When you decide to start a business, you’re faced with a number of critical tasks, many of which may fall outside your core areas of expertise. The thoughtful creation of a branding strategy is likely one of those “what do I do?” situations.
Individuals who specialize in branding can provide invaluable counsel to you, guiding you through the complicated process of identifying the central focus of what your business stands for, something that must happen before you begin execution of any branding components.
Where’s the Value?
A branding professional will evaluate your business (typically using your business plan as a guide) and assess the marketplace before recommending image elements. You may retain someone to merely assist you with visual branding (i.e., logo, typestyle and colors) or you may want a branding professional to help you with everything related to branding, which includes not only visual elements, but things like how the phone is answered at your business and how your product is packaged.
When’s The Right Time?
Believe it or not, it’s appropriate to begin working with a branding professional even before you name your business. After all, what you call your business will be a major branding element. Consider the genius behind the Apple brand; branding professionals certainly played a hand in creating that memorable moniker.
Since defining who you are is an important part of branding, it’s important to have a branding professional on board before you secure the help of other professionals such as website designers, graphic artists or copywriters. This is a smart business decision that will save you money; you must have a well-defined central message before making an investment in website or collateral development, or you’ll find yourself endlessly revising your materials.
How Do You Choose?
The best way to select the branding professional who’s right for you is to do a sweep of companies in your industry and see which ones you think have done the best job of communicating their values. You’ll want to look at things such as whether their collateral and website have a common look and feel, and whether the overall tone of their message is professional and succinct. Then, ask them who is responsible for their branding.
If you’re not comfortable with that approach, you’ll want to carefully research people and companies noted as branding professionals. They will run the gamut from small printers and web domain providers that claim branding as a subspecialty to public relations and advertising firms. Since their work will have a direct reflection on the success of your company, you want to ensure the person or company you enlist truly has the expertise to provide knowledgeable counsel.
What Will You Pay?
It’s impossible to provide an accurate guideline for what you’ll pay for the expertise of a branding professional. Your price tag will depend on two components: the level of involvement and expertise you require.
If you wish to limit your branding professional’s involvement to visual elements, you may be able to limit your expenditure to a few thousand dollars. As you broaden the branding professional’s involvement, your price tag will rise, and it could go as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars. The price will also depend on whom you choose to employ; agencies may often bill at a higher rate than sole proprietors, for instance.
As with anything, you generally will get what you pay for in the branding arena. Since the future of your company is at stake, you can certainly consider it a prudent expenditure to hire the best branding professional you can afford.