5 Mistakes New Business Owners Make With Their Branding


You’ve got an idea. Not just any idea; one of those amazing keep-you-up-at-night ideas. The ones you’re so passionate about that you decide to start your own company around this great idea. But where to begin? Most people start out by thinking they need a logo; something to trademark and make it official. You wouldn’t be wrong, but there’s so much more to a company’s brand than the logo and I’m here to share some of the top mistakes new business entrepreneurs make when trying to develop their branding.

mistake#1_no research

1) Not Conducting Thorough Market Research

Unless you took a class in business, it’s easy to jump a few crucial first steps when starting a new company. Thinking about what you want to make or do is only one side of the coin. New business owners get excited about getting paid to do what they love and can sometimes forget to do their research and make sure the business is viable one. Sometimes they invest in a name that is already taken and then suffer down the road having to change after they gained momentum. Another common mistake is to not knowing the customer well enough to speak to them.

Do This Instead: Define these three areas thoroughly in a brief:

1)  Who are you? (and who are you not?). What makes you stand out? How do you talk to your customers? Is it casual? Business like? If your company had a personality, what would they be like? What is your promise to your customer?

2) What type of person would buy your product or service? What is their socio-economic status (age, gender, class)? What do they like/dislike? How do they find you? What has to happen to them that will prompt them to seek out your services? How often do they need you or buy from you?

3) Who else does what you do? How many are there? Is the  market saturated (too many people offering the same service)? How are you going to be different? How will you convert their customers to buy from you?

Also, make sure your company name and domain name is not already taken. You can do this by checking uspto.gov for trademarks already registered.  Check your domain name though a hosting site like 1and1.com, NOT through google. When you search for unregistered domain names multiple times on a search engine like google, people will buy that domain and charge a lot of money to “sell it to you” for way more than it’s actually worth.


2) Not Hiring A Professional

Starting out, you may not have thought about the dollar value of what it takes to actually build a successful brand. A lot of people will ultimately fail because they consider design as an expense instead of a necessary and ongoing investment in their business. The short answer is that you have a higher chance of failure when not hiring a professional.

Doing it yourself – I fully respect the DIY mentality of any business owner. You’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, and learn a couple new skills. It may even be fun! I myself coded my own website for years before finally hiring a professional. After years of struggling over code and not having it exactly how I want, I finally realized something big:  I was wasting valuable time on something and my limited knowledge wasn’t enough to carry out what I wanted. The truth is that as a business owner, you should be more focused on running your business. If you’re a life coach, you should be coaching, not designing flyers for your next seminar. Acknowledge your strengths and your role as the business owner and hire a professional to develop your brand.

Hiring a family member/friend – Ok so you promise not to do it yourself. Why not a friend of family member? I highly recommend against this for a few reasons:

  • They aren’t professionally trained in graphic design, and do not have the knowledge to develop your brand the way it deserves.
  • Mixing business and friends/family is a recipe for disaster. The casual relationship is already established and trying to get people to change it to a business relationship is tough. It gets awkward really fast.
  • You are less of a priority. If your friend/family member has a full-time job, they can’t give your design needs the attention it deserves. You can’t run a company waiting and waiting for things to come.
  • After the 10th round of edits, they may start to feel taken for granted and resentful, thus hurting your relationship.

Using Crowd sourcing sites to save money – This is equally evil. Don’t do it. For those of you that don’t know what crowd sourcing sites are, they are websites like 99designs.com that lead competition based design projects. A person could create a project for their logo, give very few details, set any price, and (mediocre) designers will all submit designs and only the winner receives payment. This is no way to get design work done. If you want to read more about why crowd sourcing is not the answer, read my article, Design Bad Word: Crowd Sourcing.

Do this instead: Save your relationships and hire a professional.

  • If you have no idea what design services cost, it’s ok to fish around and ask multiple designers for their rates. The key to getting accurate estimates is to clearly define the details in the initial contact. Define what your company does, what your “problem” is (what you want designed), and be transparent with your designer about your timeline and budget.
  •  If you’re concerned about budget, ask your designer if they are open to a payment plan. Instead of paying a large sum of money upfront and at the end, you could be invoiced once a month for a smaller amount until your bill is paid off.
  • If you’ve been burned and are afraid of working with a stranger, always sign a work agreement. This way the contract keeps you both honest and protected. The designer can’t take your money and run, and you can’t take the design and not pay. 

3) Opting for a “trendy” look over something that will be iconic and versatile

Making branding decisions based off what you saw in the latest super bowl ad is dangerous. There’s a fine line between wanting to fit in with the expected norm and being unique enough to stand out against the competition. Ultimately your branding should be unique to you and those decisions should be made based off of the conversations you have with your designer.

Do this instead: Write down 3-5 descriptive words that describe your company. Use a thesaurus and try to find words that are more descriptive.


4) Rushing the Process

“I am selling my goods at a trade show booth and I need my branded materials and a website in 2 weeks. Can you do it?” Sometimes I want to say “Yeah sure, but you’re going to pay my rush fee”. But then I stop myself and remember that you can’t rush the process. Every time I agree to a truncated timeline, the work comes out less polished than if I had been given a reasonable amount to spend on it. Working in shorter times, means less idea generation, less research, and less time to re-work.

Do this instead: Start looking for a designer before you set your deadline. Be flexible and understand that your brand is developed, not created. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither should your brand be.


5) Paying For The Bare Minimum

For two years all I heard from my clients was the phrase, “I can only afford a logo right now”. While I understand the limitations of having small budgets, you can really doom yourself by not investing in a complete brand. When you just go for the bare minimum, you’re missing out on important decision-making that influences your brand from the moment you launch your business. Style guides are supposed to serve as the unique recipe book for your brand.  They define all the ingredients (logo, color palette, photography standards, design elements, typography, voice etc.) and are the blueprint to how they all fit together in a unique way. Without the style guide, you are more likely to create a non-cohesive look and feel, ultimately making for an unmemorable and weak brand.

Do this instead: Pay your designer to define a style guide. It doesn’t have to be a novel on every single rule, but it should contain these elements: the logo, logo use rules (i.e what color backgrounds it is legible on), the color palette, the typography for all your marketing channels (website, print, etc), the photo styling, and voice.

If you’re serious about starting your business off on the right foot, I highly suggest you check out the all new workshop, Light Up Your Brand.


Light up your brand is a new kind of hands on branding workshop. I’m partnering with Travis Brady, another branding nut like myself. Together we have worked for many big name brands including Target, Visa, Levis, Sephora, and Sears. Travis will help you define that “special something” I mentioned earlier, and I will work with you to develop the look and feel.

By the time you are finished with the workshop, you will have the knowledge you need to use your brand as a tool, as well as three essential brand elements: your logo, business card design, and brand style guide, all for $999 ($3000 value). 

You won’t find another workshop that gives you all the knowledge and tools to position yourself as a professional AND provides you with a finished product for such a low price.

If you’re interested in branding yourself as a professional and setting yourself apart from the masses, we will help you get there.

The best part? You can do all of this from the comfort of your own home. All classes and conversations are done over the phone. We work hard to be as flexible as possible with people’s schedules and have chosen to make the class portions at night, when more people are available.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity. We only have 6 seats available and the workshop starts March 12. For more information on how to sign up contact the workshop creator, Travis Brady.