Image Can Be Everything When It Comes to Small Business Success

Date: July 01, 2013

You often have just one quick shot to attract potential customers, so it’s important to nail crucial company visuals like logos, websites and storefronts.

Kim Steen owns Intown Tumbling and Yoga for Kids!, offering exercise classes for children in an old church building in Atlanta. Because she didn’t have a large budget when she started the business, Steen relied on the expertise of an artist friend to help her design the logo. Her mission? Get the business noticed by its target audience: kids and their parents.

It worked; the logo’s bright blues and greens drew people in to her class space, which also incorporates the same color scheme. The colors "keep it happy and welcoming," Steen says.

Tips for Managing Your
Small Business' Image

  • Identify which types of customers you want to reach
  • Use positive visual cues, such as an engaging logo, website or storefront
  • Build on the personality your business already has

Nicholas Overmann, owner of Oveer Marketing, a Tampa-based consulting company that specializes in working with start-up businesses, says his main message to business owners is to identify who you want to reach in terms of customers or clients. "It’s all about understanding your company’s vision and what you are and how you position yourself within your respective industry," he says. Positive visual cues, like an engaging logo, website or storefront, are crucial for positioning your business and resonating with potential customers.

John Valentino opened his first Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida, 12 years ago after a career in selling large industrial equipment. Now he has three restaurants, and two more on the way, within a franchise chain that tries its best not to feel like a chain.

Mellow Mushroom started in Atlanta in 1974, "born out of the free-wheelin’ hippy culture of the 1970s," according to its website, and now has approximately 150 locations. Over time, its image has taken on the individual tastes of the franchise owners—with the food remaining a constant.

     RELATED: How to Do Big-Time Branding on a Small Budget

Valentino says he tries to "think outside of the box" when it comes to creating an image and to "embellish on the personality that Mellow Mushroom already has." He says business owners should allow their personality to come through in their storefronts and in the way that their business is presented to the public. In today’s uber-competitive economic climate, a business with great personality can really differentiate itself from the crowd.

For one of his locations, Valentino sought out a 1950’s school bus and had it cut into three pieces—rear, roof, and front—and then installed in various locations throughout the restaurant. In this Mellow Mushroom, customers can sit in booths that are actually within the space of the bus. It has become a big draw for children, and, for one of his new restaurants, he has plans for a similar concept with an antique fire truck.

     RELATED: 4 Ways to Boost Your Brand

Valentino also manages his image by making his restaurants kid-friendly, and, as a result, he gets a lot of birthday-party business. He even gets involved in the community and hosts fundraisers at his restaurants for charities.

"Obviously, we’re not opening hole-in-the-walls anymore," Valentino says. "We’re trying to provide the same vibe in a looser format. We’re just trying to be different. I want to be different from anything in the market. That’s what I try to achieve in terms of the atmosphere."

His employees also have a role in crafting the image of his restaurants. He likens it to Greek life at a college or university where people self-select.

     RELATED: Mixing Business with Personal: Should You Be the Face of Your Brand?

"I don’t want to say we attract hippies," Valentino says. "Perhaps people who are more interested in organic, who are laid-back somewhat. We’re not as corporate as an Olive Garden... We are corporate in that it’s our mission to make everyone walk out the door happy whether they came happy or not.

"We invest in policies and procedures to maintain that consistency. Honestly, we’re known as a cool place and people are attracted to cool places."

Read Next: The Pros and Cons of Crowdsourced Logo Design


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