Denver Startup Week begins Monday, September 12th!
Creating a brand identity for your startup or small business can seem daunting, especially if you don’t have a background in graphic design or marketing. You don’t have to be an expert, you just need to know your business and your target market (hopefully you’ve done some market research), and then you can get started. Here are three main areas for you to focus when bootstrapping your brand:
1. Naming. This is often the first major undertaking when branding a new company, but not everyone gives the name much thought at first. Careful consideration about the name of your startup can help save money and time down the road, because you (hopefully) won’t have to rebrand or change the company name. At Zenman, we consider four options for naming:
- Personal (name of a founder or relation)
- Geography (location of company – city, state, region, natural landmarks)
- Service (naming the business after the service provided)
- Abstract (not directly associated with any of the three above)
After choosing a potential name, it’s a wise idea to search Google to make sure no other local or national companies are using it. Then check for a suitable domain name, and also use a site like namechk.com to see if your company’s name is readily available on social media sites.
2. Logo. For many startups and small businesses, this can be the most difficult part of branding, especially when you don’t have graphic design skills. A logo exercise must follow naming, because the name can drive design of the logo, either by tying in to the business name (see Zenman’s logo design for Baer Dental as an example), or by depicting a more abstract idea that’s related to the brand or service (SendGrid is a good example of this, in both their old and new logo treatments). But how does a bootstrapping company get a good logo design? Setting aside some startup capital is a good idea. Similarly you could draw up a trade agreement with a customer or acquaintance who does design work. (Make sure you set a limit on your time working with them – neither of you want this to turn into The Project That Never Ends.)
3. Website. We’ve discussed this topic before over on the Bigfoot Web blog, but your website needs a great deal of consideration. For many people (including potential investors), your site will be their first impression of your company, so it’s important that you invest some time and at least a little money in making sure your site has a solid user experience. You may be fine starting with a freelance web designer or a company like Bigfoot Web, as they will have skills and an eye for design that your company founders may not have. Eventually you may need to enlist the services of a full design and development agency like Zenman to help integrate an e-Commerce backend, complete a comprehensive round of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on the site,or refine the user experience beyond a simple “this is what we do” message.
Make sure you plan and budget for these activities up front and you won’t be surprised when it comes time for each of them. Naming will probably be the easiest (and most fun!) and require the least amount of paid labor (aside from getting a lawyer to draw up the incorporation documents…you did plan for that, too, right?). Depending on your budget, the logo and website can cost a fair amount but neither needs to break the bank up front. Happy branding!