It is a well-known statistic that on average it becomes five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to earn repeat business from an existing one. For small businesses struggling to maintain margins in an already tough economy, thinking outside the box on how to leverage their existing customer base is not only key to staying afloat but can significantly boost profits without the need to burn out on cold-calling, or expend scare resources on new sales staff.

Whit Gurley, Co-Founder and Head Designer at Angled End Identities sat down with Sandy Gans, Sales and Marketing consultant at AEI to discuss ways in which brand can play at part not only in attracting new customers, but in generating incremental revenue from existing clients.

SG: Whit, how are you doing today? I understand you just returned from beautiful Mexico?

WG: I’m doing great, thanks. And yes, just got back from Todos Santos a few days ago. Wonderful place, and it was nice to dry out from the Portland drizzle for a week.

SG: Wonderful! How’s business?

WG: Busy! Seems like we’re always juggling all sorts of projects, but we have a great team that’s able to manage them all well.

SG: Excellent!  In your experience as the owner of a small design house, does the stat quoted above ring true?

WG: I can’t say that I’ve ever measured it, but it sounds about right. The majority of businesses that work with us end up coming back to us for all of their design needs thereafter, but getting that first project is definitely a more difficult proposition.

SG: For those out there whose main area of expertise is not marketing, can you briefly summarize what “brand” means?

WG: I’ve always defined your brand as: the voice with which your company speaks to the world. Think less “logo” and more “flavor.” How do people feel when they think of your company? What images, colors, values and emotions come to mind? A solid, cohesive brand creates very clear answers to these questions.

SG: Obviously providing an excellent service and value for money are key in winning repeat business, not to mention word of mouth referrals, but how would you weight these against brand?

You can be successful without a strong brand, but you’re going to have to work a lot harder for it.

WG: I’m not sure anyone can offer quantifiable “proof” of branding’s value, it’s a bit too esoteric a concept for that. But my feeling is that it is of paramount importance to anyone wanting their business to reach the top of their respective pyramid. Let’s put it this way: you can undoubtedly be successful without a strong, professional brand. You can gain potential customers’ trust by executing every other aspect of your business well. But you’re going to have to work a lot harder to gain that trust if their first encounter with you isn’t supported by a strong brand, since you haven’t demonstrated in that moment that you’re on top of your game. Why would you want to fight for that trust when you have the opportunity to start with it?

SG: So it sounds like brand is in fact extremely important both in terms of winning new clients, retaining them and cross- and up-selling as well?

WG: I certainly feel that it is. Branding isn’t going to turn your lousy company into a great one, and your business will still fail to gain or retain those customers if you don’t follow through, but every chink in your branding “armor” that is found at any point in the process is a strike against your image of success.

SG: Why is a strong web presence, including social media and new forms of marketing like mobile marketing, so important to a company’s brand today?

WG: Because that’s where people are. The likelihood of people learning about your company via traditional media is growing smaller every month. Print publications are slowly but surely moving to mobile devices. TV commercials are increasingly skipped. Anyone born after 1980 expects to find you on the net in one form or another. If you don’t have a website, you just don’t exist to these people at all, and depending on your company’s industry and stature, they may have serious doubts about you if you don’t have a strong presence in both your website and social media spaces. Not everyone absolutely has to have these things right now, but the number of businesses that can get away with not having them is in an inexorable decline.

SG: What typical mistakes are you seeing clients make with their brand?

WG: Well, the most basic issue is the propensity of some businesses to get heavily invested in a poor brand instead of just investing in a reasonable design budget early on. Every dollar you spend in this direction is energetically cut in half; it may be helping you advertise now, but it’s doing so in a mediocre fashion and it’s making it more difficult to transition to a strong brand later. The second biggest problem that I see, and one that’s more difficult to solve, is the repeated switching of branding messages/directions, which fragments any in-roads that you’ve made in people’s minds.

SG: How could these mistakes be rectified and what would it take both money and effort-wise?

WG: It just doesn’t cost that much to hire Angled End to design your brand with you. Our logo development projects, for example, generally range from $500 to $1500, depending on the client’s budget. If you start from there, any less-expensive efforts you make afterward won’t be quite as big a deal (that said, everything we produce is very competitively priced given the level of quality and execution that we provide).

SG: How can Angled End specifically help small-to-medium size organizations with their brand?

WG: I’ve been at this for over fifteen years, and I’ve surrounded myself with people who are experts in their respective fields. We can take an intimate look at what you do, who your audience is and where you want your business to be in a few years, then make informed decisions about your branding mood and message that will help get you there. Then we can really start building a suite of materials around you that support that message.

SG: Thank you so much for the detailed answers, Whit, I know that is really going to help many small business owners out there!

Prospective clients can reach either Whit (, or Sandy ( via email, or simply complete the Contact Us form here.

If you found this article helpful, or if we missed anything, please do leave us a comment below. And don’t forget to use the social sharing buttons to the right, to spread the good word to friends and colleagues! 

Sandy GansSandy Gans is Director of Sales and Internet Marketing at AEI. Feel free to contact Sandy with any questions, or to get a quote for a design or internet marketing project –