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Branding 101

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I was talking to a friend the other day who was asking me all about what I’ve learned about starting my own business because she wants to do the same thing. We were talking about the name of her business and supplies and how to sell things. The first thing that came to my mind was BRANDING! After spending 10 years in marketing and branding I have an acute awareness of how branding can make or break a business. It’s the second most fun thing about starting my own business.

First: You need to pick a name for your business that means something to you but also is unique and easily identifiable for your customers.  “Jams by Jamie” might feel like the perfect name for you (and it’s very catchy) but what if you decide to branch out and make pickles? Or pot holders? That name is very limited in product scope.  Also, you need to do some internet research and see if anyone else is using that name. Can you get a unique web address with that? The nice thing about a homemade business is people expect it to be personal so you can have a cute business name like this.

Second: You need to think of a look that says “you”. This includes your logo, the look of your website or blog, the labels on your products, your business cards, anything that a customer is going to see. Even though this a “home-grown” business, you want to look professional and instill confidence in your customers.  If your jam labels are askew and smeared with jam, I would be worried that you were sloppy in the canning process as well and that I might get sick later!  Are you really into being green? Then how about using paper bags instead of plastic? How about kraft-color paper or labels instead of shiny white?  How can you get across your company’s mission and passion in everything a customer sees?

Third: Make sure you do your homework and have everything working together. As much as I’d love to put up a table next weekend at a show, I know I’m nowhere near ready for that. I have a lot of work to do to get my logo to where I want it and design product labels and business cards, as well as figuring out exactly what products I’m going to sell. But there also comes a time when working on the minutia of all these details becomes an excuse for not actually putting yourself out there. You can find a happy medium between these two extremes.

The best book I’ve read in my research for how to really formulate a successful business (and also great tips on online selling and presence) is The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin.  Even though I have a lot of marketing experience, I found this book immensely helpful, especially as the handmade niche market is very new to me.

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