The Power of Good Design: 3 ways good graphic design can grow your business

Good graphic design is not just the difference between bright and colourful and dull and boring. It can be the difference between your customers choosing between you and your competitors. It’s not just what you say in your marketing channels that matters, but also how you say it – the design needs to say all the right things about your business and be visually compelling to your target audience.

So, who is a graphic designer?
A graphic designer is a professional whose job is to create visual presentations that effectively communicate a desired message. They combine words and images that help to explain what a business is all about, and apply this logic to all areas of marketing communications – corporate identity, advertising, packaging, brochures, websites, social media, newsletters, though some may choose to specialise in delivering any number of these. (Note that a graphic designer is not someone who has a loose knowledge of using Photoshop, but more on this later!)

Here are 3 ways investing in good design will strengthen and grow your business…

1. Memorability
Now more than ever, we are all daily bombarded with endless numbers of brands and logos from huge multinational companies to small local businesses. If you want your customers to easily recognise you and grow awareness of your brand, then good design will help you cut through the clutter and make you stand out from competitors and others in your industry. A design specifically for your business and with your target audience in mind is much more likely to have a powerful impact than a standard design or template downloaded from the web.

Back Room SAM was commissioned to produce a bespoke logo design for semi-permanent makeup artist Sheree Siddall. Throughout the project Back Room SAM worked very closely with the client to produce a vivid and classy design that reflected the core values of her business and would appeal to her predominantly female, style-driven target market.
Back Room SAM was commissioned to produce a bespoke logo design for semi-permanent makeup artist Sheree Siddall. Throughout the project Back Room SAM worked very closely with the client to produce a vivid and classy design that reflected the core values of her business and would appeal to her predominantly female, style-driven target market.

2. Consistency
A good graphic designer will consider how your logo or corporate identity will work effectively on all different kinds of media and marketing communications, both online and offline. Your customers are likely to come into contact with you and your brand via many different channels, and it’s vital that every time they receive the same message and same visual image. If you are working with a graphic designer on your logo design, make sure you and them consider how the design will work in various contexts. How will the logo look on your website or blog? On your letterhead? On your Facebook page? On your business card? Even embroidered on a uniform?

Consistent design1

3. Credibility
Have you ever come across the phrase ‘fake it ‘til you make it’? One of the most powerful elements of design is that you can be perceived as slick and professional even if your workplace is at home at a small desk under the stairs! However you choose to position yourself in your market, good graphic design is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to communicate your desired business identity. First impressions count, and if you haven’t taken any care or attention over your design, what’s to stop people thinking you run your business any differently?

Choosing a graphic designer
I hope I have started to convince you why investing in good design is very worthwhile for your business. But what about finding the right graphic designer to work with? Here are some quick tips for selecting a designer:

  1. Your chosen graphic designer will play an important role in your business, so you need to trust them. Anyone can call themselves a graphic designer, and you want to avoid getting stuck working with someone whose work looks like something your 8-year old could have produced on Powerpoint. So, before commissioning anyone, ask to see their portfolio to take a look at the work they have done previously and the clients they have worked with. If possible, contact some of the clients they have done work for and ask for their experience of working with the designer.
  1. If possible, arrange a face-to-face meeting with the designer before committing to working with them. Explain clearly your requirements, and observe how carefully they listen and take on board your thoughts and ideas. Do they make helpful suggestions, and do their best to address any concerns you might have? And do they take the time to understand your objectives and vision and understand your marketing strategy as a whole?
  1. Make sure that you discuss and are both clear on the agreed cost and budget for the design work, as well as payment terms. Also be sure to set a deadline for completion that you are both happy with.

Thanks for reading!

sarah x

Need some help with your graphic design? I’d love to hear from you!
Get in touch with me and we’ll arrange a time to meet and brainstorm ideas together. Or visit my portfolio to take a look at some of the design projects I’ve been recently working on with clients.

Work Essentials: My Guest Blog on Work from Home Wisdom

Work from Home Wisdom badgeThis month, rather than writing a blog here on my own site, I was asked by Judy Heminsley of Work from Home Wisdom to write a guest blog on the “5 Things I Can’t Work Without”. I love Judy’s blog and always enjoy clicking through to read her posts which are often informative as well as fun to read, so I was thrilled to provide a blog post for her.

Fluffy Slippers and Filofax
My fluffy slippers are definitely a work essential!

“5 Things I Can’t Work Without” is a series of blogs written by various people who run their businesses from home. It’s a very popular read – we are by nature nosey folks who love to learn about other people and what their routines look like day-to-day, especially with so much flexibility and freedom involved in home working.

So here is my guest blog on the 5 Things Back Room SAM Can’t Work Without. I have made an effort to avoid the obvious items like a laptop or mobile phone, and instead tried to include things that explain the nature of my business and give a good idea about some of my character traits (the photo might give you some clues about some of the items I’ve chosen…)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading it!

sarah x

Video Blog: It’s the Little Things That Count

When running a business it is often the big things that are at the top of our priority list. This is understandable as these are often the sorts of things our business couldn’t run without. But in this video blog I talk about the importance of paying attention to the little details in your business. These smaller things require little extra effort, can work powerfully to set you apart from competitors and can go a long way in helping you succeed and achieve your business goals.

Thanks for watching!

sarah x

What’s on your ‘Get To Do’ List?

To Do ListI attended a networking event the other day which had an open Q&A session. Somebody asked whether there was any free software out there to help them organise their ‘To Do’ list. After a couple of people speaking up with suggestions of helpful apps for helping with time management, another person then suggested the idea of dividing your list into things you want to do and things you need to do.

This may well be a useful way of helping you prioritise your tasks, but I would like to make a simple yet bold suggestion for completely changing your attitude towards your To Do list altogether…

Got to do ‘or ‘Get to do’?

If you’re anything like me, you wake up in the morning and the moment you open your eyes your brain starts whirring with the mountain of jobs you need to get done in the day ahead. All the things you absolutely have to get done, or else…

This is of course very normal, but with this regular way of thinking it’s very easy for a normal person (let alone a busy business owner!) to end up getting stuck in a perpetual state of fear and joylessness. Our To Do list, for all its value in helping us be productive and prioritise well, can actually start to have a detrimental effect on our well-being and, ironically, our productivity. If we’re not careful, life simply becomes a daily slog of ticking things off, and our To Do list has enslaved us and become a heaven burden to bear. Sure we may be driven, but are we only driven by fear and anxiety?

So how do we stop this from happening? How do we avoid the daily grind and fear factor as we work through our daily, weekly, monthly business tasks?

It’s all about attitude!

I strongly believe that battles such as these are won or lost in the mind. Instead of considering all of the things you’ve got to do today, instead consider all the things you get to do today. Have you ever considered the tasks you’ve got to work on as being privileges? It is a privilege to work and earn a living and serve others with your products and skills, and it is certainly a privilege to run your own business. Yes, it is even a privilege to do you’re annual accounts.

choosejoy2This attitude can be difficult to adopt, and in all honesty at first I found it quite ludicrous! But this just shows far we have slipped into a negative pattern of thinking. If this is how you feel, then I recommend the ‘fake it ‘til you become it’ approach. Whenever you catch yourself woefully looking down your To Do list and risking being overcome by a low-level sense of fear or despair, re-frame your thinking. Remind yourself that these are all things you get to do.

These are all things you have the privilege of doing.

This change of attitude doesn’t promise to make your To Do list shrink or become any shorter, but it does promise to drastically affect the way you tackle your tasks. Firstly, you will feel the joy return that may have long been missing. You will approach jobs with a much more positive and freeing attitude. You will feel the fear and anxiety lift, and in a short time you will notice that your to-do list will have become your slave rather than your master. And interestingly, with an increased level of positivity you are much more likely to be more efficient, productive, persistent and alert as well.

So, what do you get to do this week?

Over to you
Feel free to share any thoughts and comments below.

Thanks for reading,

sarah x


Writing a tagline for your business: 4 quick tips for getting started

Nike - Just .....errr?

If you’ve ever had to try coming up with a tagline or slogan for a product, service or business as a whole, you’ll probably agree with me in saying it’s not an easy thing to do. Many of my clients have commented that writing an effective tagline has been one of the biggest challenges for them in their marketing communications development.

A tagline needs to be concise, to the point and memorable, while also telling your potential customers or clients something about your business (preferably the most important thing – we’ll come back to this in a minute).

So, here are 4 quick tips to help with coming up with an effective tagline…

1. Have you done the strategy groundwork on your business? Do you know what the most important thing is that your target audience most care about from your product or service? Is it quality? Expertise? Customer care? Or maybe something more emotive like the feel-good factor. It’s also worth considering what it is that sets you apart from your competitors, and what you want to be well-known for in your field or industry. It’s useful to try and pin this down to just one (at a push two) things. I know this is hard, but doing this will make constructing a tagline that typifies your business’ most important feature lots easier. You also need to think about the extent the tagline is also required to communicate what it is you actually do. The name of your business or product might already do this so your tagline doesn’t need to (e.g. If the name of your business is ‘Photo Restoration Services’), but if your name doesn’t explain what you do, you may also need to think about how to work this into the tagline as well.

2. Find inspiration! Sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and pen might not be the greatest way to get creative coming up with a tagline. You could begin by reading testimonials or feedback comments from past customers if you have them, looking at the sorts of words and descriptions they have used when speaking about your business. Ask friends and colleagues who know you and your business well for ideas; people process concepts in different ways and they might be able to capture things in a way you wouldn’t have come up with on your own. You can also test out your ideas on people who are less familiar with what you do and ask what they think you are trying to communicate about the business, product or service. Alternatively, a good tip is to go for a walk, both physically and mentally. There is no ‘correct’ process to arriving at a tagline – use whatever you think will help you to arrive at a clear and compelling message.

3. Play around with words and phrases. I have seen good taglines in the form of commands, descriptions and even questions, so play around with the structure a little. Look up synonyms and related words to those you think help say what you want to say. And don’t forget to test out different ideas by saying them out loud, not just seeing how they look on paper.

4. Allow scope for growth. Your tagline is part of the business identity. You don’t want one you’ll have to change every time you add a new product or service to your portfolio. This is especially important if your business is still quite new as you may wish to change things about your business in the first few years. So is your tagline specific enough to clearly convey what you’re about, while being generic enough to allow for some future change and growth?

Above all, don’t panic if a suitable tagline doesn’t come to you straight away. Be prepared to be patient and give the ideas chance to develop in your mind.

Over to you
How have you gone about formulating a tagline or slogan? What has led you to finding just the right words to sum up your business or product? Leave a comment below, let us know what’s worked for you.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Please do get in touch if you would like to chat more about your marketing communications for your business.

Thanks for reading,

sarah x

Remember, just because you can it doesn’t mean you should!

If you have been running a business for any length of time, you will no doubt have realised the endless possibilities out there for marketing yourself. It is likely you will already have received several phone calls or emails from people trying to sell you advertising space in one of their upcoming magazine editions, in the local newspaper or even on the back of a bus. With the rapid growth of technology, the Internet and social media, this opens up even more doors in terms of marketing and developing an online presence. Some companies will literally pay thousands to an SEO company to ensure that they stay at the top of Google’s rankings despite the ever-changing algorithms being implemented by the online ‘powers that be’.

There are clearly lots of choices in terms of how we market ourselves. But I want to say something that may, on initial hearing, sound quite radical.

What I want to say is this: just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. I believe this rule applies to marketing just as much as to pimping up cars.

Resist the unwritten rule
There seems have emerged an unwritten rule in business that we should be exploring every single possible avenue for getting ourselves out there, regardless of its cost of effectiveness level. And for some businesses and some marketing strategies, this could arguably be valid. But for the majority of us small businesses, where marketing budgets are slim and time is precious, I want to suggest that we be radical and resist the pressure to conform to this rule. We need to make sure we get the best possible return-on-investment for every pound and every hour we spend on our marketing.

If you have taken the time to put together a coherent marketing strategy, it will hopefully have become clear to you that not all marketing methods will be effective or appropriate to you. I am the first to admit that marketing can be an excellent way to waste good amounts of time and money! It is not enough to think that just because you are doing something with your marketing that you are doing it correctly or successfully.

Be fussy!
So don’t be afraid to be picky about the marketing methods you decide to use; it might be that you only explore 2 or 3 channels to begin with. Choose wisely, and make smart decisions based on the thinking you have done regarding your business environment, marketing objectives, target audience, positioning and business identity. Ask yourself “Does it make sense for me to pay for an ad on the back of this bus?”

Of course all this comes with the caveat that marketing is not an exact science; we are dealing with people and people are inevitably unpredictable! There is never a 100% guarantee of a good return on your marketing efforts. But if you have done that foundational thinking behind your marketing strategy and asked yourself the right questions, then against this backdrop you should be able to confidently make wise and sensible decisions about the best marketing methods to use and stand a much better chance of your marketing delivering the results you are after.

Thanks for reading, and I hope it’s been food for thought. Questions and comments below are always welcome.

sarah x

One of the services Back Room SAM offers is a 2-3 hour marketing strategy session structured specifically for small business owners. If you think this is something you think your business might find useful, then please do get in touch.

SAM a Superwoman of Lancashire: My video interview with Jane Binnion

This month, Jane Binnion of fellow Lancaster-based business Jane’s Social Media kindly invited me to be part of her series of blog posts entitled ‘the Superwomen of Lancashire’.

According to People Management Magazine, the number of self-employed women in the UK has increased by 172,000 since the start of the recession in 2008. So how fitting was Jane’s desire was to gather and share the experiences and challenges of a number of local business women in the Lancashire area. With me still being quite new to the world of self-employment and with a wish to share my experiences so far, I of course jumped at the chance to be part of this great project. But rather than writing a 500 word blog post, I asked Jane if Back Room SAM’s contribution could be in the form of a video blog instead.

In my interview Jane gave me opportunity to share my motivations for going self-employed, the personal challenges of running my own business and the joys of collaborating with other local traders. I also expressed my desire to see more graduates consider staying in Lancaster after study and look to how they can use their skills to invest in our city.

I’m not sure how I feel about being described as one of the ‘superwomen of Lancashire’. These are hard times and any kind of work will always have its challenges, and the kinds of challenges I have faced over the last year will no doubt be similar to those others have had to deal with. But maybe what might qualify me, and many other of the lovely local business ladies Jane has spoken to, is the desire and courage to step out and see if business and work can be done another way, a better way. A way which allows us to support our families while remaining flexible to our other responsibilities and circumstances. A way which empowers us to creatively flex and make use of whatever skills we have harnessed so far however we see fit. And a way which ultimately and fruitfully works for the good of not just ourselves and our homes and families, but also the local Lancashire economy as a whole. Maybe that does qualify for Superwoman status after all….

I hope you enjoyed watching, and look out for more videos posts here on my blog soon!

sarah x

SAM six months in: 5 down-to-earth tips for the early days of self employment

self employed

Since going self-employed and launching Back Room SAM just short of six months ago, my experience of setting up and starting to run a small business from scratch is one like nothing else I have experienced to date. And although in my case this only refers to 25 short years of life(!), I think it is still fair to say that when being compared alongside any other path in life, this is a rather unique one to be travelling. I’m sure the many others who have been through this same experience would agree. And with more and more people in our country choosing the self-employed route of work at the moment, this is to be a journey that increasingly large numbers are embarking on.

As a business which regularly works with and alongside a large number of small businesses in a variety of weird and wonderful sectors, I have become more than aware that every individual’s and business’ story is different when it comes to the how’s and why’s of starting up, the ups and the downs, and the challenges and the rewards inevitably involved in getting their business up and running. However, my hope is that these 5 down-to-earth tips of I have chosen to share below, flowing from my own experience of starting up, may prove useful to others regardless of industry or field of work.

So, if like me, you are still fairly new to the path of self-employment, I hope you find some of the tips below helpful, as just some of what I have figured out along the way so far. Or if you are a more established business owner, why not think back to your early days and see if any of these points echo back to your own experience. And as someone who is still very new to this, any comments or additions to my thoughts are of course very welcome.

So here we go. These are just five small pearls of wisdom for embarking on the journey of self-employment, for what they’re worth…

1. You are not alone, and you need a good network of people to remind you of this fact! I often feel that going self-employed is a little like going on a diet. Tell those people close to you what you are doing so that they can support you and refer potential customers to you. Also find out about local networks and networking events in the local area, as I have found these to be absolutely invaluable both in terms of finding clients and mutual encouragement and support from other local businesses.

2. Plan…but not too much! By all means, do a business plan, do your market research, do a sales and cost forecast for your first year and beyond, so that you have an idea of where you want the business to go. Figure out your business proposition and stand by it. BUT don’t let your strategy be so rigid as to sufficiently squish any emerging trends or patterns that you see happening, especially in your first year or so. A good approach is to start broad in terms of the product or service you are offering; you can always narrow down and focus later on if you wish.

3. Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster. This definitely took me by surprise! In business we often don’t think that emotions have much of a part to play, but you can’t get away from the fact that your business is being run by a living, breathing, thinking, feeling human who doesn’t exist in a corporate vacuum. There will be times when you feel great about how everything’s going, and there will be times when you feel like you’re a failure, often all in the same morning! Be honest about your doubts and fears. Be ready to spot the lies out there that might creep into your thinking and try to destroy your confidence. Put things in place in your life to keep you grounded and help you keep things in the necessary perspective. What works for me? I have a worry bubble on the whiteboard in my office in which I write down any current concerns. I take a walk in the park up the road when things start to get on top of me. I have a number of people who will help me rationally evaluate how things are going, and I go dancing on a Thursday night. But find what works for you to help you manage and control your attitude to your business. You can be sure that this will also pay dividends in helping you to work more positively and constructively.

4. Don’t be afraid to start small and grow organically.

big fish in small bowl

The mistake many businesses apparently make is they want to grow too quickly, despite very little time having been spent laying the necessary foundations and ‘infrastructure’ to sustain the growth. Don’t be afraid to take the time to learn about the industry you are working in, to build good relationships with your customers or clients and find out what they care about from your business, and to get things like your pricing right from the start. Sure, this might lead to a comparably ‘slower’ pace of growth, and you might not end up a multi-millionaire with your own yacht and private jet within your first year of trading. But when you do start to grow, your business is much more likely to grow into one which is more established and sustainable, whatever the economic weather.

5. Maintain control of what you want the business to be, and only collaborate with people who get that. In the early days of starting up you are likely to come across many people who may want to collaborate with your business in some way. You may be invited to become part a network, join forces with another business for a number of projects or make use of a business mentoring programme. All of these things can be extremely useful things for your business, and I am all for collaboration, especially on a local level. But BEWARE that not everyone will understand (or even agree with) what you and your business is about and what you are wishing to achieve. Make sure you are clear about your aims and goals, and have enough conviction and confidence to politely leave behind anything or anyone that doesn’t seem to be able to get on board with your vision. Take what is useful, leave what isn’t. And of course, that applies to my advice too!

Thanks for reading,

sarah x