As part of our vision to create a community where businesses can come and learn about how to grow, we are doing a series of interviews with business owners and executives that highlight what has helped their businesses grow.
Today’s interview is with Sara Conte, Co-Founder of PrestoBox.com.
1. Can you give a brief overview of what PrestoBox does for our readers?
Sure, PrestoBox is a startup software company and the world’s first automated branding agency. It’s the perfect option for small businesses who want more than the online DIY templates, but who can’t afford an agency. The “Brand Genie” automatically matches small businesses with a recommended brand personality through 12 easy questions (backed by 10 years of research and the latest technology). Small businesses can then quickly build a cohesive and well designed Brand Kit, including a logo, business card, and website.
2. What is your vision for PrestoBox?
Our vision is to bring branding to the masses. In the past, small businesses had to spend thousands of dollars and take months of time to determine their brand. With the Brand Genie, it happens in a snap. Small businesses need brands as much as big companies. Brands help small businesses tell their story and connect with their customers.
3. In looking at your website, it is amazing that you are able to deliver a complete branding package and website for under $100. What is even more amazing is that you have eliminated a lot of the challenges normally associated with creating a brand and a website. Can you speak to the branding process and how its simplicity has played a role in your success?
Oh thanks! Simplicity is a big compliment. We take a complex and expensive process and make it easy and affordable. Our founder, Elicia, developed this unique methodology in an offline way first while running her branding agency. We added technology, millions of design options and a team of people passionate about solving this problem for small businesses. That’s how we created this platform for scale. It also helps that we’re partnered with Weebly for our websites – arguably the best technology on the market servicing 30 million customers.
4. In general, what have been the key factors to your growth?
We are growing primarily through strategic partnerships and content marketing. There are a lot of companies already laser focused on serving the small business market. We offer them a fun, easy and affordable new solution for their existing users.
5. Is there a specific story that stands out to you where a customer was really impacted by what you do?
One of my favorite customers is Susan Philpot, a woman who is starting a coaching business in Austin, Texas. She wanted a jumpstart for her business – and needed to look polished. The Brand Genie gave her just that – and more. She was online and ready for business in a matter of days. She just kept telling us, “I love it.”
6. It looks like you have had success reaching out to the media and influencers. How did you manage those efforts?
A combination of efforts – some reached out to us – and others we targeted. We haven’t done a full push for media coverage. Instead, we are really focused on getting helpful information out to small businesses about branding (content marketing).
7. Any advice for other business owners who are looking to grow?
My advice is to clearly set goals and then outline the steps to reach them. Growing a small business can be really tough. Celebrate every milestone and learn from your missteps. Listen to advice, but be true to yourself. Nobody has all of the answers.
Thank you Sara for your time! This interview highlights one of The Way Company’s core principles, the importance of understanding what challenges your offering is helping customers overcome. Yes, PrestoBox has a created a great product that delivers automated branding, but it is also working to eliminate the need for small businesses to spend thousands of dollars or months worth of effort developing a great brand.
To learn more about PrestoBox or build your business branding package visit their website at prestobox.com.
Your logo represents your business. It’s the entryway to your brand and should make your customers feel welcome from the start. Use the checklist below to create a logo that’s right for you.
1. Define Your Brand
When creating a logo, it’s critical that you lay the foundation of who you are, what you stand for and how this idea looks in colors, fonts and images. Put this into a brand statement – what do you stand for? Make absolutely sure that your logo reflects your brand.
2. Make it Simple and Practical
Too many small businesses create fussy, complicated logos. The most effective logos are often the simplest (think Nike, Coca Cola, IBM). Sometimes all you need is a professional type treatment. Make sure you create a logo that is legible in all sorts of spots big and small, wide and narrow. It should look good in black and white. It should be easily reproducible. And please don’t use clip art.
3. Look at Your Competitors
Check out your competition. Make sure your logo stands out in a good way.
4. Ask Your Friends
Get feedback from your friends (customers, suppliers, employees, etc). Ask them how your logo makes them feel. What do they think of when they see the logo? If you’ve got it right, these comments should match your brand statement.
5. Make it Offline/Online Ready
You will need various file formats for your logo.
6. Protect It
Do extensive online research for who is using your name and possibly similar logos. Check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website to see if there are other companies using your name, or a similar logo. Work with an attorney to do an official trademark search and to file for a trademark. Make sure there are no major infringements you launch.
Once you’ve ticked these boxes, start using your logo. Put it on all of your marketing materials, your invoices, your t-shirts, the side of your truck, and more. Remember your logo is just the tip of your brand image. Use complementary and consistent colors, images, fonts, patterns and brand voice in all you do. Create a brand guide and distribute it through the company so everyone knows what you stand for – and what that looks like. Give your logo life with a full brand ecosystem.
In today’s digital age business cards actually matter more than ever. These cards are physical proof that your business exists – and an important contact reminder for small business growth.
The best business cards leave a great first impression and encourage future connections, but many small business owners confuse business cards with advertisements. Don’t make this mistake. If you want a flyer, print a flyer. If you want people to remember how to get in touch with you and build relationships, print a business card.
Here are three key ideas for designing great business cards.
1. Keep It Simple
Be deliberate about the information you include on your cards. This should include your logo, your name and contact info. Include your mobile if you want people to reach you outside of the office. Include a fax if your customers use it. It’s fine to omit your address if you work from home. Less is usually more. Leave some white space on the card so people can write a note after meeting you.
2. Brand It
Make sure your business card is consistent with your business brand. Design your business card using the same colors, fonts and personality you use when decorating your office, building your website and creating brochures. All of your marketing materials should match and work together to communicate what you stand for – whether that’s innovation, security, beauty or brawn.
3. Professionally Print
Quality matters. If possible, get a sample and feel the paper before committing. We prefer 80-pound+, or 16-32 point paper weight – usually uncoated. You can choose between offset or digital print. Traditionally offset has been higher quality, but digital printers are catching up quickly. If you’re printing more than 200 cards, consider offset. It will be less expensive for larger quantities. Don’t include a border on your cards because it may look askew after they are trimmed. Leave about a quarter inch around the edges for the background color to “bleed” off the edges.
These ideas should help you create business cards that can both start and continue valuable conversations for your business. Keep the cards simple, but well designed and they will serve as a positive reflection of your brand.
Customers are the life of every business. Your company won’t exist without them. So how do you find out what they’re thinking? You ask them! But there’s a real art in getting them to respond in a meaningful way.
Follow these five steps to meaningful customer feedback.
1. Know your customer
First, you need to know as much as possible about your customer. Identify your core customer. To help figure this out, review your sales figures. In most businesses, 20% of your customers generate 80% of your profits. This is your core customer.
Write down as much as possible about this customer and how they interact with your products and services. How old are they? Male/female? Why do they need your product? Why do they like your product? What are they passionate about? Where do they live? How do they live?
Develop this into a full narrative about your customer. Give them a name.
2. Throw a party
Now that you know who you are targeting, get them to talk. In person feedback is the best way to get nuanced information from your customers. Ask your customer to demo your product. Watching your customer interact with your product will almost always provide incredible insights.
Get a group of customers together. Throw a party. When we were starting PrestoBox, we threw Brand Genie launch parties where we invited people who matched our core customer description to give our software a whirl. We did it on a shoestring budget by borrowing cool space in the penthouse lounge of a friend’s apartment and catering the food ourselves. We watched silently as people went through the process, then talked to them individually and finally brought the group together for a discussion. All the while we kept it light and fun – enticing them with the “magic” of the Brand Genie. The feedback we received was priceless.
The event doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to be consistent with your brand.
3. Remove yourself
The “party as focus group” is a great way to dig into what your customers are thinking and feeling. However, customers aren’t usually as honest when you’re right there. You need the brutal truth.
Remove yourself from the equation and do some blind tests. Our favorite source for these types of reviews is UserTesting.com. You define who you want to test your product and then get feedback in an hour with videos of your target customer speaking their thoughts as they use your website.
We tested our product this way and were startled at the results. It was clear after watching the videos that our logo builder product was broken. All of the users said that they needed more variety before they would consider making a purchase. It was the first time we heard this so directly. This feedback immediately changed our priorities and we got to work creating thousands of new logo options.
This service works great for online companies – however it can be replicated offline as well. Just remember to remove yourself from the equation.
4. Send email
Email is one of the most effective ways to get customer feedback. However, you need to do it right. The average person receives over 100 emails each day and is increasingly annoyed by messages they did not ask for. Make your email relevant and more likely to get a response by taking time to craft it.
A request for feedback email is not the same as a newsletter. Keep the email short and leave the graphics out. Start by making it personal. Use the person’s first name and insert a personal message. If the recipient knows you took the time to write this email, they may take the time to respond.
Online surveys can be an incredibly effective way to gather information. However, clicking on a link takes extra time and your response rate may decrease. Try embedding your question in the email and then tally the results by hand.
Use “because”. When you want people to take an action, always give them a reason. Response rates will go up significantly if you tell your customers why it’s important. One word can make a big difference. Try to incorporate a few of the most persuasive words in the English language: you, free, because, instantly andnew.
5. Call them
Reach out to your customers on the phone. In today’s digital era, a personal phone call stands out and can be a great way to get feedback. Handle your calls with care. Make sure you are friendly, professional and uber respectful of their time.
A great time to call is after they place an order. You’ll be on their mind and they will be more inclined to help. Do leave personal messages if your customer doesn’t pick up. Treat these customer calls just like you would a call to a dear friend.
Follow these steps to get meaningful customer feedback. And once you get it, remember to circle back and let these customers know what you did with it. Tell them when you launch your new products and thank them again.
Photo Credit: Eugene Kim/Creative Commons
Logos help businesses big and small create tremendous value and instant recognition. It represents everything you do. Logos use colors and images to affect our emotions. Whether it’s the red in Red Bull (aggressive), or the green in Starbucks (relaxed). And this influences our buying behavior.
The problem is that most businesses struggle to create a logo. Some pay millions (Pepsi spent $1 million). But logos don’t have to be expensive. Nike paid $35 for its swoosh. Google paid $0 (founder Sergey Brin created it on his own).
Whether you spend a lot or a little, you must invest the time to determine what you want that logo to say about you.
Follow these steps to jumpstart the process.
Step 1: Know what you stand for.
Define who you are. What's the promise that you’re making to your customer? Make a list of the key attributes of your brand. You may be known for customer service, quality, or speed. Try to narrow your list to three or four. You’ll make more of an impression as you focus your message.
Step 2: Know what you look like.
What colors, fonts and images convey your brand promise? Look at companies you admire and notice how their choice of color and design conveys their values. For example, whites can convey simplicity and purity. Greens can convey new beginnings and growth. Blues may be more appropriate for a business with traditional values. Each color brings out different emotions. The colors, fonts and images you choose to represent your business can make a strong and lasting impression.
Step 3: Get some help.
You've determined your foundation. Now get some help. If you can only spend $50, you will walk a narrow path. Agencies will charge an arm and a leg. So get online and surf the web. Try out one of the online logo builders. Don’t use clip art. Post your creative brief at some of the crowdsourcing websites and see what comes back. You have defined what you want and will know it when you see it.
Step 4: Create a whole system.
With your new logo, you now have the foundation of your brand in place. Make sure you build from this starting point so that all of the parts and pieces of your new brand work together.
And then, say hello to new business!
Think a brand is just for big businesses? Think again. Branding is critical for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Your brand is what the outside world thinks of you. That’s it. Although you can influence your brand through well-designed logos, hilarious ad campaigns, carefully crafted press releases, or super-friendly service, ultimately, your brand is what the outside world says it is.
Why bother? Because strong brands are the key to customer loyalty and higher sales. The Economist recently reported, “Brands are the most valuable assets many companies possess. But no one agrees on how much they are worth or why.” Strong brands inspire loyalty, and we can’t always put our finger on exactly how they do it.
SEE ALSO The Definitive Guide to Building a Brand
Branding can be a daunting task for small businesses and it’s easy to think brands are reserved for the Nikes and Coca-Colas of the world. But branding is even more important if you’re a small business.
Four reasons to brand your small business:
A brand makes you look bigger
If you scream “small-time vendor,” or “mom working in her bathrobe,” that is how your customers will want to compensate you. Branding will help elevate your business. Research other businesses—who do you look up to? Find an example of what you want to look like.
A brand builds credibility
If you want people to trust that you can deliver, you need to look the part. A well-designed brand is as important as brushing your teeth before the first date. Think about what you stand for and communicate that to your customers in everything you do, from the colors you choose to the words you use.
A brand makes you memorableStand out from the crowd, in the right way. Your customers have to remember you to find you. If your potential customer Googled your service, what would they find? Identify elements of your business that are different from your competitors, and showcase them in unique ways.
A brand attracts customers
When customers understand who you are and what you offer, they think about doing business with you. When they trust you and begin to love you, they tell their friends. Once your brand is solid, word of mouth is the best way to grow your base. Ask your customers for reviews and referrals. Make sure they know you appreciate the business. Build on great reviews by showcasing your happy customers. Grow your business further with well-planned and brand-consistent marketing campaigns, using the same colors, fonts, and personality.
SEE ALSOCustomer Focus and Consistency: Keys to Strong Brand Building
Case Study: Dermatology Associates of SW Washington
When Dr. Elizabeth Dawson joined Dermatology Associates of SW Washington, she knew she needed to change the “face” of the practice in order to stand out in an increasingly competitive medical marketplace.
But the practice couldn’t afford to go to a branding agency, where prices started at $50,000. Dr. Dawson tried working with a graphic designer, but after five fruitless rounds of logo designs and thousands of dollars spent, she still didn’t find the brand that she was looking for.
So, she changed her approach. Dr. Dawson needed an affordable, easy solution and started with the Brand Genie, an automated tool to define your brand identity. She worked through this process with her team to figure out what they really stood for, what they wanted their patients to remember about them and tell their friends.
Dermatology Associates defined a brand that felt right to them. We call it “elegant simplicity.” The core brand attributes are professional, caring, intelligent, honest, and respected. The benchmark brands are Apple, Nordstrom, and Trader Joe’s.
Those words sound great, but what does that look like? What is the color for “professional and caring”? How can fonts—not just words—convey “honest and respected”? What images demonstrate “elegant simplicity”?
Each of these details were addressed. The brand quickly came to life as the design system was created. Dermatology Associates chose a beautiful palette of colors, fonts, and images—all designed to work together and consistently convey their brand attributes.
Take a look at the before and after:
Before: Not sure what we stand for, but we know we’re located in the Pacific Northwest.
After: Elegant Simplicity!
This small business instantly looks bigger and more professional. It builds credibility with its customers as it conveys the attributes that are important to them—caring, intelligent, honest, and respected. This small business also becomes much more memorable as the system starts to work, with all customer touch points conveying similar messages.
And finally, it attracts customers. Who would you rather see?
With its new brand in place, Dermatology Associates is positioned to generate more patient traffic, strengthen the loyalty of existing patients, and solidify relationships with referring physicians. In other words, the practice is now ready to do business.
“Our new brand greatly improves our image and the face of our practice. It helps us convey that we’re current and modern, yet still warm and welcoming.”
– Dr. Elizabeth Dawson, Dermatology Associates of SW Washington
SEE ALSO 4 Ways to Turn Your Website into a Marketing Heavyweight
Did you work hard to brand your business before you opened, or did you work on branding after the fact? How has your personal brand affected how you do business?