Sarah Hawley, a 10-year public-relations veteran, was moving from a job at a large agency to launch her own business, Mockingbird PR, out of her home in Gilbert, Ariz. She soon discovered that her experience bringing in clients wasn't enough. Appearances mattered too.
"Freelancing without a logo or Web site or identity really hurt me going up against agencies or even small boutique firms," she says. "If I went to pitch business to someone, I would give them my proposal. But if they wanted to check me out, there was no image to put in front of them. I had to do something to be more professional. I was committed, but I looked like someone just doing it on the side."
It was time to get a logo. More than just printing up business cards, a logo can create the kind of brand identity that becomes instantly recognizable to customers and also communicates that this is a serious business. Hawley analyzed a few different logo vendors and decided upon Logoworks.com, a five-year-old online provider of logo services for small businesses based in Lindon, Utah.
STATUS SYMBOL. "I liked that their designers were spread out [across the country]," she says. "So none of the designs looked the same, and they weren't influencing each other." She also liked the ease of the process and the turnaround time. But most importantly, she really liked the cost. Hawley chose the firm's Platinum Package, which gave her 10 designs to choose from and unlimited revisions for $600 -- a fraction of the cost of getting a logo from an agency, which can start at $5,000.
A logo is a powerful marketing tool. The most successful ones act like a shorthand. Everybody knows the Golden Arches means McDonald's (MCD), the green mermaid is Starbucks (SBUX), and the swoosh can only stand for Nike (NKE).
But until recently, distinctive, well-designed logos were the province of large companies. Extremely costly and time-consuming to produce, they were for the most part out of reach of small businesses. Logoworks was launched specifically to address the needs of small businesses and offer them high-quality logo design solutions at an affordable price.
ALL ONLINE. The company got its start when Morgan Lynch, Logoworks' CEO, was working in software development for an insurance company. He was in charge of rebranding the company, and found the experience frustrating and expensive. "We ended up spending a lot of money on agencies, designers, etc.," he says. "Hundreds of thousands of dollars and a few years later…they came up with [something] I thought was O.K., [but] I wasn't really excited about it."
In 2001, after investing millions in building software and a design platform to do what he calls the heavy lifting, Lynch launched Logoworks.com. "We took a lot of the processes -- the meetings, the relaying of information between what businesses were looking for and graphic designers, what images they wanted, what colors -- and put it all online," says Lynch. "It's very efficient and eliminates the inefficiencies in the real world -- and we can do it at a fraction of the cost."
It works like this: Customers fill out an online form providing information that will be incorporated into the designs, such as color and style preferences, type of business or product, and how the logo will be used. Next, they choose from among package options, with prices ranging from $299 to $1,499. The packages are based on number of designs, as well as the option to create stationery and Web sites.
BIG PICTURES. Based on these selections, initial design concepts are made and returned within three days. Next comes the revision process, and then the design is finalized. Although the process is Web-based, at every step along the way a customer can consult with his or her personal-account manager.
Logoworks.com is another example of how the Internet is dramatically changing the landscape for small businesses. In this case, it allows them to have a logo worthy of a multinational corporation at a reasonable cost. "Small businesses are waking up and saying they too can have a great brand," says Lynch. "Ten to 15 years ago, it would have been cost prohibitive and unattainable for [them]. They can look like a national chain even if the business is only two people working out of their home."
To date, Lynch says the company has come up with 45,000 logos. While the company doesn't disclose sales figures, Lynch says the firm's sales have increased 100% each year since its launch five years ago. While the majority of the company's clients are based in the U.S., Lynch says that about 10% to 20% of their business comes from overseas businesses that want a Western marketing look. Currently the company is plowing profits back into more R&D and software development to expand their capabilities and offerings.
BACK ON TRACK. Last year, the company got some bad publicity when a couple of its designers were accused of stealing others' logos. Following the accusation, Logoworks.com issued a statement saying it has fired the designers and taken steps to ensure such a situation wouldn't be repeated in the future.
Still, the company says 98% of their customers are satisfied with their experience. In her case, Sarah Hawley says the decision to get a logo really kicked her business up a notch. "I had a client in Atlanta, and they were skeptical about how committed I was," she says. "Once I put a logo in front of them, it registered with them that this was not some fly-by-night thing -- it was a full-time job. I was able to show them a professional image, and they're now a full-time client.
Moreover, Hawley recently returned to Logoworks to have them design her stationery letterhead. Clearly, first impressions for a small business can make a big impact on the bottom line.