How a Brand Board Makes Small Biz Marketing 10x Faster & Easier

Question: Whenever I get time to sit down and get stuck into marketing, I feel like it takes forever to put together one post. One flyer. One - ANYTHING. How do I make this process faster?”

It's 11pm.

The kids (and your significant other) have all crashed out for the night. Tonight is THE NIGHT you're going to get some of those marketing ideas out of your head, off your to-do list and into action for your small business.

You've got a rough concept of a promotion you want to run.

Now, you think...

  • What font should I use?

  • What colour should I make this?

  • What's a good image for this?

Suddenly, it's 1am and those precious few hours you set aside to tackle your marketing has produced...

... half a Facebook graphic.

Sound familiar?

When we finally get around to developing marketing material for our small biz, we're often flying blind in terms of colours, fonts, supporting graphics and an overarching framework as to how it should look & feel. So we either fall off the bandwagon or end up with a mishmash of advertising attempts that look like they come from 10 different entities.

What if I told you there was a way to make this process faster, more effective and would help you produce some consistent, professional looking marketing material that would take your advertising to the next level?

You can achieve all this by creating some very simple yet strategic rules around your business' branding, so the next time you dive into marketing a good 80% of the decisions have already been made.

You, my friend, need a Brand Board.

And I'm gonna help you get there - for FREE.

By the end of this post, you're gonna be chafing at the bit to get started and put an end to this decision-making hamster-wheel once and for all. This super practical tool will become invaluable in your marketing efforts, allowing you to produce advertising quicker and even enlist the help of key staff members without worrying about looking over their shoulder.

But first, let’s get to know Brand Boards a bit better.

Brand Boards 101.

A Brand Board is a summary of a business' key visual features that appear in their marketing material - it includes their logo & logo variations, colour swatches, visual supports and fonts.

It's a simplified version of a Brand Guidelines document, which is a tool larger businesses use to ensure multiple departments are creating advertising material that is visually consistent (it's how Nike AUS & Nike US look like they're one and the same.) This consistency builds trust in the customers whilst allowing the brand to have a distinct personality or flavour in their industry.

Think of it as having a high level of self confidence back when you started high school - confidence in who you are allows those with similar personalities and interests to notice you and form a relationship. In the same way, brands with a distinct, consistent personality attract customers who feel a sense of connection with that same character.

A Brand Board allows small businesses to achieve the same goal on a simpler, much more practical level relative to their size & investment. A 100 page document outlining brand usage would be wasted on a local hair salon - who has the time to read it? But a one page Brand Board enables all staff members to read from the same cheatsheet as they all play a part in promoting the business.

So what are the components of a Brand Board?

This is my very own Brand Board - I refer back to it all the time, it’s become super convenient even for me!

#1. Primary Logo

The first - and more crucial - part of a Brand Board is a logo. It doesn't have to have cost thousands of dollars, have all the bells and whistles or even be especially recent. But what it DOES need to be is:

  • easy to use and

  • consistent: a single primary version in a file format that can be flexibly applied.

So if there are few tweaked versions of your logo floating around, now is the time to pick one and stick with it (or if you can afford it, ask a logo designer to help you with a refresh & tidy up - this article tells you everything you need to get this sorted too!)

This is an example of the Primary Logo section of a Brand Board I created for one of my clients - see how it includes the graphic & the title, commanding a generous amount of space?

#2. Secondary Logos

Not to be confused with sketchy logo alterations, this is about creating versions that are like a 'plan B' for your Primary Logo.

If your Primary Logo cannot be used - maybe the area you have is too small, or the background makes it hard to read - then your secondary logos step up. They may be:

  • a single colour version, where the primary has a range of colours

  • the title only, where the primary might be a mixture of text & image or

  • an icon that's been created from a section of your primary logo.

However the variation is realised, it needs to still look related to your primary logo. Imagine your Primary Logo is a parent, the secondary logos should look like it's children - not a niece twice-removed or a creepy third cousin.

These are the secondary logos I created for another client - we explored all her brand colours, as well as different orientations to fit different sized spaces whilst still looking like they belong to the same logo family.

#3. Colour Palettes & Visual Guides.

This section is when a Brand Board really takes on a job in your business - this is about the specific colour swatches that are to be used in your marketing material, and ONLY THESE SWATCHES. There should be a good mix of light and dark to allow for different situations, but they should be able to sit in harmony together.

This section also covers the kinds of images that should be used to promote your brand. If you're a Cafe, this might be dark & moody close ups of coffee beans or freshly poured coffee. A salon might be light, bright minimal shots of coloured hair, or perhaps black & white model shots.

This section requires you to have a good understanding of that brand personality, and then explain it using pictures that create the same feel. It can help to come up with some words that best describe 'who' your business is, as a way to guide image searches.

Here are a couple of examples of Visual Guides & Colour Palettes I have put together for Client Brand Boards - notice how you get both the critical information - swatch codes & examples - plus an overall sense of what it might feel like to experience these businesses?

#4. Fonts

Choosing fonts can almost be as deep a rabbit hole as choosing colours - the only way this is worse is that not all fonts are available to all people. Fonts are actually small programs that need to be installed on devices or available within web applications (like Canva & Google Docs). Fonts can also be the quickest way to make your designs look inconsistent, if each piece of promotional material you make utilises a different combination.

Fonts can also be incredibly expensive if you happen to choose a premium font, so some smart decision making now can save you a lot of time and money down the track. Not only that, some service providers you use may not be able to access fonts you want, either due to expense or inability to source.

Thankfully, there are online tools like Google Fonts - a FREE catalogue of high quality fonts that are readily available to anyone with internet access. I always lean towards these when building a Brand Board, as they are a great insurance against issues with third party designers down the track.

A paid option that is still super affordable is the Fonts area of Creative Market - if I have a particular style in mind, I'll purchase a font and recommend the client do the same (I think the most I've paid is $27 AUD for some truly stunning fonts.)

Whichever way you go, setting out your 2-3 brand fonts ahead of time is another smart decision you can make to win back your precious time down the track.

At a glance you can see the entire font family as well as the name you need to look out for - simple!

Bringing it all together in a Brand Board.

Once you have made all these decisions, you can document them in a one-page Brand Board - put a print copy in your office or the staff room of your shop, and keep a digital copy on file to share with signwriters, printers and key staff members who help you out with your marketing.

If you're eager to get started, check out my step-by-step guide: my DIY Branding Guidebook. It will show you how the big brands put these components into action, as well as give you all my go-to resources for setting up a Brand Board that can help you take faster action in your marketing TODAY.

We can all agree that running a small business day to day allows very little time for marketing & growth - when you finally wrestle a few hours out of your schedule to get stuff sorted, you need to be working as efficiently as possible.

By sticking to a Brand Board, you're going to:

  • work faster by making fewer decisions on the fly

  • have more professional, consistent marketing material that allows potential customers to get a strong sense of who you are and

  • call in reinforcements to lighten the load and help make things happen.

No more all-nighters with nothing substantial to show for it - get to work, get it done, and then get to bed already!

Meredith Paige - Small Business Marketing Meredith Paige is a freelance marketer dedicated to giving small business owners the tools they need to DIY their marketing. She creates courses, templates & workshops to make small biz marketing achievable & affordable - just the way it should be. You can check her out on Instagram & Facebook, or send her an email to say hi.
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