While starting your own business takes a great deal of effort, the work isn’t done once you launch your product or service. You need to get the word out about it. You need to communicate how your business is different and better than the competition. You need to attract and retain customers.
This means you need branding — a look and style, the right words to describe your offerings and appeal to customers and impactful marketing materials. But hiring a designer to just create a logo can cost you over a thousand dollars. A branding agency can easily charge over $10,000 to create a brand look, develop a website, design materials, write compelling messages to pull in customers and market your business.
The good news is, there are some really great online tools that enable you to do all of that yourself. All without spending too much time, and — most importantly — too much money. Effective, affordable branding for small business is possible.
Affordable Branding Tip #1: Design marketing materials with Canva
Canva is an online tool that allows you to simply create and customize dozens of different marketing materials like flyers, posters, menus, brochures, letterhead, social media posts, business cards and more. Choose from their numerous pre-made templates and customize it with the colors, fonts and images of your choosing.
Canva has a free plan, but the amount of templates and customizing you can do is limited. Upgrading to Pro plan, at only $9.99/month, is well worth it, especially since it includes access to over 60 million stock images, graphics and videos you can use in your marketing materials.
Affordable Branding Tip #2: Build your website with Squarespace
Getting a website used to mean hiring a web developer or learning how to code. Now, if you can click a mouse, you can have a website. Squarespace is a popular and powerful web builder that gives your brand an online presence. Like Canva, you can pick from pre-designed templates and drag and drop images, text and graphics (similar to creating a PowerPoint presentation). The result is a clean, modern website design that looks great on desktops and mobile devices.
With Squarespace, you can also get a custom domain name to reinforce your brand, analytics reports to see who’s coming to your site and search engine optimization tools so more people find your business. Plans start at $12/month but there are options to upgrade to more features such as e-commerce, creating customer accounts and more.
Affordable Branding Tip #3: Reach your audience with MailChimp
Emailing customers with offers, updates and other information is a great way for your brand to stay top of mind. MailChimp is an online service that helps you create professional-looking emails. In addition to being an intuitive design tool, MailChimp can provide you with important information on your audience so you can finetune your brand to better reach them. They even offer design tips and advice on how to create your email campaigns.
Like Canva, MailChimp has a free version, which includes some basic templates and neat features like surveys. Paid plans start at $9.99 and include more features that allow you to better brand your emails and gain more insights into your audience.
Affordable Branding Tip #4: Manage your social media presence with Hootsuite
Social media is often where your brand’s true character comes through. You can speak directly to your audience and share content that reflects your style. It’s also a great way to follow what’s trending and hear conversations relevant to your business. But keeping up with the fast pace of social media can be difficult — there’s a reason many larger companies hire professional social media managers.
If staying active on social media channels is part of your brand strategy, Hootsuite is a great tool. With plans starting at $29.99/month you can schedule and post content across all the major social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and more. It also offers features to reach a wider audience, engage more followers and create better social media ads.
Affordable Branding Tip #5: Define your brand with Branding Compass
All these tools are effective and affordable ways to create beautifully branded marketing materials. But they might leave you asking, “How do I create my brand then?” How do you know what colors and fonts to use in Canva? What kind of images to pick for your Squarespace website? What words do you use when creating an email campaign or a Facebook post?
The answer is Branding Compass. Simply answer a series of questions about your business, and this online tool will provide recommendations on fonts, colors, images and words that best fit your brand. So when you go to write an email or design a flyer, you won’t have to blindly guess on the elements to use. You’ll know ahead of time which choices to make to best attract customers.
Branding Compass even offers a logo design package where a professional designer will custom build your logo based on your unique brand characteristics. With plans starting at just a one-time cost of $99, you’ll get the expertise of a branding agency in a fraction of the time (and a fraction of the price).