For many entrepreneurs, one of the most fun parts of launching their business is creating a brand identity. When you see that final version of your company’s logo for the first time, there’s a sense of satisfaction of finally having a “real” business.

Once your business starts growing and your attention is diverted to other things (like making payroll, for example), however, it can be easy to let your visual brand assets slide. Fortunately, it’s not hard to get back on track, it just takes some discipline and some good advice, in the form of these tips from one of my favorite graphic designers, Sarah Symington of Symmetry Design:

1. Conquer with consistency. One of the greatest brand killers is having different “looks” for your business across all different platforms. While you may like variety, it’s confusing to consumers and it’s also wasting the time and effort you put into your brand. One logo.* One color palette. One set of typefaces. It will add up to one strong brand.

2. Keep it simple. The most effective logos and brand schemes are often the simplest ones because they are easy for consumers to remember and understand. Having a cluttered logo and too many colors, fonts and other elements in your marketing materials makes focal points difficult to create and it can also make your company look less professional.

3. Create a brand guide and stick to it. Once you have the singular focus of your visual brand as outlined above, you need to document it so that anyone working with your brand can keep it consistent and so you can refresh your memory. A brand guide doesn’t have to be fancy, a simple electronic document detailing the following will do:

4. Keep your marketing assets up to date. Once your company has had a website, social media accounts, print materials and other marketing collateral for three months or more, it’s time to revisit them and make necessary updates to keep pace with your evolving business. Doing so allows you to keep everything consistent and to make any needed changes in light of your operational direction. Plus, distributing outdated materials to potential customers is not the kind of first impression you want to make!

5. Ditch the DIY design. Yes, it costs money to hire a graphic designer, but not doing so can have a much higher cost for your business in terms of reducing the impact of the image you convey to prospects and customers. Well-constructed, consistent brands can command a premium in the market. That’s why investing in a professional designer is key. Start with your logo and color schema and then as your business grows, you can have your designer create other pieces as your needs and budget allow.

Most businesses should conduct a brand audit every quarter to ensure that their visual brand is being adequately maintained and keeping pace with their business. Keep Sarah’s five tips handy as a reference point and you’ll be well on your way to creating a strong and effective brand.

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