If you're like millions of other small-business owners, creating a professional, visual image is key to your success. After all, your image--as seen on your business cards, marketing materials, packaging and website--is the first, and sometimes only, chance you have to introduce your company to potential customers. If your customers like what they see, you're one big step closer to getting their business.
So how do you determine the right image for your company? It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or even an ad agency. It just takes strategic thinking. For starters, your image should reflect your company's personality, or brand--which to some degree is your personality, because you're the owner of your business. It should also reflect your industry, along with your customers' expectations and the defining attributes of your products and services.
I've always maintained that there are three basic image categories: "Flair," "Bold" and "High Tech." To see which image category your company fits in, take this short quiz*:
1. How do you want your customers to view your company? (Choose only one.)
c. Friendly and/or approachable
2. When it comes to your products or services, you plan to:
a. Charge more than the competition
b. Charge less than the competition
c. Charge a similar price but add value in another way (for example, better service)
3. Why did you start your own business?
a. I know the industry like the back of my hand.
b. I saw a market opportunity, and I went for it.
c. I love what I'm doing and I'm good at it.
4. What group of words best describes you?
a. Friendly, open-minded, stylish
b. Analytical, reliable, organized
c. Progressive, spontaneous, risk-taker
5. Your customers:
a. are risk-averse and/or fiscally conservative.
b. need something unique or creative.
c. want the newest technology.
Question #1: a) 5 points; b) 3 points; c) 1 point
Question #2: a) 5 points; b) 3 points; c) 1 point
Question #3: a) 3 points; b) 5 points; c) 1 point
Question #4: a) 1 point; b) 3 points; c) 5 points
Question #5: a) 3 points; b) 1 point; c) 5 points
If your score is 5-11, your recommended image is FLAIR. Your image should project creativity, flexibility and friendliness. Your promotional materials should be creative and unique. Design examples include rounded fonts, curvy lines and warm photography or illustration.
If your score is 12-19, your recommended image is BOLD. Your image should project experience, strength and stability. Your promotional materials should be conservative in tone and design--not trendy or surprising. Consider straightforward fonts like Helvetica and Times, lots of white space and four-color photography.
If your score is 20-25, your recommended image is HIGH TECH. Your image should project innovation and technological expertise. Your promotional materials should be energetic and exciting. Italicized fonts, bold graphics and dynamic photography work well in this category.
Maybe you're thinking "My company features some 'Bold' qualities and some 'High Tech' ones. What's up?" That's okay. Overlap occurs. But you should have more of one category's qualities than the other. Be careful of red flags that indicate you may be trying to be all things to all people. For example, it's difficult to appear both established--which implies slow to change--and progressive, which implies fast-moving. Accordingly, I know of few successful small businesses with an image I'd describe as both "Flair" and "High Tech." In many ways, these two categories are opposite ends of the image spectrum and thus mutually exclusive.
The right image can be one of your biggest assets. Build a professional business identity, and you'll reap profits.
*Reprinted with permission from LogoYes.com.
John Williams is the founder and president of LogoYes.com, the world's first do-it-yourself logo design website. During John's 25 years in advertising, he's created brand standards for Fortune 100 companies like Mitsubishi and won numerous awards for his design work.