First Impressions Matter
As a graphic designer I spend a lot of time working with small to medium sized businesses. One question I always ask the people running them is: "What is the first thing people are likely to see regarding your company?" Invariably they will spend a minute or two thinking about it before saying, "Either my business card or my website."
"So," I then ask, "are your business cards and your website good ambassadors of your corporate image?"
What Makes A Good Ambassador of Corporate Image
There are two basic parts to making a good first impression. The first is the most obvious: make certain your logo is professionally done and right for your industry. The second factor is less obvious but just as important: make certain your message is consistent. Many people will see a brochure or ad, a business card and your website within a very short time. Your message needs to be consistent in both its message and its presentation.
Enter the No-ClipArt-Zone
A professional logo tells your clients that you are serious about your company, your image and the services or products you provide. Many of my clients come to me with logos that are basically a piece of clip-art. While clip-art has its place and use it is unlikely that a piece of it will ever become synonymous with your brand. Something unique created just for your business will always be more memorable than a low-res GIF image you found on the web and stuck next to your company name.
A real world example is a local painting contractor who wasn't certain he wanted my services. He was looking for a simple web page - maybe. His logo at the time was a paintbrush standing next to his company name. The client took his trade seriously and prided himself on the professional job he and his crew (his sons) did. When he retired his hope was that his sons would continue on and he was trying to make certain they had every opportunity.
"Is it important," I asked, "that your company continues to grow and develop a solid reputation? I imagine a lot of your business is by referral." He agreed that these were important - and they were easily his most important marketing tool. Painters, he told me, are often seen as flighty and unprofessional and he wanted to project the opposite image. To meet those goals we had to develop a corporate image that was consistent with his vision. His logo became a unique two-color design that communicated the same pride and professionalism the company displayed in its work.
Consistency of the Message
The company's web page became an extension of the logo and business cards we created. Colors matched, the logo was the same and the appearance was very professional, even though it was a small site. The client then took his new logo and had signs made for the company truck with their phone number and website underneath. Basically, they told a consistent message in everything they did. Their professional appearance and approach has allowed them to rise above the competition and build a brand (the subject of another article later).
The Bottom Line
For small to medium-sized or new businesses the bottom line is this: if you care about the bottom line and building something more than a job to job company you need to make a first impression that tells the world you are serious about what you do. It's a small investment now that will pay off big as you build your company into a brand that is remembered and respected.
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