Why Branding Your Design Firm Is Much More Than Creating A Logo

Why Branding Your Business Is Much More Than Creating A Logo

When people think about a brand, often the first thing that comes to mind is the company logo and perhaps a tagline. However, your business brand is much more than your logo. It is a critical part of your marketing mix and, if done well, will shout out to the marketplace at every touch point so that your potential clients get a real feel for who you are and what you are about. Your brand is not just a mental image but a heartfelt emotional image and one that invokes a response.

Whether you are speaking, writing or creating visuals your brand should be consistent, congruent and totally authentic.

Your brand is the promise of the experience your clients will have when they use your products or services. It is this promise that you want to infuse into your brand. It makes no difference whether you are a solo-preneuer, a small design business or a large corporation,  you still need a company brand or personality that expresses your uniqueness so you can stand out in a crowded marketplace. It is your brand and your brand promise that will attract your ideal clients and pull them towards you so you don't have to chase them.

Here are 6 key points to include in the process of creating your brand.

1. Work out what your unique brilliance is.

Everyone has their own unique brilliance, but not everyone takes the trouble to find out what theirs is. Understand that your unique brilliance is not what you actually do- as in a skill or a task that you perform. Rather, it's the thing that is always true for you no matter what you are doing. It's the core or the essence of you and what you bring to everything that comes so naturally to you. 

2. Decide what you and your company stand for.

What is it that your clients can always depend on if they engage your services or buy your products? This is your brand promise and potential clients will be more attracted to a clear message that resonates with them.

3. Identify your choice client tribe so your brand promise can speak to them directly.

It will help if you identify the problems they want to solve and most importantly make sure that they are prepared to pay for your solution. This is a surefire way to attract qualified clients like a magnet.

4. Uncover your specific expertise.

Your specific expertise is not your credentials or your qualifications but refers to what you are naturally talented at. For instance, as a coach you could be an expert at achieving breakthroughs. As an organizer could be an expert at creating order out of chaos.


5. Identify your brand's key emotions.

It's a well known fact that people buy based on emotions then back up their buying decision with logic. Considering this,  it's worth spending time to decide what emotions you want to stir in your prospective clients. How do you want them to feel once they use your services? Confident? Elated? Secure? Excited?

6. Incorporate words, colours, fonts and images that reflect the elements you've uncovered in the previous 5 steps.

The combinations are endless and once you've got this right you'll have a distinctive memorable brand that is uniquely you.

One of the big advantages of having a brand that truly represents you is that you can just be yourself. Having this documented will also help you train staff to understand and deliver your brand experience consistently at every touch point with your clients.

Another advantage is that this document will make briefing copywriters and creative designers a breeze. Armed with this level of detail they can work through the creative process quickly and easily to deliver your marketing materials to reflect exactly how you want to be perceived and seen out in the market place.

By Kathleen Ann
Photography by Benjamin Miller
Small business marketing expert Kathleen Ann is the "Marketing Champion for small Business and entrepreneurs." As a Certified Money, Marketing and Soul Coach Kathleen delivers breakthrough marketing strategies so heart-centered entrepreneurs can Brand, Package and Price their services to quickly create more money, time and freedom in their business. For free articles, free resources and to sign up for her free audio and transcript "7 Must Know Secrets to Business Branding Success", essential Branding strategies to help you attract qualified ideal clients in droves, visit http://www.powerupyourmarketing.com

10 Items to Review to Improve Your Design Business in the Upcoming Year

Top 10 Items to Review & Build Your Business Now!
In building and runnng an independent private practice or small business, there are many items that need to be monitored closely and should be reviewed periodically. Year-end is a traditional time do this, and this week's Letter is a "Top Ten" of items to review as the year draws to a close, or whenever you decide to pause, reflect, take stock and re-assess.

1. Review your client statistics: How many clients did you have? On average, how long did they stay? How did they describe their problem? What did they need or want from you? Does tracking by gender, age, or other criteria, provide insight about your business?

2. Review your referral sources: How do clients find you? Do you have a solid mix of referral sources? Too few sources makes your business dependent on them, while too many sources is inefficient. Who refers the most desirable clients? Who refers the least desirable?

3. Review your outcome statistics: How many clients had successful outcomes? How many had unsuccessful outcomes, and why? How many left before you thought they should, and why? Which clients are you most effective with? Which do you enjoy the most?

4. Review your income, month by month: Look for patterns or relationships with marketing efforts or community events that may impact your business. Does your business go up when school starts or after holidays? Can you capitalize on any of these cyclical patterns?

5. Review environmental changes: Has the community's awareness of your skills or services been impacted by someone else's marketing, by news stories or controversy this year? Has your neighborhood changed? Have circumstances made your office more or less visible? Are other professionals moving into, or out of, your neighborhood?

6. Review office policies and procedures: Do any of your forms, brochures, or signs need to be up-dated? Is it time to add color and graphics? Can office procedures be streamlined, computerized or contracted out for better productivity?

7. Review your insurance coverage, lease agreements, partnerships and other documents that impact your business. Is this the year to incorporate? Consult a professional about making appropriate changes, and meet with your accountant for a year-end review and tax planning.

8. Review every aspect of your professional status: Review your CE requirements, renew your license(s), pay dues to your professional organizations, and be sure your liability insurance coverage is adequate and current.

9. Identify and study the 3 biggest mistakes you made relative to finances, business and marketing this year. What did you do, or not do? What did you learn? What steps can you take so that particular mistake or set of circumstances never holds you back again?

10. Be sure to acknowledge and thank everyone who has contributed to your success this year, including referral sources, advisors, colleagues, and especially your clients. Send holiday greetings, thank you notes, and where it's appropriate, send a gift or token of appreciation.

Have a great week! The holidays can be a time of stress - please accept our best wishes that this year it be a time for peace, joy, and goodwill toward all!
By Philip Humbert
Image by Phil Date
© Copyright 2003 by Philip E. Humbert. All Rights Reserved. This article may be copied and used in your own newsletter or on your website as long as you include the following information: "Written by Dr. Philip E. Humbert, writer, speaker and success coach. Dr. Humbert has over 300 free articles, tools and resources for your success, including a great newsletter! It's all on his website at: http://www.philiphumbert.com


How to "Qualify" Potential Design Clients Before Working With Them

Qualify Your Prospects Professionally

We all get it wrong sometimes and I did two weeks ago. A potential client contacted us. It was a great opportunity, they called us after being referred by one of our happy clients, there was no other competitor involved and I got lazy.

I turned what should have been a relatively easy sale into a lost sale. I should have spent time qualifying the opportunity by finding out what they wanted could I help them and are they prepared to buy off me.

The truth was that I didn't qualify the opportunity professionally. I assumed what they wanted and didn't find out the compelling reason why they should buy and why they should hire me. I lost the sale due to my unprofessionalism. I gave myself a kick and a sales lesson on qualification which I would like to share with you today.  
You will never be a successful designer unless you qualify every opportunity properly and professionally. The result of not qualifying properly and professionally is that you lose opportunities and, in many cases, waste time with the wrong opportunities. You (and I) need to only spend our time on opportunities that have been qualified by making sure we have the answers to the following questions.

  • Are we talking to the decision maker?
  • If it we are not talking to the decision maker how can we arrange to see him or her
  • What is the decision date for the opportunity?
  • Do they have a realistic budget for the services/products/project?
  • What are the key criteria that the decision maker will be base his/her/their decision on?
  • Is there anyone else against you? If so how many are they and who are the competitors?
  • What are your chances of winning the client?
  • Are they committed to going ahead with the order/business/project?
  • Will they be prepared to hire you?

Once you know the answers to these questions and you have positive answers then and only then do you have an opportunity worth spending your time on. You still have some work to do to win the business however at least now you know it is a real opportunity that is worth spending time on.

If I had spent a little bit of time two weeks ago getting answers to the questions above I would have seen at the first meeting that they didn't have a budget and weren't committed to doing something about it. I would have qualified out early and saved myself at least four hours of my time - four hours I could have spent with better opportunities. So not only is today's sales tip a lesson for you it is also a lesson for me.

You can learn new sales skills and we are here to help you by offering you an option to gain new knowledge.
By Michael McMeekin
Image by Photo Rack

'10 Sales and Marketing Activities that are free to implement' mini sales course delivered direct to your inbox. To register send an email to sales@arrowsales.co.uk. Take a look at http://www.arrowsales.co.uk.



7 Steps to a Designer's Successful Marketing Plan

Marketing is the key to increased profits and growth for any business.

Marketing is all about determining the needs of your target market and providing solutions to meet those needs.
These 7 steps will help you to create a successful marketing plan for your business.

Most companies promotions focus on how great their products and services are. Instead, educate your target market consistently and start building a relationship that will establish your credibility and trust. It is important to develop a marketing mindset. It is very important to consistently market your products and services. Don’t fall into the trap of stop and go marketing. Some small business owners only market when sales are down.

You can’t have a successful design firm without having a successful marketing plan. Effective marketing is the way to growth and profits.

If you’re a design studio owner or you want to know how to start a small business in the future, this simple 7-step plan will help you understand your business and your target market.

The Marketing Plan: 7 Steps

Begin the process by answering these questions:

1) Who?  Who specifically is your target market? Who is your ideal client? What research can you do to find out more about your target market?

2) What? What products and services do your ideal clients want and need? What does your product and service do for your ideal client? What problems does your product solve for your customer? What are the solutions that your ideal client is looking for? What is your area of specialty that will differentiate you in the marketplace? What are the industry trends? What type of message will your ideal client likely respond to? What are you ultimately selling? For example: Are you selling eye glasses or are you selling vision? What is your unique mix of products and services? What is your pricing strategy?

3) Where?  Where is your ideal client? Where is your customer located geographically? Where will you position yourself so they can easily find you? Where are the best places to get your marketing message to them? Will you speak to groups, hold seminars, or write a blog, newsletters or articles?

4) When?  How frequently does your target market need to hear your marketing message? When are they most likely to buy your products and services?

5) Why? Why are you in business? Why do customers or clients buy from you? Why should they choose your product or service over your competition?

6) How? How does your customer buy your product or service? How are you going to reach potential buyers for your services and products? How will you communicate your marketing message? How will you provide customers or clients with the information they need to make their buying decision?

7) Marketing Mindset – Practice mastering a Marketing Mindset and you will be on the path to a profitable small business.

With these 7 steps, you can take action towards starting a  marketing plan that targets new customers. "Marketing is about testing and evaluating your return on investment. But it’s primarily about helping people get what they want." Master these marketing steps and you will be on the path to more profit and success as a business owner.


By Robert Moment
Image by  Frenk And Danielle Kaufmann

Robert Moment is an innovative forward-thinking small business and marketing coach and the author of Invisible Profits: The Power of Exceptional Customer Service and It Only Takes a Moment to Score. Robert specializes in teaching entrepreneurs and small business owners how to start a business that profits and grow.

Risk Management - 9 Steps to Avoid Litigation

Photography by Konstantin Tavrov
Accidents, mistakes and misunderstandings can happen in any business. Some are settled amicably, others grow into full-blown disputes, and before you know it you could be facing a legal claim.

Being sued is stressful, time-consuming and expensive. Even if you win the case the disruption to your business can outweigh any financial gains. A key objective for most businesses is to avoid being drawn into litigation in the first place and here we outline the steps freelancers can take to safeguard their business against litigation.

Nine Steps to Safeguard Your Business

1.  Professional contract agreements.

No work should be done without a contract. Always have one in place that defines scope of services and terms of remuneration before you commence an assignment. Without an agreement the opportunities for misunderstanding and controversy are numerous.

2.  Documentation and tracking changes.

A common source of dispute is when the client believes they have asked for a solution that does one thing only for the freelancer to deliver a solution that does another. Know who is responsible for when things go wrong. Meticulously document client requirements and be particularly vigilant when changes creep into a project - as it is easy to lose track of them. Make sure all changes are costed and signed off. These records will be of immense value in defending against legal claims.

3.  Checking work.

Freelancers are not required to be perfect. However, this does not relieve them from the obligation to check their work because this is one of the standard systems used to discover and correct errors. Errors, per se, are not evidence of malpractice, but failure to check the work product is.

4.  Communications with the client.

Many of the claims made by clients are not for serious damages but are based simply on discontent and dissatisfaction with the Freelancer. This is often brought on by the Freelancers own lack of consideration of the client. Seemingly minor things such as missing deadlines, lateness to meetings, unavailability by telephone, failure to return emails, and failure to keep the client informed at all times. With this background of discontent, a real problem such as exceeding the cost or time budgets will trigger an avalanche of serious legal problems. The best way to keep clients happy is to treat them with respect, keep them informed, and maintain a friendly relationship.

5.  Early recognition of potential disputes.

When issues do arise, dealing with them quickly and professionally can prevent them developing into a major problem. Burying your head in the sand never makes disputes disappear. Deal with complaints in an appropriate way and seek advice from a solicitor who understands law if your issue escalates. Most insurers offer a free 24 hour advice helpline, which will put you in touch with experts on how to best handle your situation.

6.  Early recognition of potential disputes.

When issues do arise, dealing with them quickly and professionally can prevent them developing into a major problem. Burying your head in the sand never makes disputes disappear. Deal with complaints in an appropriate way and seek advice from a solicitor who understands IT law if your issue escalates. Most insurers offer a free 24 hour advice helpline, which will put you in touch with experts on how to best handle your situation.

7.  Meeting budgets


Clients become very dissatisfied and resentful when costs exceed the approved budget. In such situations, the client may give serious consideration to making claims against the freelancer as well as withholding payments of professional fees.


Overall scheduling of a project should be realistic and should be updated whenever necessary. Client approvals should be sought all along the way. When the client is counting on use of the project at a certain date, failure to receive it will often be very expensive. Freelancers must avoid being a contributing factor in schedule slippage by failing to make prompt decisions and delivering work late.

8.Fees and charges

Many client dissatisfactions are based on fee disputes. In some cases this is because the billing is not clear and consistent with the written contract. All invoices should be rendered on time and strictly in accord with the contract. If the bill is not paid within a reasonable time, the best thing to do is talk to the client to find out if there is any misunderstanding. A billing adjustment to satisfy a client at this point will usually be less costly than fighting and paying lawyers later.

9.  Have an up to date professional indemnity insurance policy in place

Litigation is always costly, however big or small your case is. It makes sense to have an up to date Professional Indemnity Insurance policy to defend your legal position-just in case. Read the policy wordings carefully and make sure they are relevant to your profession.

Although we may never achieve perfection, we can at least try. By being constantly alert and aware of the usual sources of errors, we might lessen their occurrence. From time to time we should stand back and take a good objective look at our operations. Even minor improvements could prevent or avoid some economically ruinous claims. These suggestions above are not all-encompassing, but should help you avoid being sued by your client.

By Mridu Bhattacharya

For further information on professional insurance solutions for UK freelance professionals please contact Coulson Pritchard Associates directly on 01480 470220 or visit at www.coulsonpritchard.com

Pro Bono Interior Design: When to Say Yes

Opportunities for pro bono work may pop up during your design career and can be an amazing vehicle for growing your design business. There are many things to be considered when deciding whether your design firm is up to the task. Here are some guidelines to help you decide if you should say yay or nay to donating your time and talent.

Getting Exposure

If your design firm is a startup or you’re new to your community, pro bono work could be a great opportunity for you to introduce yourself and your company to the world. Conversely, if you’ve been in business for a while but are looking for a way to make a splash on the design scene, this is definitely a way to get the attention of potential clients. If you’re a personality that cringes at the thought of self promotion, doing pro bono work is an excellent way to get your name out, put your company out front and let someone else sing your praises.

When the Client Pool is Low

A perfect way to invest in your business when times are slow is through charitable giving. Since pro bono work shouldn’t take precedence over paying design clients, taking on pro bono projects when there’s a lull in business frees you from that worry. If design clients aren’t knocking down your door with projects, donating your services could keep you and your team busy in the mean time. ( Get more tips on how to handle slow times here.)

Charitable Contributions and Investing in Your Community

You’ve heard the old adage that it’s better to giver than to receive. Pro bono work is a perfect way to use you interior design skills to give to your local charity. Think of causes that have a need for interior design services. Charities that involve women and children, children with illness’ or disabilities are places you can begin in your search. You’ll realize that the possibilities to make use of your creative talent for a good cause are endless.

To Catch a Client

Working with arts companies, ballets and other local organizations on a pro bono basis is a great way to get your foot in the door and make way for the possibility of future paying interior design projects. These companies typically have budgets that make provisions for annual redesigns. If you’ve done pro bono work for them, you’re on their radar and they’re likely to call you back – with pay. This could also open new doors and provide great networking opportunities for you and your design team.

Portfolio Growth

One of the great things about taking any design job is its ability to expand your portfolio. When looking at taking on pro bono interior design projects, portfolio potential may be a factor that could make or break the deal for you. Consider whether the end product has the potential to be award-winning or if you could be working with a revolutionary product, concept or company. Answering yes to these questions could make the decision for you before much else is considered.

Once you’ve considered these factors and decided to accept the challenge, hammer out details between you and the client then put everything in writing. Below are some negotiable items to consider when putting together your contractual agreement.

Creative Carte Blanche

Typically designers have a great deal of creative control on a pro bono project. Discuss this at length, as you would with any client, and make sure you and the client are in agreement about the guidelines. Most organizations will have some parameters within which you should execute your vision, so don’t get crazy. Keep your ego in check and remember that this should be a win-win for everyone involved.


Ensure that you will receive the full “Design by” credit printed in footnotes of any materials the client produces- especially press releases. Also, ask to have “Design by” credits posted in a prominent place on the site and how long the signage should remain on the site.

Print Copies

Ask for copies of any promotional materials the client produces to announce to your mailing list the completion of your project. You could also ask the client to cover postage for these mailings. This is especially effective with arts organizations due to their healthy mailing budgets.

Bonuses & Negotiables

Remember that song that said “I ain’t to proud to beg”? Asking for season tickets or recognition as a corporate sponsor is not too much to ask when you’ve donated your services. At best you end up with tickets or being a corporate sponsor. At worst they say no. Either way, you’ll never know unless you ask.

The Caveats:


When considering a pro bono client, steer clear of start-up companies who are “in need”. The risks of taking on such a client could cost you more than money. You risk setting a precedent for cheapening your brand, having the client lose respect for the design process and negatively impact the industry as a whole. Should the client offer you a subsequent paying job, you chance being ridiculed for your because “the last project didn’t cost that much.” I suggest sticking to giving your time to nonprofits, charities and local arts companies to reduce the risk of such encounters. You’ll save yourself time money and a huge headache by just saying no.

Vendor Offender

Asking your vendors or subcontractors for free or discounted products or services is a subject that is a bit touchy. I suggest having the client request pro bono work from subcontractors. If you know vendors that may want to help, by all means refer them. However, having the client barter with vendors allows the vendor to negotiate their credits and terms with the client and have those discussions remain between them. It also keeps your hands clean if they don’t get the same terms as you from the client in the end.

Being very selective when approaching these types of projects will be key to the success of this strategy. Failure to do so could open the door to huge regrets. However, when done right, pro bono work could be the stepping stone to your next big design project.

By V. Carr
Managing Director
The Interior Design Resource Agency
Copyright 2011 All Worldwide Rights Reserved
Image by StockSource 

10 Ways For Design Businesses to Cut Costs

Ten Ways For Small Businesses to Cut Costs
As the economy shrinks businesses must think in terms of cost cutting. Business owners must start by looking at all costs. Finding ways to save money may be challenging but it will be important for surviving and thriving in a down economy. Here are 10 ideas that the Kiplinger Letter lists as ways other businesses have reduced costs.

1. Renegotiate contracts

Look at everything for which you have a contract. This might include advertising, phone bills, leases etc. With all the layoffs and business closings vendors may be ready to make a deal. I recently had my cell phone contract expire. I went in to AT&T and told them what I had been paying and that I wanted a discount. They reduced my payments without my having to sign a new contract. It is worth asking even without a contract.

2. Pare benefits

Health Insurance is a big cost. Raising the co-pay and deductible is one way to reduce the cost. If you have valuable employees, you will want to tell them why you are doing this. Look at the other benefits you offer too. Where can you reduce the benefit even temporarily?

3. Curb travel

Use videoconferencing, webinars and teleconferencing to help eliminate the need for most travel. When travel is necessary use discount hotels, economy rental cars and mass transit.

4. Watch energy use

Install and use programmable thermostats that turn down the heat at night or when you are away. Use energy efficient light bulbs and turn off lights and computers at night.

5. Bartering

Partner with other businesses to provide them services or product in exchange for their service or product. Online marketplaces allow swapping for credits to buy what you need.

6. Get by with less

As business contracts you may need less. Look for places where use of product may have been excessive in the past and cut down.

7. Repair don't replace

Don't throw something out just because it doesn't work properly. Instead of buying something new see if it can be repaired. (Shoes are a good example here. When the soles or heels are worn, take them to a shoe maker.)

8. Do it yourself

Farming out the work may be less necessary now when business is slow. Look at the responsibilities of your staff and be sure that each has enough to do. One caution - leave time in your day for marketing. One reason for having someone else do the work for you, is to leave time in your day so that you do the work that only you can do.

9. Use electronic methods

Pay your bills online to save postage. Use electronic files and save paper and printer ink.

10. Shop for discounts

Buy in bulk, take advantage of association discounts, look for volume discounts on services (courier, Fedex, telephone) The Kiplinger Letter also warns that care must be taken to make the right cuts without jeopardizing safety or customer service. Care must be taken to insure that it will be easy to gear up when the economy turns around. I'd also recommend you focus on business development at the same time as you do cost cutting. Businesses can not survive on cost cutting alone.

By Alvah Parker
Photography by TWMedia

Alvah Parker is a Practice Advisor (The Attorneys' Coach) and a Career Changers' Coach as well as publisher of Parker's Points, an email tip list and Road to Success, an ezine. Subscribe now to these free monthly publications at her website http://www.asparker.com/samples.html  and receive a values assessment as a gift. This assessment will identify your top 4 values. Working from your values makes the work more meaningful and fulfilling.