Saturday, June 12, 2010

How to Effectively Brand Your Business Without Spending a Fortune!

The importance of branding your product can't be overstated. You don't need me to tell you how companies spend millions and millions of dollars to develop a brand and market it effectively. When I worked at Liberty Mutual's Corporate Headquarters in Boston, a 30-person department was dedicated entirely to branding and advertising Liberty's different products and services.

That said, most start-up businesses are bound my monetary constraints. It's important to develop a brand and packaging that won't cost a fortune and that have the ability to grow as you do.

When I started my jewelry business, Ruby Red Studio, I had very little to invest. Obviously, I was trying to maximize every dollar. And now, I honestly receive as many compliments on my packaging as I do on my jewelry!

Here are a few things that helped me as I worked to develop the look of Ruby Red Studio:

1. Note Trends, but Opt for Classics
Build the basics of your brand like you would your wardrobe - with classic, basic items. Then, spruce them up with some cool "accessories" (more on this below). There is absolutely nothing worse than having 500 yards of lime green ribbon leftover when you decide to change your packaging. Choosing classic color schemes and supplies that have timeless appeal is paramount to developing a good, solid brand and saving money. Ultimately, people should know what they're getting based on the way it's wrapped. Tiffany & Co., anyone?

2. Make It Match
A good brand gives a cohesive, professional image. It's best if all products - from item packaging, to bags, to note and business cards - match. This means, colors, fonts, and papers should be uniform in appearance. Even if you aren't doing $100K sales per year, you can look as though you do! In this case, you are what people think you are!

3. Go Local
I'm all about buying things in bulk online and saving a few pennies. But this is an area where it might be good to spend an extra dollar or two and start with packaging materials that can be found at your local craft store. I'll admit it, I'm juggling 3 kids and other responsibilities and, at times, am not as organized as I want to be. In the beginning of a business, orders may be sporadic and/or seasonal. Keeping deadlines builds business. Actually, it makes or breaks a business. It has been helpful to have the ability to run down to Michael's, pick-up a few supplies, and ensure my orders ship on time.

4. Say It With Stamps
One of the single-most expensive aspects of building a brand is custom printing. When I started out, I wanted custom-looking products without the price-tag. Enter Etsy. I scoured all Etsy sellers for a calligrapher that made stamps. That's when I found Letter Girl. For around $60, I had stamps that could be used for business cards and invoices and to stamp ribbon, bags, notecards, gift cards - WHATEVER. Stamps also allow me to duplicate the look indefinitely for the cost of supplies and an ink pad. No re-printing items once they run out!
I also thought of a trademark for my business, ruby red slippers, and found Cupcake Tree. She created a custom, red slipper stamp for me to use. These two things alone distinguish Ruby Red Studio from my competitors on Etsy and at boutiques.
Next came Paper Source. I *big puffy heart* Paper Source. Their store is full of plain, basic items of all sizes you can use to build a line. I use their note cards, business cards and envelopes for everything. I can get 100 business cards for $8.00 and, after pairing them with white ink and my stamp, have cards that look much more custom than they are.

5. Spice It Up!
As Emmy articulated so well in this post, a little bit of glitter, a label, a sticker...inexpensive, special touches go a long way to customize your product. People liked my packaging, but now, since adding red glitter to the slippers on my boxes, they really love it and comment on it regularly. I also added customized enclosure cards inside the boxes, something that was not done by my competitors when I started my business. Anything you can do to personalize an item for your client will result in your product having an edge in the marketplace.

Hope this helps! Here's to many years of successful business and branding!


Emmy said...

FABULOUS posting Christina! Thanks so much for taking the time to pass on these valuable tips.

Sofia Britts said...

These tips are especially invaluable for those who just have started their business. Of course, they need all the branding they can get to promote their products. Given that they got their capital and funding from a loan, they really need to maximize and make every wise investment.