One of the benefits of the Get Clients On Line course is getting to know other like-minded small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to learn how to market their businesses and take them to the next level. Robin Dann and I met in the private Get Clients Online Facebook group, and decided to be ‘accountability buddies.‘ We speak over the phone for a few minutes Tuesday through Thursday, discuss our to-do lists, and encourage each other to keep moving forward on our marketing plans.
During one of our phone calls we shared the challenges we face as independent graphic designers. Robin is the owner and creative director of Studio-G Creative Design and & Marketing Services in New Milford, CT. For over 20 years she has helped entrepreneurs and small businesses build their brand with custom logos, promotional materials and websites.
Here is part one of a two part interview I had with Robin Dann.
My conversation about logos with Robin Dann
Nancy: In the 1990’s a client asked me to design a logo. A week later she phoned in excitement, saying she found an online company who would design a logo for under $300. Looking back, that was a pivotal day because my business has never been the same — I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle to maintain my integrity as a professional graphic designer.
Have you had a similar experience in your business?
Robin: Yes. I think it started in the mid to late 90’s. The Internet was new to many households and people were in awe of all of the things that were now at their fingertips with the click of a button. Packaged Design Services being one of them.
Internet based service is the way of the world now. Even clerical workers are competing with online service providers. It’s a great resource. But like anything, there is often a down side. In the case of design, it is often sub standard or template driven work that does not really fit a client’s needs.
Nancy: You’re not only a graphic designer, you’re also a marketing and branding expert. Do you see a drawback to setting up a business today, using online logo houses?
Robin: Buying a logo design online can be the answer if all you’re looking for is an attractive mark. I’ve seen marks that people use for their logos that are nice, clean and attractive….But they are just nice marks! More times than not, they don’t fit the persons business philosophy or resonate with their target audience.
What an online logo design company will give NOT give you, that a logo and branding expert will, is the background work on your target audience.
Most times the online logo shop designs just do not seem to fit the business they are being used for…or worse, many businesses will be using the same mark, just with a different name.
The whole purpose of branding is to stand out and above the competition. Online logo houses just level the playing field. They don’t take your business to the next level.
Nancy: Do you think everyone needs a logo when just starting out in business? For example, I built a WordPress website, and designed a business card and marketing materials for a local massage therapist. She was savvy, and knew that an image of herself in her work environment was more important for promoting her business, than a logo. It’s been almost a year, and she still doesn’t have a “logo,” but it seems to be working for her.
Robin: You’re right. Many service professionals just starting out don’t need a logo. In the case of your massage therapist client, she’s developing know, like, and trust with her image. If, on the other hand, she wants to position herself as a larger studio with several therapists working with her, her personal identity will no longer be as appropriate, and a logo may be the best way to represent her business in her marketing efforts.
Determining if you need a logo really has to do with the vision you have for your business, and seeing the best path to take you there. If your competition is all playing bigger and you want to move ahead of that pack, then it is time to take the next step in your branding… a logo or visual identity package is typically the first step.
It sounds like the most important thing your client needs to do, at this point, is to be sure she’s consistent in her use of font, color, and image in all her marketing materials. Online, her web header should look like her Facebook business page header; likewise for her LinkedIn page, Pinterest, or what ever she’s using to promote her business online.
Nancy: Why should an entrepreneur or business owner hire a graphic designer, instead of their talented nephew?
Robin: People hire decorators to make things work well together, and make an environment that is comfortable for their lifestyle, and visually pleasing. In my mind, graphic designers are doing something similar, only we work with images, typography, placement of words and pictures. We do the background work to make sure that our work meets the client’s needs, and overall business philosophy, so that it can help them to build their business. As designers, we gather information, coordinate ideas and resources, add some creativity and make things flow.
As graphic designers we do the background work to make sure that our designs meet the client’s needs and resonate with their target audience. We focus on the overall tone of the company, product or service — what it “feels” like…How does the company choose to relate to its customers…what do they want to be known for? Do they want to use humor, compassion…or an analytical approach? Are they positioning themselves as “innovative” like Apple computer, or “fun” like Southwest Airlines or the Aflak Duck?
We need to fully understand, and be on the same page with our clients regarding what makes them unique, or why this company is a better choice than it’s competitors?
There’s a lot that goes into design and branding…It’s more than just having a logo!
Nancy: Thank you Robin. I look forward to our next discussion on branding.