Many small businesses dont realize how important their company image really is. The following is a formula for low cost marketing for a small business to create or better their image. To find this formula I interviewed Evan Paull, the owner of a small sign making company based in Annapolis Maryland called Independent Sign Consortium or ISC. ISC was started in 1996 and has had a steady growth ever since. I also interviewed Allison Green, the marketing director of Revisions, Revisions is based in Baltimore Maryland and is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the mentally ill.

Many small companies believe that a corporate or company image develops all on its own. Therefore, they believe the business itself has little or no control over shaping the outcome of the image. Often a company will delay any investment in a public image because they think its an expensive luxury. It is only after some bad publicity or a negative event do they relies that some effort needs to be put into improving or defining their look. Of course if you wait until something like this happens the cost is always going to be higher.

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Most successful businesses have a carefully crafted image that separates them from the competition and helps to establish a solid public presence, remarks Allison Green. A distinct corporate image benefits many aspects of any business. Public relations rely on image to attract new customers and to generate repeat business. Finance departments depend on image to impress investors and shareholders with a sense of stability. Employees feel more secure when a company has a good image.

An image should always accurately reflect the substance of a company. However, an image is only a perception, an appearance, a representative look of that substance. Subsequently, as Green says, it doesnt always have to cost an arm and a leg to accurately represent the company. Given an unlimited budget, any fat corporation can create a new image or alter an outdated or damaged one. Those of us with more modest resources, given only a camera, a copier and an ink jet printer adding some creativity can do it even better.

There are some things on which you should never cut corners, safety regulations or legal issues for example. Looking only at the surface, in this instance, is a good thing as is going for style not necessarily substance. You only get what you pay for doesnt really apply here. Remember an image should reflect the true quality of your products or services, however, as Evan Paull says any little set designer will attest, you can get great looking reflections even when you only have very little resources.

First, take a look at your present image. Make note of the things you like. Decide on what components can or can not be changed (the name perhaps). Look at the parts that you hate or the parts that need a great deal of improvement. Notice the parts of your image that are neutral.
In order to develop a positive or a new and improved but inexpensive image, start identifying other businesses that have the look you want. Start with the competition. Collect their brochures and other printed materials especially business cards and annual reports. Visit their locations and take note of the signage, the dcor, furniture, and display cases.
Next study other businesses that just have a look that you like or an appearance that gives you a good first impression. Even if they are not appropriate for your particular needs, identify parts of the look that you like, a logo or sign, a color combination perhaps. Whenever possible take pictures. Go through magazines and catalogs, clip logos, ads and pictures that express an image you would like to achieve. Carefully examine fonts, letterheads and graphics. Many times things are not as they appear. Gold lettering on a sign is not gold, wood grain is not real wood and marble floors are seldom made of marble In these instances, a designer or architect looked at the surface of the project and chose materials to suit the needs of his design and the budget of his client.When putting together a company image, you need to begin seeing things on

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