Like all entrepreneurs your business is more than just a means of making a living; it is a product of your heart, your soul and a lifetime of day-dreaming finally coming to fruition.
As this fragile extension of you begins to develop and grow into a fruitful business all of the hard work begins to pay off; however there is always so much on the line. And while there are many facets to taking a pipedream from your mind’s eye and into reality; one of the most critical of all is building your brand and creating a greater awareness.
Somewhere along the line when you decide that it’s time to create a fresh brand or evolve your existing one, you’ll soon learn that there is a wealth of options before you. You will be faced with an army of freelancers, boutiques and larger agencies and so makingthe right decision can be an incredibly difficult and overwhelming task!
How do you even know what to look for? How much should you be investing into it and who will be a trustworthy enough partner? Your business is your baby and you wouldn’t allow just any old stranger to look after your children.
Nobody in their right mind would want to invest thousands of pounds into business relationship that falls short of the mark. Finding the most appropriate branding and business partner for you is a challenge indeed, though rest assured that with some careful consideration you will most certainly be able to make the right decision.
Taking the first step
It is always important to keep your options open, and while you will likely want the process over and done with as quickly as possible, choosing the right marketing agency to take care of your brand is a task that requires a great deal of patience. No harm can come from interviewing four or five different marketing agencies in the beginning – you’ll likely already have an idea or a particular agency in mind; however it pays to shop around just in case.
At this stage you should already have a rather solid idea as to what budget you are going to set aside for this venture, what your overall long-term goals are and what sort of timeframe you’re working with. It is important that you are talking with people who can accomplish these objectives within your level of investment so make sure that you are honest and upfront about what you want. Being vague about what you expect and what you can afford in this sort of business transaction is not beneficial to anybody at all.
Then again when it comes to marketing it is also very important to keep an open mind, especially if you have very little experience in this field. Many people don’t fully understand what it is that they are looking for until they’ve had the opportunity to sit down with a professional who can pinpoint their issues and highlight their needs. Again, this is why it is vastly important to shop around in the early stages so that you can gain a broader scope and understanding of some realistic figures and timeframes.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to two or three prospective partners you should consider the following questions in order to determine who is going to be the best fit for you and your business:
What were your first impressions?
The power of thinking without thinking carries a great deal more weight than we give it credit for. First impressions are very important in business and going with your gut is arguably one of the best courses of action. While it is important to consider all of your options and think everything through thoroughly, it is all too easy to overthink something as well.
There are a few questions that you should ask yourself when working on narrowing your list of prospective partners down: How did they interact with you in the beginning? Were they prompt and timely when responding to emails and returning phone calls? In the initial stages of contact, did they listen and were they courteous by asking all of the right questions? Did they ever have to reschedule or were they late? How smooth were the exchanges between you both?
You and your marketing partner need to have some form of chemistry if your partnership is truly going to grow and benefit you both. There is nothing worse than having to work with somebody that you cannot relate to or connect with, especially when you have to rely on them to look after your business and brand. Look out for an instantaneous, natural chemistry – but be weary as there are plenty of smooth talkers out there who may not necessarily be able to walk the walk as well.
Do they understand and believe in you as a business?
Marketing and branding is all about individuality and differentiation, however there are many design agencies that boast portfolios with little variation at all. You may notice a lot of their clients seem to be rather samey with a general and uninspiring approach to their campaigns. The problem with this generalised approach is that there is much, much more to a business than its brandsaesthetic appeal. The finished product should give voice to your company’s unique vision and solve the challenges specific to you, not bolster the branding agencies design sensibilities – the most important aspect of branding is having the ability to bring a new and fresh perspective to problem solving.
If a marketing agency cannot recognise what it is that separates you from the rest then they will struggle to get behind you and support your growth. When entrusting a branding agency with a stake in your business you are handing them a piece of yourself in the process – you need to ensure that the other party is going to handle it with care. It’s hard enough as it is when running a business and chasing your dreams and so it is paramount that you have the appropriate support structure around you that will help you imagine your business’s growth trajectory far beyond what you have successfully built thus far.
Do they offer support and the guidance required for continued success?
There is much more to branding than simply creating a new logo and colour scheme. If you are to invest your time and money into a branding & design agency then they will need to be competent across all areas. It’s all very well if you are working with an agency that is strong on strategy but lags behind when it comes to design, or vice versa. You need to focus your time and attention on an agency that can deliver a high quality service on both fronts.
And in the same breath it is important that your marketing agency isn’t afraid of taking you out of your comfort zone either. A good branding agency will do exactly what you tell them to do; an exceptional branding agency will lead you toward the future of success that you’ve always dreamed of.
You want to be working alongside an agency that is excited about the prospect of growing with your business. An agency that gets passionate about new ideas and challenges that will aid in developing your brand from eye-catching to mesmerising.
Look out for a partner that will hold you accountable, keep you focused and on the right track and push you from where you are now to where you need to be tomorrow.
Don’t let the price dictate your final decision
Of course you have to take great care when it comes to handling your budget, especially in the early stages of your company’s infancy, though ultimately in this game you have to speculate to accumulate. And by no stretch of the imagination does that mean that you should throw loads of money at a branding agency and expect top results; what it means is that if you look for a branding agency with only budget in mind then you may ultimately end up with the wrong agency.
Certainly you can find all manner of inexpensive freelancers who will gladly whip up some snazzy looking logos for you on the cheap; however they likely will not be working with a process that has been built to endure the highs and lows of effective brand building – they’ll likely be unable to implement a well-thought out and structured brand and marketing strategy for your business.
When you are looking a pair of work-boots and you pick up the first cheap pair that you can find, you can’t complain when they fall apart and don’t provide you with the support and comfort that you desire. Instead you should shop around, read the reviews, try a number of different boots on and find the best quality fit for you. Sure you’ll likely have to spend a bit more money, though you’ll ultimately be protecting yourself from harm and allowing yourself the comfort and peace of mind required to get the job done properly.