Most ittybiz owners don’t have the strong, consistent branding they need to get noticed in the marketplace (and to retain the attention of the people who are already cross paths with their business).
It’s a crowded world, and a strong brand is one of your greatest assets to getting people to know who YOU are in a sea of competitors and distractions. You don’t want to waste all that effort getting people to your website, or your social media account, or your YouTube channel… only to lose them to the next shiny object that flits by their screen.
But many people associate “great branding” with “big expense”. So they don’t take action on it, and their brand stays… well, pretty vanilla. Unmemorable. Easy to forget.
Well, forget THAT. You can take your brand up a notch – or ten – by using a few key strategies that don’t cost much money at all (and in reality, are often 100% FREE.)
Let’s take a look at what you can do.
1. Blazingly consistent colors and fonts.
Larger companies have what they call their “brand bible” – a set of rules and guidelines for what colors, fonts, and other things they demand be absolutely consistent across all their creatives. Ads, posters, websites, products, labels – they all feature the same set of fonts and colors.
The more consistent you keep your fonts and colors, the more you look like a bigger brand. Next time you go shopping, look around and see how the places you like to give money to do this. If you would like more people to give YOU money, you can follow suit.
For a good example of very conscious branding, go to the Karma Store and look at the set of 6 products in the Plug & Play series. You’ll notice incredibly consistent colors and fonts among them. Notice how that makes them pop and work together as a unit.
(Oh, and pick up Plug & Play Branding. It’s available at pay-what-you-want pricing.)
2. Get better pictures.
Here we’re talking a) headshots and b) other pictures that might be on your website. We’re also talking “better than you have now”, not “the best.”
First, headshots. Yes, I know they cost money. Yes, that guy you looked up that one day charges $700 for them. But he is not the only photographer in the world. Or even your home city.
If you need better headshots than you have now, and you don’t have a lot of money, you need to get creative and find a solution that works with the resources you do have.
Find a friend who is better than you are at photography and barter with them. Put an ad out on Craigslist (or whatever) looking for someone who can work with your tiny budget – maybe even a photography student. It’s the Gig Economy. Someone will be happy to take your $50 or $100.
Same applies to graphics and pictures on your website. Fivrr works. A VA works. A subscription to an inexpensive stock photography website works. All you need is better than you have now, and with $10 here and there, you can make a SERIOUS branding jump.
3. Use recurring icons or pictures.
Ever see those people on Pinterest who put a tiny icon or graphical element on all their pins, and you can spot them from a mile away? And you can instantly recognize they’re from “that person”, even if you don’t really know who that person is at the time?
Yeah. Repetition. It works there, and it can work for you, too. If you have a small version of your logo, or a custom icon that’s part of your brand, you can stick it everywhere.
Put it on your Pinterest images. Or the graphics you make for your content titles. Or your PDFs. Or the album art for audios you release. The repetition creates strong brand associations, and strong brand quality associations at the same time.
(Again, look at the Plug & Play series in the Karma Store. Notice how they all have the same icon on their picture? That icon cost $1.)
4. Invest in an inexpensive but very clean web theme.
If you’ve read How To Establish (Honest) Credibility When You’re New To Your Business, you know this already – simple, clean web themes have a very strong effect on branding.
When there’s less to see, every design element that IS there pops more and carries more weight. Less is more, and when you’re working with a budget, you want all of your visual elements to pack maximum punch.
One good headshot and consistent colors on a clean theme can look better than a complex theme that says more about the designer’s brand than yours.
5. Size matters. Make it bigger.
Again from the less is more department: Fewer elements, but make them bigger – that can pack some serious branding punch. A black t-shirt with an enormous Nike swoosh is significantly more branded than their t-shirts with a cluster of visual elements on them.
For Pinterest or Instagram images, the same applies. If you had an image, and nothing else on it but a word in huge letters, like “HUSTLE” or “REST” or “DREAM” in your brand colors, and with your branded icon – that alone could grab as much or attention than a detailed graphic.
The same applies to text on your website. Putting “Hi, I’m Bob.” in huge letters as your lead in text, in your brand colors? That’s seriously branded, and very, very confident. And that doesn’t even cost money.
6. Brand around a concept.
You can apply the same principle that works for colors and fonts to a core concept of your brand, whatever it is. Take a look at one of the most important elements of your brand that you want people to associate with you, and make sure it comes across over and over again.
If you’re a bold brand, then make all of your brand elements have a tone of boldness. If you want to be known as friendly and approachable, make sure all your brand elements – from content titles to colors to your picture – hammer that point home.
Branding around a concept is generally free, since you’re either changing something that’s free (like content titles or colors), or modifying things that you were investing time, energy or money in (like graphics or images). With branding around a concept, you’re simply making sure all of your elements incorporate the concept(s) you want people to associate with your brand.
7. Deal with your Upper Limit Problems.
This one’s probably going to sting – sometimes the reason your branding isn’t doing the job you want it to do is because of an Upper Limit Problem. And you’re going to have to deal with that.
Maybe your issue is you’re wanting on some level to stay small. Or you’re afraid to invest in your business. Or you hesitate to really put yourself out there and stake your claim on your slice of the market.
With Upper Limit Problems, you’ve gone as far as your comfort level will allow you to go, and on some level you’re pulling back. Why? That only you can find out. To help you get started unpacking that stuff, I suggest reading this post on upper limit problems and grabbing a copy of The Big Leap.
You really can have big branding (even on a small budget).
You may not have the money for a big ad campaign to grow awareness of your brand, but you can still do so much more than you’re doing now with the resources you have.
Put these strategies in place, and you can begin transforming your brand overnight – in many cases, with little or no outlay of money. You can have an upgraded brand in just a few days, and take your business to a whole new level.
(Also? Check out Plug & Play Branding in the Karma Store. There are even more ideas there for big branding on a small budget.)