If you are just starting out into the journey of entrepreneurship this article is a must read for you. It will save you money, frustration, broken dreams.
I was recently part of a one-day event where my primary role was to advise entrepreneurs and small business owners on their branding and creative direction. Basically, all I had to do was to help them some color schemes, fonts they could use that would go well with their overall branding.
I am a multimedia designer, says the diploma that sits in my desk. During my studies, I have gone through all the steps that a multimedia designer is supposed to go: design for print (logo, business cards, flyers, posters, banners, stationaries etc ), design for TV (motion design, explainer videos, intros, animated slide shows, commercials etc), design for web ( code web pages, create webpages, troubleshooting, hosting, SEO, CMS, social media, etc). Basically, I covered all the places where a static or animated image could be created. I fell in love with each and every one of them and when asked about what kind of career I would like to pursue when finishing my studies, I would reply with exact the study I was going through right then.
For each subject I studied, I had improvement opinions and ideas. When I saw a logo, I thought I could do it more beautiful with better colors. For animations, I thought I can make the graphics move better and make the message clearer. For the web, I knew I could organize the information in a more user-friendly way and it would also look much better as a web page.
When I got my diploma, I decided to set myself a goal of building my own advertising agency one day. Until that day, I would work where there was a need for a designer. So I quickly got a job at a local TV station as a motion designer.
Now, why am I telling you this? Because our story begins at this one-day event where entrepreneurs and small business owners came to ask how should their logo look like and if the font is big enough on their business cards. And my answer was almost always: it doesn’t matter.
Ok, I didn’t say it exactly like that but because most of them were showing me creations that they were proud of, that was a general idea. Even if for me and “my designer eye” they were not perfect, or could have been improved, for them it was who and what they identified with. And that was, for the moment they where in, perfect. I only interfered with some adjustments when I saw a big discrepancy between what the design looked like and the personality of the owner. That was only one case.
There was this girl who had a consulting business that was mainly targeting woman. She was helping them with marketing their message. The business card and web page were all pastel and watercolor flavor (the general idea that if you target woman, it should all be pastels, and calligraphy is so outdated). Yet in front of me was this cool, edgy, bold young woman who wore a cartoon t-shirt. She was full of energy and charisma with manlike pants and sneakers. I told her: look in the mirror and then look at the image you portray online. Is this really you? How does your customer feel when they meet you in person after they see your page? The purpose of everything we put up online is meant to bring a prospect closer to creating an image of us so that when we meet with them, they already feel they know us and so the selling process runs smoother because a minimum trust relationship has been built.
What were the other many discussions I had?
80% of them followed this scenario:
Entrepreneur: I need a logo, business card, website.
Me: Cool, what is your business about?
Entrepreneur: Well, I do this, this & this and I can sell also this and the other and I heard I should focus only on one so I am thinking to do for each one a logo and a business card and maybe a flyer.
Me: Who is your customer?
Entrepreneur: Everybody can benefit from what I do. So how much would this cost me?
Me: Let’s narrow our focus a little bit. How many customers do you have until now and what are they buying?
Entrepreneur: Well, I am still at the beginning. I heard I need a solid brand and a website to sell my products and services.
At this point, there was no need for me to dig further and solve the design problem because the bigger issue was more profound. And i only had around 30 min to counsel them.
After I finished my studies I began reading about ways I could raise the income from my work. Everywhere I got the same advice, from other designers: you should raise your value by offering more to the customer. If you create a logo, propose also to create a flyer. If you create a flyer, propose to also create a website. If you create a website, propose to also help with the SEO. And I did exactly that. I told myself, if I am one day going to build my own agency, I should invest my time in perfecting how to do everything an agency is doing. I was excited about it because I love the creative process and building up a coherent image for a business. For one single person, there was a lot of work and projects used to take months to implement. One of my customers needed a “simple app design” – Ohh, I can do it. I am a designer. The customer needed a video commercial. No problem, I have an idea on how to create it with a minimal budget and we only need a cameraman. I can do the editing and everything else.
So I spread myself thin and did everything I could do except what I should have done. Focus on what is really important to build a successful business.
Reality struck when I met a customer who wanted a logo. He had been in business for almost a lifetime and had a mother company with 3 other small ones. Technology companies. The logo was supposed to be for one of the companies who had already 10 employees and was running for more than 5 years.
I was shocked. What? Seriously? You are running a business and don’t even have a logo? They did have business cards. The simple white ones with the name of the company, name of the person, title and contact details. And that was it. An IoT company with no online presence, with no branding, running successfully.
What were they focusing on?
Selling first – delivering after.
That business owner opened my eyes of what a business is all about:
Buying or creating something and sell it for a profit. It’s that simple. A business without this equation is just a hobby.
And that is why my answer was almost always: it doesn’t matter. What matters is whether your product or service sells. Meaning, if you are in business.
Because you can create all the branding in the world. You can have the most beautiful logo, business card, website. But if your product or customer doesn’t buy. You are not in business.
Now I am not discouraging you to pursue your business idea. On the contrary. I am the biggest fan of new ventures. But I always advise new entrepreneurs in what sounds to be in my disadvantage. I mean, when you go online and ask a designer to create your logo, they do it. They ask for whatever amount and they get to work. Same goes for websites and other stuff that need to be created. So why do I advise against it?
Because I know it will not bring your business any results. NOW. If you are at the beginning of your journey, investing anything in building an online image will drain your funds and bring nothing in. You will get your hopes up and wait for sales and calls when you put your site online and nothing will happen. You will start thinking maybe the buttons are not right and that’s why there are no calls. Maybe the colors of the logo do not “speak” to my customer.
You will blame everything that you have invested in. And declare that nothing is working when in reality all of this can work but not right now.
So where should you focus right now?
Product or service to sell for profit. Yes, selling. that word that makes a lot of people cringe for no reason. Everyone declares that they hate selling. How can this be true? What person in this world hates being given money to do or give something? Nobody hates selling. But mostly everyone hates to be rejected. We can argue that almost everyone loves selling but hates NOT selling.
And why don’t you sell your product or service? Note that I didn’t say: why doesn’t your product or service sell, for a reason. At the beginning. This is only YOUR responsibility (except when you have a partner who does the selling and you are doing the executing). But if nobody wants to buy your product you have to figure out WHY. It can be the fact that they don’t need it, don’t understand it, are not ready for it or is too expensive. Either way, you can find the cause of the issue very easy by asking your prospects how they feel about the product. That is the very least approach you can take if you already have a product or service to sell.
Now, what if someone asks you for your info online or anything in this regard?
Start simple and free.
You only need:
1. A social media presence for your business that you update on a regular basis
2. A simple business card with your phone number
3. An e-mail signature with your phone number and social media page link.
If this is working out for you, and you have at least a couple of customers, then we can talk about the rest: branding, marketing, conversion, and retention. In other words, growing your business. Until then, work on building your business.