A mission statement serves as a way to differentiate your business from your competitors. It also serves as a guidepost for your business. Before you make decisions that will impact your business, evaluating your options to determine if they line up with your mission statement can help you determine the best course of action. If something doesn’t align with your mission, it’s likely it will confuse customers, derail other initiatives, or overtax your resources.
Who knew? April 9 is “National Name Yourself Day,” a day when you’re encouraged to give yourself a new name for one day. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? And if you search for the hashtag #NameYourselfDay on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll surely have a few laughs upon seeing the new names people adopt for the day.
But selecting a name for your business is no laughing matter. It requires serious thought because a business name serves as the cornerstone of your brand.
- It serves as your brand’s first impression, affecting how prospective customers perceive your company.
- It differentiates you from your competitors.
- It affects your company’s capacity to become memorable.
Tips for Selecting a Business Name
With so much riding on a business name, how do you go about choosing the right one? Consider the following tips:
1. Think about your company’s culture and vibe.
Make sure your name authentically projects the tone of your business and your approach to what you do. Consider how you would describe your company’s aura (such as formal, edgy, academic, approachable, serious, or light-hearted, etc.)—homing in on some adjectives can help you assess whether potential names will be a good match. Having a name that reflects the vibe of your business will help customers know what they might expect from buying your products or services.
2. Be mindful of cultural and societal sensitivities.
Take care not to select a name that will offend, alienate, or outrage the public at large or segments of your market. Unless your brand will be intentionally controversial, names that hint of political, religious, ethnic, or other biases will hurt rather than help you build your business.
3. Keep the future in mind.
Most businesses evolve over time. So when you decide on a name, think about your long-term vision. Avoid choosing a name that will limit you as our business grows or changes. For example, the name “Smith’s Hockey Shop” would become obsolete if the Smiths decide to expand their offerings to equipment and accessories for a variety of sports.
4. Check availability before putting the name on a website and marketing materials.
This is critical because if another business is using your desired name, you may not be able to use it legally. You’ll find free name search tools online, and many states offer a name search option on their websites so that you can see if any other businesses in your state have claimed the name you want to use.
If you believe you may eventually want to expand your business in other states, you can check on the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website to see if anyone else has registered for or been granted a federal trademark for your proposed name.
You Decided on a Business Name. Now What?
Attorneys that specialize in business formation and trademarks can guide you in taking steps to protect your business name.
Sole proprietorships, if they use a name other than their owner’s legal name, must get approval to use that name by filing a DBA (“Doing Business As,” also known as a “fictitious name”).
By registering a business as a legal business entity (e.g., LLC, Corporation), a business name becomes protected within the state of registration, helping to prevent any other registered entities within the state from using it. Obtaining a trademark protects a name throughout the entire United States.
SCORE, of course, can also help you as you decide on your business name. With expertise in marketing and branding, our mentors can offer valuable input and feedback. Contact us today to connect with a SCORE Maine mentor!
If you think logos are only important for big brands, think again. Logos provide big branding benefits for small businesses. How will a logo help your business?
- It will provide a way for prospects and customers to more easily recognize your brand. A logo can help make your brand more memorable by giving people imagery to associate with your company. So when people are looking for products and services like those you offer, they’ll be more likely to have your company in mind.
- It will facilitate consistency across your branding efforts. When you use a logo on your marketing and sales materials, whether printed or online, all pieces of collateral will present a unified front. That makes your brand appear more polished, professional, and consistent in how it presents itself.
- It can boost your credibility. A logo in and of itself doesn’t make your business any better at what it does. However, it can bring more legitimacy to your company in the eyes of potential customers and clients. A logo can help show you’re a credible, bona fide business.
What to Consider When Having a Logo Designed
Unless you’re a graphic designer by trade, chances are you personally don’t have the creative chops to design your own logo, so you’ll need to outsource that work. You might seek the help of a marketing firm, independent designer, or an online service like 99designs. We used 99designs to get a custom logo designed for FocusME, game changing support for women entrepreneurs. We were very pleased with the results and the cost!
Regardless of whom you hire to design your logo, keep the following things in mind as you collaborate with them:
- Your brand personality: How you want your business to be perceived—traditional, trendy, sophisticated, rugged, creative, high-tech, exciting, calming, etc.?
- Color scheme: Do you have other branding in place with which your logo’s colors need to match or complement? Also think about the psychological impact of different colors in marketing and branding.
- Adaptability: How will the design translate into different media? You’ll surely be using it in print marketing collateral of various sizes, and online, it will be seen on the screen of mobile devices and on desktop computer monitors. Also consider how it looks not only in color but also in black and white. Regardless of the size or color, you’ll want your logo to appear bold and distinctive.
The Lowdown on Landing an Effective Logo
Realize that before you ask someone to design your logo, you must first understand what your brand stands for. Think about your company’s core values and the traits and characteristics that define it. Communicating what you’re looking to convey through your logo is the first step in having one designed that will effectively and accurately represent your company.
If you’re thinking about having a logo created for your business and want help zeroing in on what it needs to project, contact SCORE Maine. With mentors who specialize in marketing and branding, we have volunteers who can provide you with expert guidance and feedback.
With social media, texting, and other instantaneous ways of marketing your products and services, you might be wondering if anyone really pays attention to emails anymore.
- According to eMarketer, 69.7 percent of internet users say email is their preferred method of communicating with businesses.
- And Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s 2015 State of Marketing report shows…
- Seventy-four percent of marketers believe email produces (or will produce) ROI.
- Seventy-three percent of marketers agree that email marketing is core to their business
How Could Email Marketing Help Your Small Business?
You can use email marketing to fulfill a number of objectives. For example you can…
- Introduce new products and services.
- Announce special offers, promotions, and contests.
- Provide tips to help customers use your products and services more effectively.
- Share industry news that will affect your customers.
- Share event highlights.
- Introduce new team members.
- Highlight recent awards or press coverage your business has received.
You can get the most from your email marketing efforts when you integrate them with your other online marketing strategies. For instance, you can share links to your blog posts and other pages of your website in your email marketing messages, share your email marketing message links on social media, and incorporate links to your social media accounts in your email marketing messages. All of those things will boost the visibility of each platform you’re using.
Small Business Email Marketing Platforms
Several small business email marketing solutions exist. Some are free, and some have fees (which typically start out small and increase as you increase the size of your mailing list).
As you explore the options, consider these things:
- Your budget
- The frequency at which you’ll be sending email marketing messages
- Your level of comfort in using technology tools (some platforms are more user-friendly than others)
Most importantly, know the rules and regulations set forth by the Federal Trade Commission for email marketing. There are laws in place to protect people from unwanted solicitation emails. Fail to comply with them and you could find yourself paying a hefty fine. No small business owner needs that!
If you’re considering making email marketing part of your business marketing strategy but don’t know where to begin, talk with a SCORE mentor. At SCORE, we have a team of dedicated volunteers who can help guide you in your marketing efforts and help you with all other aspects of growing your business.
No matter how small or large your business, you need branding.
Branding, according to Entrepreneur Magazine, is “the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”
For any solopreneur or small business owner, creating a memorable brand stands as a cornerstone for success. Behind the exceptional services and products you offer, you need a strong brand presence in your market to attract new customers and make you top of mind.
Branding involves instilling in prospects and customers a sense of what your company is all about. Branding, through your logo, business name, taglines, signage, website, print collateral, etc., sets expectations and drives people to feel a certain way when they see and recognize your company.
What Should a Small Business Consider When Establishing A Brand?
According to SCORE Portland Maine mentor and digital marketing specialist Lauren Guite, small business owners find few things more difficult than distilling their businesses into imagery, colors, and a few words. But that exercise is important for creating awareness and building a customer following.
“My advice to folks starting this process is to start big, putting everything down on paper,” shares Guite. “Have many brainstorming sessions with your trusted network of family and friends—with the people who get you and your business. Explore how you feel about your business and how you want your customers to feel—emotion is the strongest tie to your customers.”
Do’s and Don’ts of Branding for Small Businesses
If you’re at the start of your branding process, Guite suggests that you:
- Do research to understand how certain colors and fonts resonate with people.
- Do test your ideas before making a final decision! What your customer base thinks matters most.
- Don’t over-explain. Less is more! Keep branding simple to make it memorable.
Small Business Branding Help
Not all small business owners feel comfortable with or capable of making the right branding decisions. At the over 320 chapters of SCORE across the U.S., you’ll find mentors (like Guite at our SCORE Portland Maine Chapter) who have marketing and branding expertise. SCORE mentoring is free of charge, and many chapters also offer low-cost workshops and seminars that cover the topic of branding. You can also find webinars and articles relevant to small business branding via the SCORE national website.
If you would like some marketing and branding guidance for your small business, contact us!
More about SCORE Maine Mentor Lauren Guite
Lauren Guite is a digital marketing specialist for Environmental Defense Fund where she considers social sharing strategies and audience needs while implementing a content marketing strategy. Wanting to give back to her home state, she started volunteering for SCORE in November of 2013. After many years in Washington, D.C., she’s glad to be home and helping local businesses with their marketing challenges.
You launch your business in a growing niche market. Out of the blue, a friend tells you about a new similar product or service. After your initial shock, do you obsess about losing your edge or embrace the opportunity? At SCORE, we say “FEAR not your competition!” The right move is to transition into discovery mode. Knowledge about similar businesses may add a creative spark to your thinking or confirm that you’re bringing an authentic solution to a customer want or need at precisely the right time. Read more