Now that you’ve integrated social good into your business model, it’s time to focus on branding. Your brand is a big investment, but it’s also so much more than that: Your brand is the core building block of your business.

In choosing an agency to help you craft your brand, there’s a lot to consider. These days, there are a lot of DIY platforms out there. Companies like MOO, Squarespace and Shopify have made it easy to build and design some of the elements you’ll need for a business – whether it’s a site, a business card or an e-commerce space. But these DIY platforms – as helpful as they are – are no replacement for an agency. Instead, they’re helpful resources that agencies can use in their branding work to help you – the client – save some cold hard cash.

What’s so important about a brand, and what can never be automated, no matter how shiny the DIY platform, is the cohesive look, feel, voice, tone and story that makes your business stand out. This is why you hire an agency. Your brand is the only thing that sets you apart from the competition, so finding an agency that is on the same page as you is one of the most important things you can do.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when shopping for an agency:

Is the agency interested in you? To do great work, a branding agency needs to know and fully understand your product and your audience. If you’re interested in tying your branding to social good and your cause, select an agency who also shares this passion. That’s not to mention your mission, goals and vision. Basically, a good agency will have killer writers, designers and programmers, and know your brand like the back of their hand.

Does the agency know how to combine spot-on branding with a social component?  If you want your branding to contain a giving component, look for an agency with experience working with other similarly minded companies. This is a different kind of storytelling and one that should not be taken lightly, so you need an agency that truly “gets” it.

Does the agency have the talent to support your needs? There are more ways than ever to tell your story, which is why you’ll fare better with an agency that has a wide range of skills, from design to content development. You have many paths to reach your target audience and no one formula is right for every business. Make sure the firm you work with understands your goals and audience, and has the skills and tools to put those goals into action. If a social cause is an important component to the success of your brand, look for a company that is conducting their own social campaign that you admire and want to be a part of.

Will you get a tailored approach? Or is this a “one size fits all” agency? Your agency should find the best storytelling approach for you, and should not repackage the same plan they’ve used with other brands. If your agency doesn’t offer you specialized treatment, your audience will notice. Consumers are much smarter now – they’re looking for well-designed products and well-developed brands. They’re also more socially conscious, and will choose a company that offers a social giving component over one that doesn’t. They want a quality product, made ethically – point blank.

Does the agency know how to find and speak to your audience? There are many cost-effective ways to reach consumers. The days of having to print thousands of direct mail pieces to reach your audience are over. Make sure you are working with an agency that is making suggestions that are right for you.The right agency will be able to help you locate and speak to your audience in the format that they understand best. Maybe they’re especially active on social media, or particularly respond to e-mail marketing. Either way, your agency needs to think through the right combination of touch points for your specific consumer.

Is your agency a kindred spirit? Ideally your agency should be passionate about the same things you are. They should be as excited as you are about your business, product and mission – that’s when you know you should really be working together.

At DesignGood Studio we consider the people we work with to be brand partners rather than clients, and that’s exactly what you should think about when looking for an agency. The right agency is a partner you could see working with for the majority of the life of your business. Just like any relationship, a brand must be consistently tended to as it grows and develops.

Doing your homework and working with the right agency will save you both time and money down the line. Be mindful to select an agency that aligns you with your values. It sounds like a lot to start, but it’s a fun and exciting process, and one of the most important things you’ll do as a new business owner. And trust us when we say that you, your brand and your customers will thank you later.

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From the Editor
At Conscious, we are inspired by stories that cause us to think differently and think big-picture and so we set out to tell stories with the help of leaders and influencers in the social good community. You can read more stories like this when you Sign-up for the Weekly and Subscribe to Conscious Magazine.