Getting to Grips with Business Graphics.
As a small business owner, one of your primary activities will be the execution of your marketing strategy. Without marketing, you will fail to reach or engage with enough people to make your business viable, so the success of your campaigns is essential to your company’s survival and prosperity. Part of the success of your marketing strategy will depend on customers identifying with your business, and one of the primary ways to achieve this is by the use of well-designed graphics.
To summarize the basics of creating a marketing strategy, you need:
- A strong message that shows clearly why people should come to you;
- A good idea of who your target market is;
- An appropriate spread of advertising across different media forms;
- A strategy of using promotions to encourage potential customers to use your service or buy your product.
There’s a whole lot more to marketing than this, but this is adequate as a bare-bones guide. The tricky part of achieving awareness amongst your target market is being able to stand out from all the other businesses that are also trying to catch consumers’ attention. This is where graphics can play such an important part.
What are graphics?
Basically, graphics are all the pieces of content on a website or in printed media that aren’t text. Chiefly photos and drawings or paintings, but anything that is a visual image rather than consisting solely of the written word. Maps, diagrams, charts, blueprints, schematics, designs, and all mediums of artistic representation can be graphics. The images can be used as purely promotional, as in a logo for brand identification; informational, e.g. photographs of your products; directional maps for locating your premises; diagrams of how to assemble your products or artistic illustrations that add interest to your written content.
How are they sourced?
They can come from a range of diverse sources. You might take photos or draw your own cartoons to go to your website for example or employ someone internally or externally to create them for you. These are straightforward, but when it comes to using other people’s graphics, you enter the whole tricky world of copyright. Most people know what copyright is in its most basic form, i.e. you can’t copy or use someone else’s work without their permission.
The tricky part comes in the details, for example, you are permitted to use a certain percentage of a printed work for research purposes, but you can’t make a photocopy of another article or chapter in the same publication without paying a copyright fee. There are permitted uses and exemptions, and some resources are published with fewer restrictions, e.g. you are allowed to copy the material as long as you acknowledge the source, or sometimes the material is provided entirely free of copyright for you to use as you wish.
The critical thing is not to know the intricacies of every section of copyright law, but rather to be sure how the law applies to any resource that you wish to use. You can do some research online to check that what you want to do is compliant, or employ specialists in copyright law to assist you if you need more help. You can also make use of the services provided by qualified librarians – they are very familiar with copyright law and will be only too pleased to offer some advice – usually for free!
Logos and branding
A great logo and strong branding are marketing gold dust, as you gain customer recognition and association with your product in a very immediate form. Most Americans would recognize a golden “M” on a red background, or a white tick, knowing immediately that they represent McDonalds and Nike respectively. They will know what these companies do, what sort of customers buy their products, the prices, how cool they are perceived to be, and a lot of other information besides. When you study these logos, they are so simple in design but so powerful in the way that they have become synonymous with the companies they represent.
Although you may have a bit of a way to go before you reach the corporate heights of these industry giants, the same principles apply whatever the size of your company. You need to create a logo that symbolizes your business and what you provide in a clear, unique way that will appeal instantly to your target market. If you can afford to work with a professional graphic designer, they will be a big help in creating a successful logo. There are also tools available that allow you to create your own graphics, such as DIY Logo, which is perfect for small businesses and sole traders who don’t have the budget for outsourcing this work. When deciding on your logo, take it slowly and don’t agree on the first image that comes to mind. If you end up rebranding your logo, you risk confusion from the customers who have already acquired.
Your logo should feature on all your stationery, product packaging, website, email – in fact, anything you produce should have the logo on so that it becomes synonymous with your business. Consumers recognize images and relate to them more strongly and with greater immediacy than most straplines. Even the likes of Nike know that the tick is better remembered than their strapline “Just do it.”
If your logo strikes a chord with your target customers, then when they are thinking about a product or service that you can provide, your brand logo identification will pop into their head, and they will turn to you before your competitors. Your whole offering also needs to reflect well on your business, presenting a professional image that impresses potential clients. Using old, poorly shot photographs, diagrams with insufficient labeling, maps with no interactive capability or unintelligible graphs will present a poor image of your company and people will be put off, believing these substandard graphics indicate a poorly run business.
In your efforts to produce quality written content, get your marketing strategy right and balance all the spinning plates of staffing, supply, revenue, profits and the hundred and one other tasks your business requires, don’t neglect your graphics. They may only be a part of the overall picture of building a successful business, but they can be such an important influence it pays to accord them the significance they deserve.