Looks Are Everything….for Small Business
By Mark Evans
Nothing makes a small business look, well… small, more so than a handwritten note on a receipt pad — the kind you can pick up at the office supply store.
Even if you’re just a one-person show, you need to have paper and digital collateral that make you and your company look like a prosperous, professional business. You may never meet some of your customers face to face, so the professional-looking materials are an effective way to make an impression.
Make sure no matter who stumbles across a letter, invoice or report from you, they’ll take away the sense that you are a well-run organization.
Here’s how to generate some respect-worthy materials on a limited budget:
• Get a logo. Find a colleague, friend or art student to design a company logo that includes your name and reflects your brand image. (Make sure your designer understands that image: send that person everything you have on your company so it’s very clear.) Get a digital copy of the logo in colour (use colours that, again, reflect your brand image) and in black and white.
• Select a font. Use the same font in all your communications. Again, choose something that reflects your company image: a serif font (one with little feet) for a B2B or more refined organization and perhaps a sans serif if you’re going for a more modern feel. Select a font that is available in updated versions of commonly used software such as Word. If you don’t want to change your existing materials, select fonts similar to what you’re already using.
• Design your materials all at once. Use your designer (or do it yourself if you have an eye) and create templates for invoices, receipts, correspondence, proposals, contracts and any other materials you might need to send out. Be sure digital properties such as your website, blog and mailing list contain these elements too. (You don’t need to do a full Web redesign to sub a logo, particularly if you’ve selected a look that already works with what you have.) Do a few test runs to be sure letters and reports read well in the new designs. Have staff members try them out to be sure they’re user-friendly.
• Save your templates in an easy-to-reach location. Tell your staff to put their future client-facing materials into your templates. And while you’re at it, suggest your team takes extra steps to proofread all written materials. Fewer mistakes equal a better first and lasting impression.