce, business branding can be used from your company and be translated in a more modern way solely for the internet. Becoming involved in ecommerce means that you are taking your business forward and promoting it for web customers though it should also provide those customers with a strong image – focusing on your company’s history could be key here regardless of whether you choose to redesign your logo and message or if you have chosen to retain the branding you have already worked with. However, rebranding as you step into ecommerce would be a good choice if your brand is not already successful or does not have a strong reputation.

New Ecommerce Business
For new ecommerce business that is being launched from scratch this is a fantastic time to create your image, make it strong and give your new ecommerce business a short name that will become easy to remember. Have a good logo designed for you that not only delivers your message but screams quality, and don’t forget to choose something that translates well in different languages if you intend to conduct business internationally. Your company message needs to be short and should be memorable. Use it everywhere and try co-branding too…

Co-Branding
When you are later established or already have a good relationship with another business you can co-brand. This is a popular way to build up brand recognition on the internet and a great way to split advertising costs two or three ways and giving a good overall image of your companies.

Our next article highlights How to Begin E-marketing Business which should help you start promoting your brand and push your new ecommerce business to reach the relevant people.

Exhibiting at the All About Business Expo Photos

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

webdesignWe had a great day yesterday exhibiting at the All About Business expo in Norwich. It was our first time exhibiting and we managed to get ourselves together with about 2 weeks notice.

We had a great day it has to be said. We spoke to lots of people about all of our services, got some good leads and of course put some names to faces from the twitterverse.

Here’s a few pictures from the expo:

Our stand:
Business expo stand

Our stand with visitors:
Business expo stand

A view down one side:
Business expo Norwich

A view down the other (our) side:
Business expo Norwich

Head Honcho aka Gary Dickenson manning the stand:
Business expo Norwich

You can follow the show tweet action using the #aab09 hash code. Look forward speaking to all the new contacts we made and to seeing everyone there next year.

So you think you’re a social media expert?

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

socialmediaI was part of a conversation over dinner at a networking event the other night and a fellow networker challenged a reference to the term ‘expert’ and in particular to the sudden increase in so called ’social media experts’. I’ve been reflecting on this the past few days and so wanted to get something down because it’s actually an interesting multi faceted debate. My immediate on the spot response was this ‘There are no social media experts there are only people experts‘ or something like that but you get the gist of my point. If not then don’t worry, this is what this post is about.

In this article I’ll try to fairly break down what it is to be a social media expert. It might go on a bit but will try to keep it as brief as possible and yet cover all angles at the same time. Hopefully unravel some of the mysteries as well. so here goes…

What makes an expert?
Well plainly speaking the dictionary says “a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field”. Well that isn’t overly helpful because subjectively anyone can claim to hold a special skill or knowledge over someone else.

Another point is that there are no hard and fast rules about length of time over which someone should serve in order to be crowned an expert. There was a time when to speak about advertising (for example) you needed to of been working in the field for 25 years or so. Social media is as old as the internet which is approx 20 years but the so called ‘boom’ has been in the last 3 years or so and twitter experts are popping up all over the place in the last 6 months.

So how long has social media been around?
Well as noted above it’s actually as old as the internet. Social media defined as ‘conversations on the internet’ (in it’s rawest form) was the basis for the internet coming alive. If you want to disagree with that then do your homework on how the internet started. More recently internet forums sprung up covering all and every subjects for example in area of business allowing business folk to exchange ideas, advice and reviews. It is only since the prolific use of the likes of Facebook, twitter and similar that the phrase social media has come into the lime light and become (as most things do) a bandwagon for the masses to jump on.

Just pushing buttons?
But wait, unlike say for example ‘accountancy software’ social media has 2 distinct sides to it that other on-line apps do not. Yes it has the mechanical computer data input side that has to be learnt in order to use the software, what button to push to do whatever etc. But, training people to use these applications does not require a social media expert, lets face it that’s the job of an IT trainer, no? It’s no different to teaching them to use word, excel or whatever.

A revolution and the people business
So the 2nd side of it all is the human side. It’s the interaction, the engagement, the agreeing and disagreeing, sharing the good times and bad times, experiences, it’s all about experiences. We are an experiential society now, the phrase ‘if it feels good then do it’ is at the heart of it all. You see what has happened in marketing over the past 20 or so years is not mechanical it’s massive sociological shift, a revolution if you will in the way people make decisions on life, make and build beliefs and more importantly for us in the business community the way in which people make decisions on buying goods and services.

Social media experts MUST be ’social media revolution and cultural shift experts’ if they are to be of any benefit to those paying them big £££ to teach them, if they are not then they are nothing more than glorified IT trainers. If you don’t fully understand what has occurred over the past 20 years on these fundamental sociological changes then how on earth can you teach others to use social media to work to their advantage and so  reaching new audiences and markets?

Getting it
So we’ve established the 2 sides to social media. What about when it comes to the nitty gritty of the coaching/teaching (assuming they can use the stuff, look if they can’t switch a computer on then there’s no hope), not everyone is capable of ‘getting it’. That is to say they simply can’t understand people, putting it bluntly they aren’t people people.  ‘A leopard wont change its spots’ the saying goes and for some you simply can’t make them people people. Can I go so far as to say that if someone wants to spend lots of £££ on hiring an expert to teach them skills that they think they need to succeed in today’s business world then that’s up to them but shouldn’t such an expert tell them that they are unlikely to succeed and should look at appointing someone else to handle social networking, someone who ‘gets it’ someone who can meaningfully engage with people.

You see the problem is that the ‘bandwagon’ I spoke about earlier has become a commodity, that is social media experts are selling or I should say ‘reselling’ the bandwagon onto their clients. Using social media is not like buying boxed software off the shelf it’s far far deeper than that.

So who gets it?
I don’t want to make this a social media expert bashing post and equally I’m no real authority on who is and who isn’t an expert but there are genuinely people out there who really do get it. What they are saying is far deeper than a ‘do this do that; push this push that’ type advice. In fact their advice can often be applied to doing business at a general level and indeed just getting on in life. One such person is Mark Shaw. I’ve heard him speak and seen / read some of his stuff and he’s someone that clearly gets it. Of course he doesn’t need my approval at all but when I first saw his words I thought that he was reading my mind! But look at his background, it’s sales not IT, that’s people not buttons.

So in closing what am I saying? Well I’m saying that social media is far deeper than the methods. It’s about attitude, practices, engagement, culture, people, relationships. I’m also saying that not all that glitters is gold! I’d also like to be so bold and think that we’re people that ‘get it’ and we’d really like other businesses to start to ‘get it’ as well.

That’s my 6 pence worth on the subject (for now). As I write this tomorrow we’re going to be exhibiting at a business expo in Norwich and the main speaker is guess what? A ’social media expert’ so it will be interesting to hear what he has to say but checking his blog he’s not done an entry for 2 months!