Creating a brand identity is an important part of the process of establishing any business. A brand identity creates loyalty, inspires trust, and allows for ease of recognition of you and your services. A complete brand identity can be comprised of several segments, not all of which will be present in all circumstances. Evaluate the following components of a complete brand identity to determine which will play an important role for your business.
Name. Every business should have a unique name, including independent consultants. Whether you choose to go by your own full name, your last name followed by a description of your services, or a completely fictitious name, you must choose a name that will be associated with your business consistently across all of your materials. Many consultants choose to either operate under their own name, or use their last name followed by “Consulting,” or another descriptive term for your industry such as “Smith Management Consulting.” It’s more common for groups of consultants to go by a fictitious name, such as “Peak Performance Consulting.” That being said, it’s completely reasonable for you to choose any option, provided that it’s consistent, and isn’t already taken by another business in a similar category. Before you decide on the name, consider that whether or not you want a website now, if you ever want an online presence, you’ll need the .com domain of whatever your business name is. So secure your domain name at the same time you make the selection of your business name. You can either park the site and worry about it later, or start the process of creating a web presence right away.
Email. Your email address says a lot about you, and can impact your professional image. Rockerboy@hotmail.com may not convey a professional impression, and the free email services like yahoo or hotmail often append advertisements to the footer of your email communications. Use your business domain to set up professional business email. If you can’t get a real business email account on your own domain for whatever reason, at least set up a neutral email from an ad-free service like email@example.com.
Logo. A logo is a visual symbol that represents your business. Typically a logo will contain the business name, combined with an image that is somehow relevant to the services offered. Often logos can be as simple as the business name that always appears in a certain typeface, placed in a box or underlined. When choosing a logo, be sure to select something simple enough that it will still look appealing when very small or in black and white. Complex logos often don’t reproduce well, and the visual appeal may end up getting lost. Fight the urge to design your own logo. Unless you are a graphic designer by trade, the creation of a logo is best left to other professionals. Logo design services are only a few hundred dollars and can make all the difference in your business profitability. Before you finalize a logo, fax it to yourself, shrink it down to tiny size, and try looking at it in different formats to be sure it will still look good under distressed but unfortunately common business conditions.
Colors. Many businesses choose to associate with a certain color, or set of colors. This strategy allows the printing of the business logo on promotional products that match the company’s colors, which can allow for easier recognition of the brand. For example, a healthcare company that uses a certain hue of blue may want to have t-shirts and pens printed with the company logo that match the same shade of blue that is used on their brochures and other marketing collateral. Do some research about the color psychology that matches your brand feeling, and consult your logo designer on color palettes that will not go out of style. Again, as with the logo design, a professional can help you develop color selections that will convey the right impression.
Tagline or Slogan. A tagline or slogan is a short phrase often appearing with the business name on printed materials that helps to describe what the business does or evoke an emotion that you want to be associated with your business. Taglines can also be beneficial in differentiating your business from that of your competitors’ by pointing out key features and benefits of your services. Taglines should be short, simple and memorable. Taglines are meant to withstand the test of time, and should be designed to stand by your business for many years. Slogans, on the other hand, are often designed for a specific marketing campaign and can change as frequently as you change your marketing focus. Consider working with a professional marketing consultant to generate prospective tag lines and campaign slogans, and get feedback from valued business partners, colleagues, and associates.
Business Cards. Everyone needs a good business card. As an independent consultant, the cost difference between cheap business cards and high end cards will be almost meaningless over the course of a year – and yet that difference of $100 can mean deals won or lost. Have your logo designer make you a business card design while they are at it. Unless you are in a creative field, don’t try to get too innovative with the card. Remember that less is more – restrict your card to the basic contact information someone will need to reach you, and resist the urge to list multiple email addresses and multiple phone numbers. Put only the main number and main email clients should use to reach you – and remember to use a professional business email address. Avoid discount online printers, or at least upgrade for a thicker paper and perhaps the raised thermography lettering. Try to leave blank space – at least on the back – so that a potential client can write a note on the back of your card and remember who you are.
Website. Last but not least, a website. Sooner or later, you will need one, so make sure you registered the domain name you wanted from the start. Unless you are a professional web developer with very current design skills, you should not attempt to build your own site. It is not worth your time, and an outdated or hard to navigate site can hurt you more than it helps you. Don’t let a friend build your website either; unless they are a full time web site building professional, the site is likely to be outdated, hard to maintain, and less than user friendly. You also probably do not need a custom enterprise-grade site with all the bells and whistles. Use a professional web design and hosting package service – they are abundant, easy to use, and affordable. For a few hundred dollars, plus a hosting package, you can be up and rolling in mere hours with a professional, up to date, and user friendly web presence. Simply select a template, pick a hosting package, and use the online interface to enter the content to your web pages.
Soon you’ll be set up with a complete business identity as a professional consultant, complete with name, logo, business cards, and website. After that, it will be up to you to breathe life into your new brand identity by providing memorable and high quality professional consulting services.