Branding for MSPs
Following up on the popular article 'Hiring a web professional', I will volunteer some detailed advice on branding your IT Support company.
This article aims to provide practical, 'action-able' methods for improving the effectiveness of your brand.
What is a Brand?
Firstly, it might be best to establish a definition for 'branding', as there is often some confusion between a company's logo, brand, identity, and so on. This is best explained by having a look at the building blocks that come together to help visually define your company and make it unique in a busy marketplace.
The individual elements that will combine to build your brand are typically:
This is either a text-only logo (referred to as "logotype") or an icon/symbol ("logomark") paired with text
- Company color(s)
Usually a distinct font for your logo, and a font that can be used on the website
(although there are other options these days - ask your designer!)
The style of photography and graphics that a company uses
A consist approach to copywriting
The best practises for creating an effective brand using the elements above could well be a whole book in itself but my aim here is to get you to take a look at your existing branding and maybe get the ball rolling on making changes that make it more successful.
Building a brand
The fonts, colors, and design elements that your designer selects when creating your brand should be in tune with the heart and soul of your business and how you would like to be portrayed by potential customers. For example, it is fair to say that using a serif font, the colors gold and black, and a griffin as a logomark will certainly not give potential customers the message that you provide affordable services in the lower-to-middle regions of the market:
In the example above, it's obvious which version is more appropriate for an IT company - imagine the positive marketing impact of a company changing from the logo on the left to the version on the right!
It takes a talented designer to create a logo, and associated materials, that capture exactly what it is that makes your business unique and attractive to customers, but this is why it's definitely worth finding the right designer and setting a realistic budget for your company's branding when first starting out or when 'rebranding' later on.
As an insight into a 'designer's mind', my approach to branding a business begins with research (company history, competitors, target audience, strengths, weaknesses, goals for the future, and so on), and from that I create a list of keywords that I then associate with the business, based on what I have learnt. This leads me to select an appropriate style of font, suitable colors, an appealing logomark, and so on. These aren't things you will need to spend a great deal of time thinking about (that's where the designer comes in!) but hopefully it will provided an insight into the process of a designer when the time comes to work with one.
Why is branding worth my time?
It's a highly competitive environment out there so during that split section when a potential customer visits your website, or sees your promotional material, your brand needs to work hard and communicate the right things about the service you provide. You won't be there to tell them that you're trustworthy, diligent, and reliable - your branding should communicate this for you. The logo, fonts, colors, photography, writing style, and, of course, content that you have selected for your company are a key part of the communications tools used to grow trust in existing customers and attract new customers.
Your branding is out there right now: on your website, all of your promotional materials, your social networking accounts (these are becoming a vital marketing tool), and even your invoices. Surely it's worth stopping to think, "What is my brand doing for me? Is the impact it's having mostly positive, mostly negative, or indifferent?"
Actually, my branding could be better. What should I do?
There are many reasons to rebrand your company, but if you seem to get poor or mixed results from marketing campaigns then it may be time to ask customers, friends, colleagues, and a designer to make an assessment of what your company 'looks like' to them - what emotions do they feel when holding a piece of marketing material or a business card? Ask them to list specific keywords and compare them to the words that you associate with your company. Depending on the results of this, you may wish to look for a professional designer and tell them about your company, your target market, and what you want your brand to achieve.
It's important to spend time researching, defining, and working with a designer to build & develop your brand. Effective marketing is the key to growth, and the foundation of effective marketing is an effective brand.
Every company can make improvements when it comes to branding; it's a never-ending process. A neglected brand, however, is something that can do damage to a company's emotional connection with both existing and potential customers, so it's an aspect of running a business that consistently needs time, effort and money.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to ask questions on the topic of branding in the comments below.