Congratulations, you’re finally getting your small business launched!

A question many entrepreneurs and new business owners have is: When should I invest in branding? Is it too early? Will I look unprofessional, and lose potential sales or investors by waiting?

The answer, like so many things in life, is it depends. Different types of businesses can develop their branding on different timelines. Some businesses need complete branding in place before launching, while other types of businesses can let the branding develop as they start to grow. 

We’ll step through different types of businesses and their various brand development timelines below. 

Restaurants, retail stores retail services must launch with a full brand identity

If you plan to open a restaurant or retail store you need a designer involved sooner than many other startups. A restaurant, for example, needs to get its brand identity nailed before they launch. The signage, decor, menu and overall atmosphere is not something that can come later. The dining experience and the brand identity are highly interwoven.

The immediate effect of that brand identity may be critical to creating the right first impression. These businesses can always adjust and expand their brand identities as they get more established, but they cannot hang out their open sign without the basic brand elements of a strong logo and other key visual elements.

Packaged consumer goods must well designed before placement in a store

If you have a consumer good that you plan to sell in stores, your packaging must be well designed and professionally produced before selling en masse to consumers. Before you get to that stage, however, you have time to invest in branding as you refine your product or scale operations.

For example, many food producers start selling at craft fairs or farmers markets. That is a good time to test design ideas and see what resonates with your buyers. However, it is unlikely you will get accepted into national chains or highly selective boutiques if your package design is not professionally created. And you definitely don’t want to be creating confusion about your brand by altering your brand identity once you start to sell in retail stores. Consumer purchases are heavily swayed by package design, so you will need to invest in branding to make it big.

Solopreneurs, coaches and consultants can slowly grow their brand identity organically

Many people wish to start a coaching or consulting or other service type of business for themselves. It may start as a one-person start-up and eventually will grow to a small business with a few employees. The bar is set high for what people expect for a professional business website, so don’t shortchange yourself on how you portray yourself and your business online. But it’s ok to use a wordmark rather than a symbol type of logo, which is generally more economical to have designed.

Your business offerings will likely change as you figure out what work is profitable and appeals to you, and your brand identity should be flexible enough to move with these changes, while still maintaining some consistency. Remember, the brand of a solopreneur is very closely tied to the business owner, and always will be.

High tech startups benefit from a visual identity

When people think of startups, they most frequently think of technology based startups. These companies may make software targeted at the general public or a very small niche. They may make highly specialized products. It can be a struggle to engage investors or interest if people cannot understand the technology.

The “thing” these startups create is frequently not very visual—invisible code or not very sexy equipment. Therefore, the logo for a high tech firm can end up playing a larger, more important role than for other startups.

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