Logos 101: Designing Your Business Identity

December 29, 2011

Creating a unique and polished logo shouldn’t be the province of only large companies with big marketing budgets or in-house creative teams. As the primary image that represents your company in the marketplace, a successful logo is the distillation of the very essence of what your company represents. It’s almost as important to your company’s identity as its name. But how do you get there? What are the key ingredients of a good logo and what identity creation tools are available to companies on a shoestring budget?

 

Characteristics of a good logo

Simple: Successful logos are founded in simplicity. In a marketplace filled with competitors and store shelves brimming with products, the goal is to get the consumers’ attention and convey a host of complex product or service information with clarity and speed. Refining the design down to a simple, yet memorable and unique visual statement, as discount retailer Target has done, is half the battle.

Memorable: Still, a good logo shouldn’t be so simple that it’s rendered unremarkable. Balancing simplicity with uniqueness helps to strike a chord with consumers and create a visual imprint that can be recognized later. The Apple logo is immediately recognizable due in part to its ruthless simplicity and how that simplicity is leveraged in a unique and memorable way.

Timeless: The very best logos stand the test of time and transcend the ephemeral notions of fashion and trends. Coca-Cola’s logo is an example of durable design. Since the goal of your mark is to create some equity in the marketplace, constant change and updating shouldn’t be required. As you consider and develop your logo, ask yourself, “How will this look in 20 years? Are there any elements which might not age well or could seem outdated in a decade?

Flexible: Potentially, your logo will be produced on large and small scales, in print and online. The best marks can adapt to any media and still look great. Consider FedEx, the overnight package delivery service. Its logo must be identifiable across scores of media and contexts, from Web banner ads to airplane wings. Specifically for print considerations, think about how your logo will look in a single color, in black and white, in reverse color, and reduced to thumbnail size. Can it adapt and still be clear and easily recognizable?

AdaptableWe all know businesses are dynamic and the marketplace is ever-changing. One product line might take off while another withers on the vine. Think about this phenomenon as you brainstorm your logo. The best marks communicate what your business is about today and can adapt to how it may change over time. Marks that are too specific pigeonhole businesses or become irrelevant as products and services evolve. For example, while eBay’s lowercase “e” may link the online bazaar with the early days of Internet commerce, the logo remains dynamic as ever, even as the company has grown and evolved.

Appropriate: Perhaps the strongest design-urge business owners have is to create a logo that’s too literal. A bakery owner wants a rolling pin in the logo; a law firm wants the scales of justice, etc. But great logos don’t have to be self-explanatory to be appropriate. The Starbucks logo is one of the most recognizable on the planet, but it doesn’t feature a mug or a coffee bean. Well-crafted marks use color, scale, font and image choice together to create distinction that’s appropriate without necessarily being literal.

Choosing a logo designer

For a business that wants to create or recreate its identity, there are a wide range designers and online services—like LogoMojo—available to help. Logo creation is big business and the options are as varied as the price point and the results. For the best product, choose someone who will work one-on-one with you to create a mark that’s rooted in an understanding of what makes your business unique. Here are a few things to look for when choosing a designer or an online logo development service.

Portfolio and experience: Does your designer have experience that includes a strong portfolio of work? Pay attention to the ratio of real logos to hypothetical ones. (For example, is the designer creating logos that are actually being used or is he just conceptualizing?)

Customer testimonials: Does the designer or design service offer testimonials from satisfied customers? If so, contact a few of the client companies and check on their level of satisfaction.

Awards, recognition, and affiliations: Has your designer won any awards for identity and branding work? How well-recognized are they in the industry? For talented new designers who may be just starting out, what are their professional affiliations?

Communication: As you research services or designers to work with, gauge their responsiveness and level of professionalism and communication. Do they get back to you quickly? Are they asking questions to learn more about your business and your vision for the logo? Do they protect their work and their clients through sound contracts?

Timing: Ask questions about timing to get a sense of how much effort and customization will be put into your logo. The creation and refining process typically takes three to four weeks, but can last months, depending on complexity.

Price: In identity work, as in most fields, you get what you pay for. The fee for most online logo creation services start around $175. Of course, the cost of working one-on-one with a designer varies by experience and recognition, but there are many young and hungry designers looking to create a body of work who may be flexible on price.

Take a look all around you—what marks get your attention? What labels and logos are on your clothes, on your desk and in your wallet? With a fundamental knowledge of good logo design and by exploring a few creative resources online, your company can develop a lasting mark that represents what it’s all about.

Kentin Waits is a freelance writer and marketing specialist based in Portland, Ore. His work has been featured in US Airways magazine and top-rated blogs such as Wise Bread, the Consumerist and MSN SmartMoney. When he’s not writing, Kentin runs a small online antiques business.

Article Source:

http://www.openforum.com/articles/logos-101-designing-your-business-identity?intlink=us-openf-nav-ymal-t8b6p5p5

Homepreneurs.  New Day.  New Opportunity


13 Marketing Activities You Can Do For Less Than $20 A Day

October 18, 2011

All businesses need marketing to create a brand, sales – and hopefully – profits.  A marketing campaign can be expensive and not in a home or small business budget.  Other ways exist though, to market your business for less than $20 per day as described by Ivana Taylor.  Some of these activities need only time and effort such as blogging or commenting on other blogs.  Others require hiring an SEO professional or designer for a logo or image.  All are solid suggestions describing inexpensive ways of promoting your business.

———

13 Marketing Activities You Can Do For Less Than $20 A Day

By Ivana Taylor

There really is no better, easier and more fun time to market your business than today. Granted, the economy isn’t participating, and dollars are tight, but that shouldn’t stop you from creating a marketing plan that will start generating new business.

I’ve pulled together some marketing activities that you can do when you have more time than money, and then as your business grows, I’ve got marketing activities you can do when you’ve got more money than time!

When you have time

1. Develop your message and an offering

Resist the temptation to get out there and sell without having a clear marketing message and an offer. You will look desperate and people will run away from you instead of running toward you. Take time to identify specifically who your ideal customers are, what’s important to them, and the frustrations that they encounter when they are thinking about what you’re selling. Then create an offer based on solving their specific frustrations.

If it helps, create a marketing kit that serves as a new customers’ startup kit. Once your offer is more concrete and exists outside your head, you will feel more confident and your customers will be able to experience what it will be like to work with you and buy from you.

2. Write a blog article at least twice a week

I’m not advocating writing a blog because it’s hip and cool. I’m encouraging you to do it because it’s a full page, keyword-rich advertisement for your product or service. Tip: Be sure to have a place for readers to give you their e-mail addresses in exchange for information that will help them be better consumers.

3. Comment on blog articles written by your customers or industry experts

Take the time to visit industry sites and blogs and leave intelligent and informed comments on their posts. Leaving a comment is like a mini blog post and encourages interaction and communication. Ask a question of the author or contact them via e-mail. Get a conversation started about your industry, product or service. Look for ways to help the author.

4. Write endorsements for customers, suppliers and experts on LinkedIn

Reciprocity is a powerful trigger. Leave endorsements and testimonials on the profiles of customers and suppliers. This will prompt them to do the same for you. Use the opportunity to start a conversation about them and what they have been up to. Always lead with asking how you can help—they will respond in kind. And this is when it pays to reference the offer you developed earlier.

5. Answer questions on Quora and Focus.com

Everyone is familiar with LinkedIn questions and answers, but I love Quora and Focus.com as well. Simply click over to either of these sites and search on a topic of your interest. Take the time to form a great answer and follow up with the person asking the question. These sites are also a wonderful source of content that you can use on your blog. Simply collect the answers to a question and include them in your article along with links to the people who answered the question. They will be honored that you referred to them.

6. Look for industry sites, magazines or blogs where you can become a contributor

This is an ideal activity when you have more time than dollars. You will reap the benefits after you are busy with clients. In the meantime, connect with editors and journalists from industry press and see what ways you can contribute and help. Most publishers are starving for good content and will be open to chatting with you. Once your business grows, they will be a valuable PR asset.

7. Get listed on outsourcing sites

If you are in a service business, consider putting your company on oDeskeLanceGuru—or if your business is a retail location consider the new site, Thumbtack.com. These sites aren’t just for individual freelancers, a wide variety of organizations and teams participate as service providers. These sites serve as referring directories who match you and your company with customers who are looking for someone just like you.

When you have money

8. Conduct webinars/teleseminars

Leverage your connections to create an audience and a referral stream for webinars and teleseminars. You can provide free content and use the Webinars as a lead generator or actually charge for content and make it a revenue generator. If you’ve ever given a speech or presentation—or trained someone how to do something—then you have all the skills you need to do webinars.

9. Do Pay Per Click advertising

Most SEO experts will tell you that generating leads and traffic comes from a balanced approach between organic search (that you create with your blog) and pay per click advertising that targets and attracts customers that are most interested in what you have to offer.

10. Get Pro versions of automation tools

If you’re already using tools like HootSuiteMarketMe Suite or SocialOomph, then now might be the time to invest in the professional versions of these tools to help you manage your social media accounts in one place.

11. Invest in image and design

Design and image matter. Customers will form opinions about your company based on how professional you look. (Check out 99Designs.) For a fixed price, you post your projects and designers submit their design concepts.

12. Hire SEO professional

If you have less than 5 percent of your audience signing up for whatever you’re offering, it’s time for getting help from an SEO professional. Before you talk to a pro, be sure to have a clear call to action on your site that leads to a sale so that you can get the most from their advice.

13. Outsource the administration and management

If you’ve used the outsourcing sites to get customers, now you can use them to keep customers. If you’ve followed this checklist, you will have developed a system for getting it done right. Now you can transform these tasks into instructions and delegate them to virtual assistants, writers and SEO experts.

Don’t be afraid to invest in the time intensive activities. It’s the old “sharpen the saw” philosophy. By investing the effort up front, you’ll gather data and experience what strategies and tactics are most effective for your business. In the end, both your time and your money will be well spent.

Ivana Taylor is the president of the strategic marketing firm, Third Force and the publisher DIYMarketers.com. Ivana is the Book editor and contributing marketing expert for Small Business Trends (www.smallbiztrends.com). She writes the popular blog Strategy Stew (www.strategystew.com).

Article Source:

http://www.openforum.com/articles/13-marketing-activities-you-can-do-for-less-than-20-a-day


Why Your Business Needs Social Media

May 2, 2011

May 2, 2011 -

Social media is the current big buzz for online communities and business since launching about 3 years ago.  Homepreneurs, small business and large can benefit from using tools provided by social media platforms.  Despite its omnipresent nature, much confusion and uncertainty exists over its nature, usefulness, and safety.  I will attempt to cover basic definitions and answer some questions with this post.

Social Media Defined

In order to understand social media, we must define the term and its application to business:

- Social refers to interaction and communication within human society, persons and organizations alike
- Media are tools used to transmit, store, and display information or data.  Social media implies the tools are electronic or digital and possibly mobile.

Wikipedia defines social media as “… media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.” 1

Characteristics

Social media allows for conversation, networking, sharing, collaboration, gaming, and similar functions at rapid speeds.  Information from news to pictures to opinions are shared and transmitted via social media platforms and may allow anyone to comment or add to what is posted.

Social media is virtually instantaneous with very little technical knowledge or talent required.  Its ability to reach across the entire planet creates opportunities for groups to organize and plan anything from reunions to revolts (social media possibly contributed to recent Arab uprisings).

Tools or platforms that qualify as social media include: Blogs (e.g WordPress, Blogger, Blogspot), social networks (e.g. Facebook), micro-blogs (e.g. Twitter), Internet forums, wikis (collaborative website which can be directly edited by anyone with access), and other web tools that help share multimedia or news with others (e.g. YouTube, Digg, Fickr)

Business Application

This is a short list of commonly cited business applications that social media provides:

- Advertising: Advertising on social networks is growing at an astounding rate.  Most young consumers have a social media account.  Reaching these audiences is a must for business.
- Authority:  Creating a website, blog or contributing to a wiki can demonstrate expertise in an area and show off a business as the “go-to” source for all things related to a product or service.
- Branding: For many consumers, delivering a product isn’t enough.  They want to provide feedback (positive or negative) and see what others say about the product.  Creating a company blog and interacting with customers enhances image and also helps retain current customers while acquiring new ones.
- Collaboration: Social media helps business organize better than ever before.  Small and large business alike can benefit from working with international partners in virtual real-time. Companies can use wikis to build on ideas and share product pictures with platforms like Flickr.
- Networking:  Simple lunch meetings are passe – why not have virtual meals while video conferencing with Japan?  A personal blog can supplement a resume while interviews are conducted via Skype.

Social media has many applications for personal and business use, but the most important thing to remember is collaboration.  When utilizing social media for business, engage customers and be transparent; these are core features of social media and customers will expect both.  Social media allows even the smallest home business to appear much larger and compete with the major market companies.  Social media is a powerful platform for consumers and businesses and in this new era of online business, it must be embraced.

By Dion Shaw

Dion Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs.

Reference:
1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media


‘No website’ means it’s time to get to work

January 25, 2011

By Mark Evans

I recently read a story about an appliance repair service, which is apparently something of a rarity given the disposable nature of most appliances these days.

At the end of the article, the company’s contact information was listed but surprisingly it included a tagline that said “No Web site.” As someone who is digitally engaged (obsessed?), a company without a website is like a person applying for a job without a resume. In this day and age, a website is a standard business feature – just like a phone number.

Even if we’re talking about a simple site with a few pages, it has to be part of how a business operates. An increasing number of consumers are turning to the Internet to find products and services, so not having website means being invisible to them.

It means that doing a search for “appliance repair in Toronto” would not include this business even though it is one of only a handful in Toronto. If the company did have a website, it would probably rank near the top of the search engine results, which would be good for business.

For some businesses, particularly small ones, a website can be intimidating because the owners may not be web savvy or understand the mechanics of building and maintaining a site. While there are lots of people and companies who develop websites, it can be challenge to decide on a particular supplier when you don’t have a lot of knowledge about what’s involved.

A good way to cut through the clutter is to ask friends for recommendations. If you come across a good small-business website, you could contact the owners to see if they would provide information about who developed it.

A small but solid website with a good design should cost about $5,000, although the work can be done for less by someone who is a one-person operation. Before committing to anyone, ask to see their portfolio and referrals.

For businesses looking for a quick and easy way to have a web presence, there are several options. Yellow Pages, for example, offers an online listing service for small businesses willing to pay a monthly fee. The downside is that Yellow Pages uses a template, which doesn’t offer much opportunity for customization. And some business may not want to pay a monthly fee just for a listing.

Another option is to use a service such as Homestars.com, which lets companies in the home renovation and repair business establish a web presence without the need for their own website.

A down, dirty and free approach that is far from perfect but functional is using WordPress.com or Blogger.com. Both are blogging services as opposed to website services but they can be tweaked to tell the world what you do and how you can be contacted. If anything, they serve as a short-term solution.

Whatever option is selected, the bottom line is that businesses need a web presence of some kind – whether it is a full-blown website, a listing or a corporate profile on a service that promotes small businesses. To not have a web presence is like cutting off your nose to spite your face … or not having a telephone number.

Source:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/your-business/start/mark-evans/no-website-means-its-time-to-get-to-work/article1872670/



Know the Difference Between Marketing and Advertising

October 5, 2010

Any online business will surely get a taste of success with the right Internet marketing and advertising tactics.

By Valerie Parson

Advertising and marketing are two different words with two different meanings, but more often than not, they are used interchangeably. For a person who has a limited background on Internet marketing or even on marketing alone, the two words can be connoted as one and may even be understood as two words with no difference at all. If you want your business to be on the right track, you need to differentiate one from the other.

What Is Advertising?
Advertising is a common yet effective way to market a particular product or service. It is one of the essential aspects of marketing wherein a sponsor pays the services of an advertising firm just to promote or popularize his product or service to reach as many target clients as possible. The advertisers simply endorse the product for mere purposes of endorsing the product and is no longer concerned of its outcome or if it would gain the intended sales and profit of the sponsor for as long as it was able to deliver its advertising job. Advertising can have the following medium:
* Direct mail
* Newspapers and broadsheets
* By using billboards
* Internet
* Radio
* Through the television

What Marketing Is
Marketing is looking at a particular business on a larger scale. Marketing largely focuses on strategies in making a particular business a successful one.
It involves various aspects that operates independently but has to work together with the other marketing elements to achieve a wider and a much bigger goal. The usual marketing goal is to determine which product or services is suitable to particular target clients, what strategies can be effective, and how the company would develop and grow through these strategies. Some of the most essential elements of an effective marketing involve any of the following:
* Advertising
* Customer satisfaction support
* Sales strategies
* Product and service pricing
* Market research
* Economic analysis
* Distribution of products
* Public relations
* Involvement of community
* Media planning strategies

Applications of Marketing and Advertising
Marketing and advertising are both useful in making a particular business a hit among its intended clients and the public.
In general, a business cannot, in one way or the other, survive without the two. By mere smiling or saying “good morning” to a customer is already a marketing strategy, while a mere mentioning of a product in a social gathering can be a form of advertising. In essence, marketing and advertising can be applied anywhere at any given time as long as there is a need to sell a product or patronize a service. One of the most in-demand forms of marketing nowadays is the so-called Internet marketing where all the benefits of Internet technology are applied to come up with an effective advertising and a successful marketing process. Some of the benefits of Internet marketing include the following:
* Provides immediate response for product concerns
* Fast exchange of communication between clients and service provider
* Convenient and hassle-free commercial transaction for both parties
* Inexpensive access to products
* It provides measurable outcomes and outputs.
* Traditional working hours are not followed.

If you plan to succeed in your online business, having a good grasp of Internet marketing and knowing the difference between advertising and marketing will give you a healthy jump-start. Know how your business can get ahead with the tough competition online.

Full article here: http://sba-daily.blogspot.com/2010/09/knowing-difference-between-marketing.html


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