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We’ve all been there; we’ve all started businesses and we know how hard it can be to decide where to spend that precious and very limited start-up capital.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to marketing your new business. Start small and build as you go, or burst onto the scene and get the jump on your competition. The first scenario is chosen more often because many new business owners fail to see the big picture value of this investment. Are there advantages to both scenarios? Absolutely, but consider this. A weak brand can negatively impact your company—it may not show your credibility and could fail to inspire the necessary confidence a new customer may need to make the decision to use your business. In addition, your organization will require a very costly rebrand later on down the road which may leave your customers confused and wondering what’s going on in your organization. None of these are scenarios you want your customer to associate with your business. While investing money in the visual aspect of your business requires a significant up-front investment, its value far exceeds its cost.

Maximize your investment by choosing only the most important materials you need to market your business right the first time and do the rest later. To help you with this decision, we’ve created a list of what every start-up business should have.

1. A Logo

Seems like a no brainer, right? Contrary to popular belief, less can sometimes be more when it comes to logos. Some people are confused into thinking that everything about their business needs to be portrayed in their logo. That is ideal, but definitely not required. Most importantly, your logo needs to be strong and easy to understand. If your logo is on a road sign or a vehicle graphic, it needs to be simple enough that a viewer can instantly recognize and understand it, should they only get a fleeting glance. In addition, detailed logos can experience potential output problems, for example, fine details may become indistinguishable when the logo is shrunk for a business card, web banners or embroidery, etc.

Think of some of the biggest brands out there and chances are their logo is very simple. Apple, Nike, McDonalds, Staples. These are all very simple logos. Jeep, FedEx, Disney are all wordmarks, meaning it’s just a word. The simpler your logo, chances are it will never go out of style, saving you mucho deniro on expensive rebranding costs five or ten years down the road.

2. Business Cards

Despite the popularity of social media and online networking, your business card will always play a significant role in your organization’s advertising strategy. Your business card is often the first piece of advertising your customer will see and from it, their first impression of your organization will be made. What kind of an impression do you want to make?

Your business card is more than a way to neatly distribute your company information. How often do you have a potential client giving their undivided attention to your business? Maximize this opportunity and make a meaningful connection with your customer. Give them more than just your phone number and your website address and tell your customer about what your organization does and how it can solve their problems.

3. Website

As the number of people doing research online before making purchase decisions continues to climb, it is imperative that your organization has an online presence. Consumers want to check prices, learn about who they can buy from and what their policies are before picking up the phone or driving to the store.

At a minimum, your website should contain the following information:

  • A description of your business
  • Why a customer should deal with you and why your business is better than the competition.
  • Your products and services and how they solve your customer’s problems.
  • Testimonials from past/current customers
  • Contact information

Depending on who your customers are, it may be worth the investment to add other elements like instructional videos on how to use your product or e-books on other ways customers could use your product. You may want the site to collect email addresses for a newsletter down the road. There is no limit to what your website can do, it’s just a matter of budget constraints. Remember, if built properly, you don’t need to do it all at once. Start with a basic site now if that is what the budget permits and add more features as time goes on.

4. A Facebook Page

For many businesses, a Facebook page is also expected. While some types of businesses may do better on Facebook than others, it is another platform where you can get in front of your customers—for free—and build brand recognition.

Remember, using Facebook to promote your business is different than other methods. People go to Google to find something, whereas Facebook is a social experience. A hard-sell on Facebook would be viewed by your customers as you going to a party in sales-mode. Nobody wants to be pitched to at a party.

5. A Postcard or Brochure

A postcard, rack card or brochure is a great leave behind piece that is relatively cheap and if done properly, can be a remarkable advertising tool. The more innovative, the better. Forget the tri-fold brochure and go with something different and unique, but keep your content short and to the point. Talk about the high points of your business. How can you solve your customer’s problems and what makes you better than the competition. You can leave these behind at sales calls, hand them out at network events or tradeshows. Talk to other businesses where your services complement each other and see if they’ll hand them out for you. Are you a caterer? Mail some to local event planners. Are you a photographer? Mail some to wedding organizers.

Spending wisely is important when starting a business but marketing is not the area to cut corners. The money spent on these five items will be returned repeatedly. These items transform “a job you do” into an entity unto itself with a look and personality; something your customers can see and trust.

How many sales would you have to make to recover a $3000-5000 investment in these items? Probably not as many as you think. On the flipside, how many people could potentially be turned away by a weak brand or the uncertainty of whether or not your business is up to the task? Humans are very visual and as much as we like to think otherwise, the book does get judged by its cover. Having a strong brand speaks volumes to the credibility and abilities of your business. Without that, you will have to spend more time and work much harder to convince your customers that they should do business with you. Invest in a proper brand and let it do the work for you.

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