In my last column, I explained why the success of your consulting firm depends on a smart branding strategy. You’ve asked all of the right questions about your own brand, and you know who you are. The next step is to name your business if you haven’t already done so.

But you can’t just call your firm “Happy’s Consulting” and slap a smiley face on a business card. In this column, I’ll explain why choosing the right name and logo are an essential part of growing your consulting business.

The name game
A name should be descriptive of what you do. This helps tremendously when someone asks, “Whom do you work for?” Answer … ”I work for American Airlines.” Automatically, the inquirer has a feel for the type of business you are in. They may not yet know your job description, but they know you do something in the airline business.

There are many different ways to name a business. Some do it based on region, and some only on feel. The name “Quantum” by itself says nothing, but it sure sounds big. Some people use their name, such as the old cliché, “Douie, Cheetham, and Howe.” In this odd instance, we do get a feel of the type of ad agency we may be dealing with. Changing the order of the names would help greatly.

Even in the old cartoons, you always saw “Acme Explosives.” Acme kind of stood for “generic.” The creators did this because they only wanted you to know the box had explosives in it; they didn’t want you to associate any more than that with the name. They didn’t want to project a personality.

Why are generic brands always white with no pictures and plain sans serif type? Why did the Beatles have a white album? Because their name said enough by itself. So pick a name that is descriptive—it will help in the long run. If your current name has no descriptor in it, you may want to add one to it.

A logo to go
Now that you have a name that is descriptive of what you do, the next step is to have a logo created for your business. A logo is the graphic treatment of your company name. It should always be consistent in look and feel. It should be integrated with your brand image and deliver, in look, the same personality that your brand projects.

Don’t just throw type down on a business card and call that a logo. The logo should graphically, at a glance, tell someone what business you are in and give a feel for the personality of that business. The logo should also look and reproduce well both in small and large size. For example, it should look good and hold up well on a business card as well as on a billboard, and should look strong when it appears in only black and white. When it is used in color, it should, once again, follow the brand personality.

Who should create your logo? If your aunt says, “I’ve got a friend whose son is really good at art,” take that as a red flag. Find a professional graphic artist and look at his or her portfolio. If the work is good, get a cost estimate and proceed. A good cost usually depends on who you are. If you’re a big firm with thousands of employees and locations across the globe, expect to pay a couple hundred thousand dollars for your corporate logo. If you’re a small company, expect to pay at least $500 and don’t be shocked at several thousand dollars. If the price is steep for your firm, you may want to suggest trading out services. Most graphic artists are not very computer literate and would gladly trade services. Another caveat—the best designers usually work on Macintosh systems. When it comes to graphic design, Macs rule, hands down.

So the graphic artist shows up with your logo and you still don’t know if it’s right. How will you ever know it is right? The best way to do this is to spread out your competitor logos and put yours next to them. Does yours fit into the IT categories with the others, yet still stand out? Does it convey the personality it should? Is it strong and memorable?

Why is the logo so important? Because it symbolizes who you are in one, quick graphic. It’s much like hieroglyphics—it tells the story with one little picture. Shell Oil used to have a logo with a shell and the word “Shell.” They eventually came up with a very strong yet simple graphic of a shell and dropped the words all together. How could they do that? To know this is to understand how we read.

No words, just symbols
When we read, we see shapes, not individual letters. The easier we can associate a string of shapes together—the string being a sentence full of words comprised of letters—the quicker we can read. When it comes to logos, the first few times we see the logo, we read the words. After that, we only see the shape. We don’t need to read the words. We recognize it for what it is, and reading it all over again is a needless waste of time, so our brains bypass the effort and cut to the chase. Shell Oil understood this and capitalized on it. It’s all predicated on symbolism. To test this theory is simple. When you are hungry and are driving down a busy road with lots of restaurants, you can spot them fairly quickly. You can see Burger King, McDonald’s, KFC, and Taco Bell. How many of those signs did you read in that quick moment? None. You knew them all by their shape and color.

Think about it. McDonald’s golden arches, Shell Oil’s shell, Nike’s swoosh, and Target’s target are all done for a reason. Even the Marlboro cowboy has great significance. They all, through symbolism, convey who they are, what they are, and what they represent. No long, lengthy stories, just one fast symbol.

So the moral of this story is when you finally get your logo, be consistent with it. Use it the same way every time so you can build equity in its presence.

One last tip about your logo: When you have it designed, tell your designer to apply it to your letterhead and business cards. This will help you get a feel for how your logo will work for you. When it is applied, you get more of a sense of what your customers will see on their first glance of your business. Look at it from that perspective. Is this the image you should be conveying? Does it fit you and your business? Does it tell someone who has never done business with you anything about what your business can and will do for him or her?

In my next column, I’ll cover the Positioning Line. I’ll give you a hint: It has nothing to do with a good line in a pick-up bar.

Wes Burgiss has been involved in marketing for 22 years. He founded his own ad agency, Creative Alliance, in 1987. He sold the agency in 1996 after growing it to the largest in the region. He is senior vice president of marketing for Confluent Networks, an application service provider based in Louisville, KY. He is also director of marketing for Bellarmine College, the region’s premier private university with colleges specializing in education, business, health sciences, and arts and sciences. Bellarmine is currently developing a center for e-business and e-commerce education that will be located in Louisville’s newly planned technological region, e-Main USA.

Has a great name and logo improved your business? What kind of difference has it made? Give us your thoughts by posting a comment below. If you have a question or suggestion for Wes, e-mail us.

Subscribe to the Executive Briefing Newsletter

Discover the secrets to IT leadership success with these tips on project management, budgets, and dealing with day-to-day challenges. Delivered Tuesdays and Thursdays

Subscribe to the Executive Briefing Newsletter

Discover the secrets to IT leadership success with these tips on project management, budgets, and dealing with day-to-day challenges. Delivered Tuesdays and Thursdays