One of the most valuable assets you have as a small business owner is your brand. It immediately conveys a complex message to anyone who sees it about not only what you do, but how good you are at it. That’s a lot of pressure to put on your brand, but it happens to every brand every day.

So, how does your brand measure up? Now is a good time to take a look and find out!

Before I jump into how to conduct a brand audit, a special word of caution for anyone reading this who might be relatively new. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about creating your brand when you start a business.

The very first step for many people is to come up with a business name. That makes the business legitimate in their mind. After the business name comes the logo. Once those two things are in place, they begin working on the business plan. This is the wrong way to go about branding.

Before you come up with a business name, you need to be super clear on who your ideal client is and what your unique value proposition is. Then – and only then – can you come up with a name.

If it helps, you could come up with a “working name” much like movies do while they are in production. They have a “working title” that is used during production and once the final movie is in place they see if that title still works – it often doesn’t and is changed.

 

OK, on to the brand audit. From time to time it is beneficial to evaluate your brand by looking at these 4 items:

  1. Business Name
  2. Logo & Brand Colors
  3. Website
  4. Email

 

Business Name

Sometimes as a business grows the name no longer works. There are a lot of agencies with some variation of “cruise” in their names who find themselves constantly saying, “I do more than cruises!” Unfortunately, adding a tag line with the other types of travel is rarely an effective solution because it isn’t as prominent as your name. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t be afraid to rebrand.

Action: Take a look at your name right now and see how it fits. Is it serving you well or are you constantly explaining it (a sign it is confusing) or expanding on it? Maybe this is the perfect time to take on a new identity.

Logo & Brand colors

Your logo can be as powerful – or in some cases more powerful – than the business name. The brand should convey your “image” to the viewer. Are you serious and conservative? Fun and playful? Focused on families? Luxury only? This is not the time to attempt to DIY! This is where you need a skilled designer to help you (not just your cousin who is pretty good at drawing). A good designer will ask you a lot of questions about not only what you do, but your ideal client before they get started creating.

Action: Look at your logo attempting to see it for the first time. Think about it from the perspective of your ideal client. Does it give the message you intend? Are the colors appropriate? If you are targeting luxury clients, does it have a luxury “feel”? Does it make you feel proud? Or is it lacking somehow?

Website

In today’s world a website is a necessity. Think of your website as a digital brochure. Many clients will determine whether or not they want to have a further conversation with you based on what’s on your website. It is important to convey not only what you do, but a visitor should feel your passion and love for what you do.

Action: Is your website custom created for you or is it a template provided by a host or consortia? Sure, a template is an easy way to get online, but that isn’t serving you as well as your own website would. If you have a cookie-cutter website, I strongly encourage you to invest in your own.

If you do have your own custom website, does it still feel accurate? Does it need tweaks or adjustments? Are all the brand colors right? Does content need updating?

Two critical things to check for on your website: Does it have your name (and preferably your photo)? And is there a way to reach you other than filling out a form? Most people don’t like to fill out forms to reach out to a vendor. They want a phone number or email address – not just an impersonal form.

Email

Here is one of the most frequent mistakes I see travel advisors make: they use personal email (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) even though they have their own domain name and website. Why?? It’s easy and cheap to set up a business email. If you are using a personal email for your business, I promise you that people don’t take you as seriously as you want them to.

In addition to your email address, the structure of your email is important. Are you using your brand fonts (yes, you should have specific fonts for your brand)? Is your email signature professional? A good email signature is important because it has the important information the reader needs without being distracting. Some signatures are far too long and cluttered with vendor logos (which looks like you are trying to legitimize your business), miscellaneous messages, or desperate pleas for business.

If you are using an email autoresponder system (like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp) the imagery there should be consistent with what’s on your website. Make sure all the colors and fonts are brand-congruent and not just randomly selected.

Action: Change over your email to a business email right away. If you don’t know how to do the technical part, reach out to whoever hosts your website – they will be happy to help. Or do a Google search. You’ll find lots of options.

Make sure your email signature is professional, has your logo, and phone number. Remove any distracting clutter.

Check your autoresponder to make sure you are using YOUR colors (you should have received those hex codes from your designer). All blues aren’t created equal! There are more than 16 million color possibilities – make sure you are using the right one! Make sure the fonts are the same too.

Marketing and branding are areas of the business that are easily pushed to that back burner by small business owners. But right now you have a gift of time and using that gift to improve your business image is time well spent. And here’s a bonus: if you want to rebrand, there are probably lots of designers out there who will be happy to help you. It will probably cost you less than it would have six months ago! Check out a site like Fiverr and you will find lots of designers who can help you. Just find one that resonates with you.

For many this exercise also helps rekindle a love for your business that was damaged by all the cancellations you’ve been faced with and problem-solving you’ve been doing. Have fun with it!