I shared some advice about your Unique Selling Proposition and storytelling for your brand at the Maker Mentors conference, and here on the blog. While I was putting that blog post and talk together, a problem with my advice kept nagging at me.
Let me tell you about one thing I did wrong, and how storytelling saved my business.
For years, I have been telling clients that they need to start with a strong brand identity before creating a custom website.
I believe that a solid brand identity is a wise investment and will make most everything else you do easier – except I’d been puttering along with a non-logo on a website design that didn’t speak to our clients for nearly a decade.
Our “logo” was our name in a font I liked. I knew just enough about graphic design to be dangerous. There was nothing to go with that logo to make it a full brand identity except the suggestion of an oceanic theme.
Our website looked nothing like what our clients wanted for themselves. Sometimes new clients would specifically mention that they didn’t want their website to be as whimsical as ours was. I often felt that people were signing on to work with us despite our website, not because of it.
According to my own advice, all this should make it difficult to grow and to attract the people who would value our service. But we charge five figures for a custom website, and at most times we have been so busy that we regularly would turn projects away.
Is a logo not so important after all? Why was everything working fine without one? How can I insist that businesses need a brand identity when we had been doing so well without one?
On further reflection, I realized: I had built a strong brand.
I had done it by telling our story to the right people and in the right places.
People know who we are, who we serve, what we stand for, how they’ll be treated by us. Our graphical look didn’t match up with our story, is all. Which turns out not to be a dealbreaker if you can show what substance lies below your hasty DIY logo.
Your brand is more than the surface. Read why your logo is just the very tippy tip of your brand’s iceberg.
So a strong graphical brand identity is not required. It is just more work when all parts aren’t working together. You might be fine without a real logo at the start. You may feel too busy to worry about this detail when business is booming. But there will be a point where your homemade logo will not feel right anymore. You will grow out of it and be ready to bust out of your chrysalis and transform into the beautiful butterfly you know you are on the inside.
We corrected our problem last September, and it’s notably easier to tell my story now, with the design backup.
Here is our before:
Here is our NOW:
So, so right.
What does this mean for you?
I’m sure you can think of inspiring small businesses out there with no logo, or a not-so-good logo. They seem to be doing well! I’m sure you’ve also seen businesses that just don’t seem very special, despite their super polished, professional, well-designed brand identity. The logo helps them look legitimate, but they won’t stand the test of time or attract loyal customers.
This tells you that you can’t look to graphic design as a quick fix for a failing business. You can’t build something special and lasting without putting time into its story and its personality. If you work hard, you can successfully share that story with the world without a fitting logo. But let me tell you, it’s much much easier to be doing the work you want when your outsides match up with your insides.
If we can help your successful business tell its story better, we would be overjoyed to hear from you – get in touch.
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