Weathering the Storm

Designed by jcomp / Freepik

As a small business owner, this virus will hit hard.  When sales stop, so, too, does our income.  In most cases, bills will continue to flow in. 

Yes, I will consider myself extremely lucky if all my friends and family survive this pandemic. 

Financial health would be some lovely icing.

The Small Business Association has a lot of great resources for this situation . . . from an Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program to Local Assistance:  https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources 

A lot of other wonderful and necessary business accommodations, information, and tools are currently in the making as well, but the focus of this blog will be about creativity.  As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another opens.”  The lesser known continuation of the quote is “. . . we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  In this terrible situation, I challenge you to look for another door through which you can temporarily rebrand your business.

Some business alterations are more obvious in this new climate.  Restaurants are open for takeout and offering free “contactless” delivery.  Retail stores are encouraging “retail therapy” from home and also offering free delivery. 

Some business have had to get a little more creative.  A few examples to help inspire your creative thinking include . . .

Craft stores are offering instructions on how to DIY face masks and hand sanitizers from products available for shipment. 

Businesses that typically have at-location customers (and now have an overflow of convenience products) are offering a free roll of toilet paper with their take-out product. 

Gyms are offering virtual classes.

Real estate agents are offering virtual tours (created by the homeowner).

Some entrepreneurs are investing a portion of their reserves in the stock market, betting on the long game.

Invitation businesses are designing postponement announcements.

Charities are hosting virtual auctions.

Some business that simply cannot function now are offering their customers discounts for booking their product/service in advance. 

Home improvement stores (which are able to stay open as an “essential” business) are providing instructions for DIY projects around the house – since most people are homebound with some extra time.

A blog that strives to help entrepreneurs create and develop their corporate identity is now focusing on crisis communications and rebranding opportunities.  (Ya, that one’s us.)

I hope offering a handful of business Coronavirus coping strategies sparked your inner innovator.

Remember . . . “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” (Charles Darwin)

Good luck.  Stay safe.

A “Legal-Approved” Free Collection of Social Media Icons

When looking to promote your social media presence, you want to include logos for each outlet, but you don’t want to be on the receiving end of legal issues with Facebook or Instagram.  So we’ve done the legwork for you and compiled the logos each social media outlet wants you to use along with the rules for each.  If you had a legal department, their ‘approved’ rubber stamp would be inked up and ready!

Facebook

Brand Resources – https://en.facebookbrand.com/facebookapp/

  • Use the “f” logo to promote your business’s presence on Facebook.
  • The color of the icon can either be facebook blue or white.
  • Include a call to action and link with the logo.
  • When using along with other icons, ensure they are all equal in size with adequate space in between each and maintain the shape and proportions of the “f” logo.
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.
  • Don’t make the logo the most prominent feature of your piece.

Instagram

Icon (and instructions) – https://en.instagram-brand.com/assets/icons

  • Use the Instagram glyph (or outline) in black or white (though you can place on a pink background when showing with other social media icons in their brand colors).
  • Use the logo with a call to action unless including in a lineup with other social media icons.
  • The glyph should be surrounded with clear space – specifically 50% of the glyph’s size – on all sides.
  • Make the glyph no smaller than 29×29 pixels.

Twitter

Brand Resources – https://about.twitter.com/en_us/company/brand-resources.html

  • While Twitter prefers you use their icon free of any container, they provide versions with the icon enclosed in a square, a square with rounded corners, and a circle.
  • When pairing the logo with an account name or hashtag, scale the text to 100% of the logo’s height.
  • Only use the logo in Twitter blue or white.
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.
  • Don’t surround the logo with other creatures or accessories.
  • The empty space around the logo should be at least 150% of the logo’s width.
  • Make sure the logo is at least 32 pixels wide.

YouTube

Brand Resources – https://www.youtube.com/about/brand-resources/#logos-icons-colors

  • Surround the icon with free space of at least 50% of the icon’s width. 
  • The icon should be a minimum of 24dp in height (digitally) and .125 in (printed).
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.
  • Only use the icon in your social media assets when linked to a YouTube channel.

Snapchat

Snap Kit Design Guidelines – https://docs.snapchat.com/docs/design-guidelines/

  • Use the Snapchat app icon (shown above) along with other apps. (Otherwise, use the Ghost logo.)
  • The icon should be a minimum of 18 px (digitally) and .25 in (printed).
  • The empty space around the logo should be at least 150% of the logo’s size.
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.

LinkedIn

Brand Guidelines/Downloads – https://brand.linkedin.com/downloads

  • Only use the logo in LinkedIn blue, all white, or all black.
  • Make sure adequate space surrounds the logo.
  • Don’t change the logo in any way.
  • The “in” should be a minimum of 32 px (digitally) and .25 in (printed).  The ® symbol should be clearly visible.

Pinterest

Brand Guidelines – https://business.pinterest.com/en/pinterest-brand-guidelines

  • Use the Pinterest badge (above) and not the wordmark.
  • Always include a call to action and your Pinterest URL with the logo.
  • The logo height should be proportionate to the call to action text. 

We hope this guide simplifies the use of social media logos for you.  However, please keep in mind that this collection does not replace the full guidelines provided by each social media outlet, and those should be reviewed in full as well. 

If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you!  Post in the comments section below.

Creating a ‘Follow Us on Social Media’ Sign in Microsoft Word

You’ve created your social media pages to reinforce and promote your brand, and you regularly dedicate your time to adding content.  Now, you want to be sure you’re taking every opportunity to properly promote your social media presence.  If your small business has a physical location (office, retail store, etc.), hanging a sign in a high-traffic area is a great option and relatively quick and easy.

I’ll show you the steps to create such sign in Microsoft Word.

1. Open Word, create a new blank document, and insert a rectangle.  (When your cursor turns into a plus sign, you’re able to draw your shape.

By default, mine is blue.  Right click the rectangle and select More Layout Options. 

Set the properties to . . .

  • Size: 10” in Height and 8” in Width
  • Text Wrapping: Behind Text
  • Position:
    • Horizontal – Absolute Position of .25” ‘to the right of’: Page
    • Vertical – Absolute Position of .5” ‘to the right of’: Page

Set the Fill to No Fill and the Line to a Solid Line, Black Color, and .5 pt Width, choosing the Dash Type selection shown below.

2. Click inside the rectangle and type “Follow Us on Social Media”.  Set the font to one or more choices that work as your heading and size to appropriately fill the space.  Set the Alignment to Centered.  I went with the font Candelion Regular in all lowercase at size 160 for “follow us” and (on the next line) Calibri in all caps at size 25 and added a space between each letter.

3. Next, decide which review platforms you would like to feature.  We are currently active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest and will be highlighting those.  Then, go to Google to find logos.  Most social media outlets will have a corporate page that makes their logo available to the public along with instructions for proper usage.  For example, Facebook has a Brand Resources page easily found when searching “facebook logo” on Google.

As you find the appropriate source for each social media outlet, save the logos to your desktop.

4. Press enter within your document to advance to the next line space and then insert each of your saved logos (from the menu at top, press the Insert tab, and choose Picture) in the order you want them to appear on your sign. 

Inserting each of mine took me to the bottom of a second page.  So, the first step in adjusting sizing is to crop any excess space from the logos.  (As you can see above, the outline of the Pinterest image is directly around the icon, so no need to crop that one.)  That’s not the case for LinkedIn . . .

To crop, click Picture Tools (at the very top of the screen), click the Crop icon (at top right), drag the outer edges of the box tight around the logo, and press enter.  Once all the logos are cropped as needed, try to match their size to about and 1.4” in height.  (This will ensure you have adequate room for text.)  To do so, click Picture Tools again and enter a height at top right.

Repeat for the other icons.

5.  Click in the space after your first icon, press enter to add a line space, and type your profile name/URL for that platform; repeat for your subsequent logos.  This process once again took me onto a second page.

Therefore, decrease the font size as needed.  I went with size 20.

And then adjust the spacing a little for each line of text (so you have additional room between each social media outlet).

And you’re done!

6. Save your file, print, cut (on the dotted line, which is 8×10”), and frame!

A Note About Fonts and Colors:
While the instructions described above will achieve the simple and modern design pictured, you can (and should) customize the look for your business. If you’ve been brand building from the start, you already have a Style Guide in place, and everything you create for your business should reflect the guidelines you’ve set for your logo usage, fonts, and colors. If you’re new to branding, be sure to review our story on The Role of a Brand Style Guide.

Happy designing!

Basic SEO: Make Sure Your Web Site is Included in Search Engines’ Index

Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on Pexels.com

SEO or Search Engine Optimization, in a nutshell, helps your web site be found online.

The very first step is to make sure search engines know your web site exists.  Or, more specifically . . .

CHECK WHETHER YOUR WEB SITE IS INDEXED

Search engines “crawl” the internet, reviewing each web page found, and then organize the content in their “index” to provide as future search results based on the relevancy to keywords searched.  If you’re not in the search engine’s index, you’re virtually invisible to searchers or, as applicable to us small businesses, potential customers.

Seeing whether your web site is in their index is easy.  From any search engine, search for “site:yourwebsite.com”.  (In our case, we search:  site:brandbuildingforsmallbusiness.com.)

In our check, we found that most of our blog is a part of Google’s index.  Since Google performs the lion’s share of searches (see below), we’re going to focus on them.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR WEB SITE IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE INDEX?

According to Google, a few common reasons explain why a site might not appear in search results.  The most popular issues and some potential solutions are listed below for you.

  • PROBLEM:  Other web sites do not link to your site, and/or your web site is simply too new.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION:  You can create pages for your business in social media venues (like Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) and include links to your web site. 
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Find popular web sites that could benefit from content on your web site.  Once you’ve identified some possible targets, send an email or letter to the appropriate person (usually a contact page will have the needed information) and explain why you believe their web site would benefit from linking to yours.  Be sure to follow up.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION:  Get online reviews.  If applicable to your products or services, create a page for your business on popular review sites (google, yelp, etc.) and seek out reviews.  If you know of a particularly happy customer that has a web site or a strong social media following, ask for a plug to your business.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION:  Think about business contacts that could help you promote your web site.  For instance, you may use intermediaries or suppliers that have an appropriate place on their web site to link to your business.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: And last but not least, post quality content and be patient.  “If you build it, they will come.”  Whether a baseball field or a web site that adds unique value to the digital world, people will eventually find you, and they will link to your web site.
  • PROBLEM: Google’s ability to crawl the site has been hindered by Flash, other specialized technology, or a lack of text.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: If your web site utilizes Flash or another specialized technology, you may want to consider a redesign in HTML.  While this could be a significant undertaking, you want your web site written in a language that search engines understand.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Review the image to text ratio on your web site.  Do you have enough words for search engines to fully understand the content for each page?  If not, you can either replace your images with text (try to use formatting to achieve that same visual appeal) or supplement the images with explanatory captions.  Remember that you’re communicating with your web site’s audience as well as search engines.
  • PROBLEM: Your web site generated an error when Google tried to crawl your web site.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: The most common reason for this problem is secured content.  If your web site requires a log-in to enter the site, Google won’t be able to enter either.  Consider restructuring your web site so that your more general pages are open to the public and only the pages truly requiring a log-in get that restriction.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: You can also register your web site with Google’s Search Console, which can give you some more specific information about the errors generated.

Once you feel like you have sufficiently addressed your particular problem, ask Google to crawl and index your web site.

If you have any questions or comments about getting included in Google’s index, we’ve love to hear from you.  Scroll down to the comments section. . . .

The next goal of course is to improve your web site’s search ranking, which will be the focus of a future post. 

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.  To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.

Branding Through Customer Service

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.  To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.

Most business owners appreciate the importance of customer service, but far fewer recognize the connection between the service they provide and the brand they represent.  Your customers’ experience with your business should reflect and reinforce your brand (or the personality of your company). 

Let’s look at two extreme examples. 

Amazon

amazon-vision-statement-mission-statement

Amazon’s customer-centric focus is a part of their mission and vision statements.  They are known for free two-day shipping (now with same-day options sometimes available), one-click purchases, and their virtual assistant (i.e., Alexa; lovingly known as Lexie in our house . . . or dumba@#$!, depending on the day and how well she’s performing her virtual assistance role). 

While having to wait ten minutes to speak to another company’s customer service representative may be annoying, most people probably wouldn’t be surprised.  However, we have different expectations for Amazon.  We expect to communicate with someone right away when we have an issue, and we expect that individual to capably handle the problem . . . and that’s only for those situations in which we can’t fix the issue ourselves (for example, “returning” a product without ever even interacting with customer service).  Quick, tech-savvy, and capable are qualities associated with Amazon’s brand, so we expect their approach to customer service to embody those same characteristics. 

Amazon also uses service interactions as opportunities to reinforce their brand.  They thank you for shopping with Amazon over the phone or via chat.  Afterwards, you’ll receive an email message from customer service, asking for feedback on your experience.  In that email, you’ll see the company logo, an email layout consistent with the company’s style, and a reference to the company building “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.” 

Amazon’s brand is reflected and reinforced throughout the customer service experience.

On the flip side, sometimes customer service that isn’t customer focused or service focused is actually an important part of the brand, too.

Ferrari

This company’s product is associated with luxury, quality, and exclusivity.  For the most elusive Ferraris with very limited production, you don’t simply order one from the new flashy and convenient car vending machines.  You don’t simply order one at all.  You “request” to order one, and those requests are not fulfilled in the traditionally expected “first-come, first-serve” manner.  If you have money, fame, and an existing collection of Ferraris, you will probably make the cut; no guarantees though. 

Robert Herjavec, the businessman turned celebrity on ABC’s Shark Tank, spoke about ordering a Ferrari in Wired magazine, “The funny thing is, you never really know if you’re getting one until you’re actually getting one.”

(Note that most of the cost is required in advance of being guaranteed your requested Ferrari!)

“. . . You wait for a while, then you kind of get a date range, then you get a closer date, then you get the actual date. Then it’s definitely Christmas,” said Herjavec.

If you happen to request a paint color for your new car that Ferrari deems to be in poor taste, you can be denied said paint color. 

So, you make an order (with payment) without guarantee of getting the product, you wait an extraordinarily long time IF you are given the privilege of being promised the product, and customization choices aren’t always yours to make.  All of these customer service attributes reflect the exclusivity that is Ferrari’s brand and actually add to the allure of their products.

While I am not quite Ferrari’s target demographic and haven’t been involved in this process, I would expect that their brand is reinforced at each stage of the way – indirectly and directly portraying the characteristics that define them (luxury, quality, and exclusivity), including visual brand components as well whenever possible (for example, the prancing horse).

Customer Service Characteristics that Represent Your Brand

While the two brand examples highlighted are extreme ones, all aspects of your customer service do communicate qualities about your business.  Below is a list of some different customer service opportunities to consider.  The way your company handles each of these items contributes to a brand experience . . . one that hopefully reflects your perception of your brand. 

-The amount of time taken to answer phone calls/emails

-The way customers and potential customers are addressed in person as well as via phone/email

-The extent of information available to potential customers

-The level of assistance provided to a customer when experiencing an issue

-The way customer input and suggestions are handled

-The background information included with a product or service

-The amount of detail provided with any instructions included with a product or service

-The inclusion of contact information in promotional materials and product documentation

-The extent of customer follow-up provided post-purchase

-The inclusion of your logo and tag line in all possible service interactions (e-mail, letters, etc.) and documents

-The adherence to your company’s style guide in all possible service interactions (e-mail, letters, etc.) and documents (If you haven’t developed a style guide for your business yet, read The Role of a Brand Style Guide.)

If upon looking at this list, you feel like your customer service experience is fully in synch with your brand, pat yourself on the back!  That is no small feat! 

Want an even stronger evaluation?  Ask a few of your customers to do the same review on your behalf. 

If one or more attributes could use some tweaking to either better represent your company or to better take advantage of the branding opportunities that exist, you’re not alone.  The good news is that you can make important changes over time that can have a big impact on your business and your brand.

Finding the Right Font: A Review of the Best Available Font Viewers

Since I’m writing this post during that unique period in between Christmas and New Year’s . . . when you have no concept of whether it’s Tuesday, Sunday, or even still December, I figured I would write about something that brings me great joy.  Fonts.  I am a collector of fonts.  I have ones that are beautiful, ones that are classic, straightforward, jovial, and downright odd.  I learned today I have 1,266 of them to be exact.  Most I know I’ll never use, but hundreds of them MAY get used . . . one day.  I am a font hoarder.

As a Christmas present to myself, I decided I would find a good utility for browsing my collection.  When I am trying to decide on the perfect font for a project, this very common, teeny tiny, one-font-at-a-time preview is not nearly sufficient:

I went out seeking a utility similar to google’s font viewer . . . where I could type in my desired preview text and then browse the available options in an easy-to-see size and easy-to-scroll format.

If you are in the beginning stages of forming your brand, having a tool like this — to see your company name and test out body copy in all your currently installed fonts — would be a wonderful luxury.  Once your brand has solidified a bit, you’ll still have instances in which you’ll need to choose a different font for a specific need . . . whether you’re creating a Happy New Year graphic for social media or a “clearance” sign for display in your store. 

So I went looking for the best available font viewer.  I read a number of articles reviewing the options, and I sampled a select few of them based on the reviews . . . .

CPS Font Viewer
This program was my absolute favorite, checking all the essential boxes on my font viewer wish list, excepting the very important fact that my computer would freeze for about a minute every time I interacted with the program, which is designed for a 32-bit version of Windows.  (I’m guessing this is an important fact.)  Frustration prompted my uninstalling the program before even taking a screen shot for you, but I was able to grab one from the software provider:

If your computer is a rare gem running 32-bit Windows, this program is a great choice. 

FontBase

I initially really liked FontBase, performing the requisite job in a clean and modern interface.  I also like that you can easily switch from your fonts to Google’s selection of 2,533 free fonts as desired.  However, I really wanted to better utilize all that wasted screen space and increase the number of fonts I could peruse at a time.  Unfortunately, the ability to switch from a row view to grid style, along with a number of additional options, requires an upgrade and at a pretty hefty price tag at that.  Many seemingly functional buttons annoyingly transport you to this screen, where your options are $3/mo, $29/yr, or $180 forever. 

Since I try to resist the low-price allure of ongoing subscriptions whenever possible, I was left with the $180 option, which was about $100 more than I was willing to spend.  Goodbye, FontBase. 

If you don’t mind the free row layout and can quickly learn which buttons to avoid OR you’re willing to pay for the upgrade, this program is a solid choice.

Wordmark.it

Another modern and clean interface that can also easily switch from your installed fonts to google’s free fonts, this viewer is a big step up, providing a grid layout entirely free of charge.  In fact, this is the only utility I sampled that is browser-based and didn’t need to be installed.  Your only required payment comes in the form of one font block dedicated to an advertisement every other screen or so – a very reasonable price to pay in my book.  However, this utility scans and previews your installed fonts using Adobe Flash Player, outdated software that Adobe has announced will no longer be supported as of December 2020.  I noticed a bit of a lag on the web page itself and even more inconveniently in my other software while accessing Wordmark.it.  (So going back and forth from discovering a possible font option on Wordmark.it to trying out the font in my project was not a smooth flow.)  Hopefully, the company will find a more current way to make this utility available, because it’s pretty slick otherwise.

AMP Font Viewer

This program has an old-school feel.  The installation process and program interface are reminiscent of the good old days . . . Windows 97, 56k modems, and floppy disks.  I almost immediately wrote the program off as a result. 

Upon browsing all the options in the program’s menu, I found that the view is almost completely customizable, and I was able to scroll through my 1,000+ font options with ease. 

Unlike the outdated Flash Player, this program’s age adds to its allure . . . not modern and clean but user driven and quick.  I happily declare my unlikely victor!

Do you have a favorite font viewer?  Let us know in the comments below.  Did you have an opportunity to try out one of the reviewed options?  I would love to hear your experience.