Small businesses must communicate a clear, concise message

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By Sara Nelson for TCAJOB

Sara Nelson, Sara Nelson Design
Sara Nelson,
Sara Nelson Design

The more the Tri-Cities grows, the more competitive the market becomes. The larger the market, the more money moves around the local economy, but the greater the competition is for a piece of that pie.

For a small business, that’s a challenge. Bigger businesses have bigger budgets. If a marketing battle comes down to ‘how much’ — how many ads, how many media channels, how much verbiage — bigger will win most of the time. The only way for a small business to defend its share — let alone make gains — is to shift focus from quantity to quality and effectiveness. There’s no margin for waste. Everything has to count.

Small businesses can’t afford to send mixed or confusing signals. They need to be clear about who they are, what they do and what they care about.

Initial impressions are expensive to change, so development of the right image and imagery from the start is incredibly important. Visibility, clarity and consistency are key to developing and maintaining the best possible start.

First consideration: Visibility.

In my world — graphic design and marketing — that means a simple, easy-to-intuitively-grasp logo. If it takes time to decipher, people won’t bother. If a logo is an inside joke that outsiders don’t quickly and easily comprehend, it’s not clever — it’s annoying.

Visibility extends to the execution of your image. When you put that logo on a sign or website or package, is there enough contrast to ensure that it’s readable? Two colors may be on very different parts of the color wheel, but try this: Have someone with the right software bring up a logo or picture of some packaging and convert it to gray scale. If it’s hard to read that way, many people will find it very hard to make out, even in color.

A winery owner contacted me after performing a simple but disturbing experiment. She stood in front of a retail store wine display and looked for her bottles. This was HER label. She loved the illustration that dominated it. She had used that label for several years. She knew exactly what it looked like. And it took her forty-five minutes to find it — right there in front of her.

You must be visible.

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