When should you bring in external help?

Unless you’re a Jack of all trades, it’s likely you’ll lack certain skills to bring all the elements of your brand to life. Andy Kirk, design strategy director at 1HQ Brand Agency, answers some critical questions.
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How much time should business owners spend on developing their brand?

‘Once you’ve got your product or idea, you need the rest of the story to put it together. Spend as much time as you can on what makes you different. People get hung up on their product attributes, but what’s your story? Where’s it coming from? What’s different about you? I’m a great believer in brand personality. You need to instill it in everything you do.’

When is it worth bringing in external help?

‘As early as possible. The longer you try to do it yourself, the less criticism you’re willing to take. Part of what makes a brand successful is being able to take a dispassionate view of it. You want to get to a point where you’re thinking like a CEO of a big business – where your partners pull you up on things or show you a better way, because you won’t know everything. There are loads of exciting design companies and consultants out there who are looking to build their portfolio. And they’ll often take a punt on something just to get a good case study.’ 

What needs doing before a business owner reaches out?

‘They need the fundamentals in place, but a good agency or strategist will draw it out and help them frame what it is they want to say and how they should say it. That could be about positioning and where they fit into the market, or it could be about personality and bringing that side of things to life.’

How does one go about finding the right agency?

‘Talk to a few people – a lot of the time it’s about chemistry. A lot of people think of it as very transactional, that you’re going to buy a bit of design. It doesn’t work like that any more – you need to find people who feel like they’re part of your team. Like big agencies work with big clients, they’re in it for the long term.’

What’s the first thing you ask businesses when they approach you?

‘I ask them to tell me the top three things they are going to tell people about. When you’re excited about your business, you want to tell everyone everything. But that’s not possible, and the more you talk at them, the more confused they’ll get. You need to be focused about what your story is.’ 

This article was first published in How to Start a Business 2021. To become a subscriber or purchase our newest guide, head to our webshop.

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