A potential client came to me with a logo request. I gave him a quick lesson on branding and social media. He then asked "How much is this going to cost?". Needless to say, my fee was "astronomical". He explained that logos are too expensive and that they have no value these days like they used to. His plan was to start a twitter and facebook account and "see how it goes". I was floored. Social Media might seem like a godsend, but it's just one of many tools that small business needs to get started. It is not a money-making machine you plug some info and characters into so you can sit back and count your dough. Branding comes first and foremost. Period.
And branding is not exclusive to your logo, but to all your materials. There needs to be a cohesiveness and consistency to everything baring your name (and hopefully your brand). 3 branding materials you need are:
1. Logo: Your logo is your brand -- what defines you as a business. Why? Because symbols are a part of our daily lives, and have been for ages. Picture these brands in your mind's eye as you read them -- Fruit of the Loom, Nike, Best Buy, Apple, McDonald's, Ray-Ban, Ford motor company. You recognize those brands because they've done their time. You have to do the same with yours.
2. Business Card: Simply put, when you meet someone you make your first and best impression, but your business card works to remind them. It's not just a card stock with your name and information printed on it. Take the time to invest in a nice card stock, non-glossy, so your first meeting will be a lasting one. (You can also add either a letterhead and or envelope)
3. Email Signature: Yes, even something as small as an email signature is an important element of your branding. Every email displays your logo and brand feel. It's a constant reminder of who you are. And it's a reminder, in general, that nothing is below having design.
4. Website: Some people still think they can operate their business without a website. Sorry, but that's just not true. People say they're too expensive. Again, this is your business, and there is going to be a level of investment going into your online presence. A facebook and twitter page is great, but they should be directing people to your website not filling in for the absence of an official website. Also, your site should be no bigger than 5 pages. Feel the need to over-explain yourself in 12 pages? Don't. And don't forget to get yourself a branded facebook and twitter page. Remember, nothing is below having design. (Below is an example)
Sound pricey? It's not, and most designers will do this for a package price. And if this still sounds expensive think about how expensive it will be without it. This is an investment that you're making. An investment in yourself and your business. Do not become a cheapskate on this because you will regret it down the line and people will notice it. I realize this is a quick overview on the topic of branding (and it skims marketing), but if you have any questions and would like to know what the average price for this kind of package would run you, please ask. I'm here to help and educate. And remember my philosophy...great and effective design is the product of creativity, knowledge and information.