Branding is both a big topic and an inexact science. It’s no wonder that there are so many choices when it comes to choosing a creative team to help you share your story with the world.
From part-time web and graphic designers to experienced branding gurus, there is a lot to consider when selecting a branding agency.
So, how do you sift through your options and find the group that’s right for you?
1. Unless you already have an agency who knows your brand and whose work you love, you’re going to want to interview at least 3 different agencies before you pick one. Different agencies offer different services, artistic styles, and levels of quality, so you want to make sure you’re making an informed decision before you sign up with one for the long haul.
To help narrow your search, start by asking for references from friends. Do your colleagues know an agency they’ve worked with and loved? Do any of your peers work with an agency they’d recommend?
Once you have a couple names, check out their portfolios.
I know, I know: you’re not a designer and you don’t think you know how to critique or understand complicated design techniques. But listen, you don’t need to!
When you’re looking at an agency’s portfolio and website, there are four key areas that you need to consider, and you already have all the knowledge and skills you need to be able to make smart decisions in each of those categories.
2. Make sure they “get” your business idea quickly. Choosing a branding agency that doesn’t quickly understand your business can make for a really bumpy (and often expensive) ride. Making sure that they grasp your concept and your target market early on is essential for a smooth ride.
3. Even though the basics of your brand might begin with logos and color schemes, your overall approach should include a distinctive voice, consistent messaging themes, and even elements like the types and sizes of images that are used on your website and in printed collateral materials. That’s not going to happen by accident.
Work with your creative team to develop a written brand strategy that outlines who you want to be, what you want to say, how you want customers to feel. Then, refer back to it is you move forward with your marketing.
4. Insist on short communication channels. If possible, make sure that the person who is your main point of contact in the agency works directly on your account so there is little or no opportunity for messages getting lost in translation. It’s also a good idea, where possible, to have direct access to the design team; that way communication is tight and understanding is high.
5. No matter how well you plan out your branding efforts, you are almost certainly going to come to a point where you’ll need to change the way you express yourself. Perhaps your business will get bigger, take on new products and services, or even change ownership.
When these kinds of shifts take place, you shouldn’t start over from a branding standpoint, but rather take advantage of the opportunity to tweak your identity and present a fresher face to the market.