Help! Should I really spend my money on design?
The short answer is absolutely.
Yes. Yes. Yes. And another yes. And no, I don’t sell branding services – so this is not a sales pitch.
The toughest part about starting a business is that you have limited funds. What should you invest in? This is when you get taken for a ride the most, because advice is coming at you from all corners.
Marketing! SEO! PPC! Media! PR!
All very important things, but until your product has been developed and you have a brand – don’t waste your time or money on the five things I just listed. All very critical, and all strategies I’m a huge proponent of but this is about why branding is crucial to establishing a business and three ways you can DIY.
What happens when you DIY
I’m all about doing it yourself, especially when you first begin a business. There’s no sense is pouring thousands of dollars into something you may change your mind about down the road, and the truth is when you dive head first – you’re going to crash and burn a few times. This means you’re not going to get it right, your business will shift and the products or services you offer at first may change over time. But there will come a point when your product/service is developed and your vision expands – this is when you look into investing some real dollars into branding.
Before I ramble on about how to DIY – a little background on what can happen when you decide to build everything from scratch on your own.
HER Magazine™ was originally founded in September 2015. True story. And our first issue was hideous. I can say that comfortably because 1.) I designed the damn thing myself on an app called pages in an ipad (my graphic designer is probably horrified reading this right now) and 2.) 10 people saw it. Maybe not even that. We were quarterly at the time.
Our Cover Girl was kind enough to accept our invitation to be our first. We did her hair and makeup at my HOUSE! How ghetto-fabulous is that?
If you’re not embarrassed by your first ‘product’ – then you never started in the first place. Perfection will kill you, so don’t get sucked into believing that everything has to look amazing before you begin.
I want you to know creating success in your business does not happen overnight, and at some point we all go the ‘cheap route’ because it’s all we can afford to do.
So what are the three most important steps to developing your brand?
Know your Story
Answer some simple questions like, what is my company name? What product/service do we offer? Who is our target audience? Why do I do what I do? In other words, what is my mission? Get as detailed as possible . You want to be clear about what your business is about. Reach out to friends, or ideal clients and run your ideas past them. Ask for feedback, and use resources like the Women’s Business Center for consulting. Remember, people don’t buy a product or service – they buy the emotion attached to it.
Get a Logo
Don’t underestimate the power of a logo. Make sure it’s memorable. The swoosh that is Nike – Coco Chanel’s famous double C and the Golden Arches of McDonald’s…these are some of the most recognizable brands in the world. Here’s an article on why a good logo gains meaning and power over time: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32495854.
Create a Website
No one starts with a storefront – unless that’s where you choose to pour your money into or absolutely need the space to perform your service (i.e. spas, etc) When you’re rolling solo, a website can serve as your storefront. In today’s digital age, everyone is searching for something and the first place they go to verify you’re a legitimate business is Google. Make sure you create a website.
Back in 2015, incredible graphic tools like Canva were underground or didn’t exist. This is a great website/app for anyone searching for ideas when first founding a company. You’re still confused about who you are, and who you should be. Canva can help you create graphics for promotions, offering everything from magazine layouts to pre-designed info-graphics.
For logos, a popular place to go is 99 designs. They offer a low-cost way for you to choose between a number of designs. Submit your ideas and watch graphic designers from all over the world compete for your money. There’s also Fiverr – a place you can find freelance services. Remember to do your vetting. This is a great tool for start-ups but as you grow and expand, I recommend working with companies specializing in the services you’re seeking. You will notice the difference.
For website creation, Squarespace is highly effective for beginners. You can create a website all on your own. This works great for people who don’t have a big budget. Eventually, I’d recommend a WordPress website crafted by a developer. It’s a more robust platform, but not a necessity at first.
Over time, you’ll begin to develop a brand voice and that’s when you’ll want to seek out the help of a brand designer.
How Branding Pays Off
Here’s what our magazine looks like today, after investing thousands of dollars into branding in 2016.
HER Magazine’s logo was recognized by the 2017 Best Brand Awards and recently received a Logo Lounge Award. But our current logo was not designed by just anyone. And our website wasn’t a DIY kind of a thing. Neither are our apps. Our brand has been critical to attracting influencers and bringing sponsors to the table.
Eventually, you’ll want to make the leap and invest in your branding. Have a long term vision when it comes to your business. Position it for a possible sale. Investors don’t buy products – they buy the “thing” people are connected to. When Kraft bought Cadbury for $19.5 billion (yes, that a B) – was it because they had more delicious chocolate than any other company? It wasn’t the chocolate. It was the brand.
Nineveh Madsen is a Swedish-born, ethnic Assyrian American television personality. She is the founder of HER Magazine™ and co-creator of Get Media Ready’s live events. She spent a decade working as a journalist for local television stations in Arizona (KYMA, NBC) and Utah (KSTU, FOX) and made appearances on Fox News. From TV to Business Woman, Nineveh fired her bosses in 2015 to launch her digital publication.
“I learned a lot my first year in business. I was clueless about entrepreneurship. I had been thrown to the wolves. It wasn’t the plan to leave TV so soon, but it was clear to me what my new calling was so I took a big risk. I am constantly inspired by the women before me who have paved the path I’m able to walk thanks to them, and I want to share those stories with the world.”
Nineveh graduated from California State University East Bay with a degree in Broadcast Journalism in 2004. She is married to John Madsen, a former NFL Oakland Raiders TE and successful athletic performance coach in Utah.