Tips to build your startup brand
A brand is a promise of quality and integrity. It inspires trust among your employees, investors, stakeholders, and most of all your clients and customers. As Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said, “a brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
When you think about brands, the first ones that come to mind are the ones people admire, use, trust, and are loyal to most; for almost everyone Apple and Google will come to mind as we use them in our daily lives, for someone into fashion it may be Louis Vuitton or Armani, and for someone in finance it may be Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley. What this means for your business are two things:
You need to focus on building your niche. Don’t try to please everyone.
Brands are important. The more people trust, the more they use, the more they talk about it, and the more repeat business you get.
Let’s break this down further to see how it translates into your business strategy. Say you’ve got a great business idea. You’ve researched the market, understood the competitors’ strategy, got the necessary paperwork done, and are ready to get started. What happens next? Why would investors or customers take you seriously or trust you if your company does not have a strong identity? It’s human nature, we connect and trust people and businesses that have an identity we understand.
Your brand strategy focuses on building this identity in the market, thereby earning you a reputation, which helps your business be known. Your business identity needs to communicate your values, strengths, and what you do — much like an individual’s personality. Inconsistency in the way your brand communicates can actually hamper your reputation as “the guys who don’t know what they’re doing”. This may not be true, but one of the hard truths of doing business is that it is a lot about perception. We’re communicating with human beings after all, not companies themselves.
So, we have understood that you need to build your identity and market your business. Let’s focus on the former first — that’s the crucial bit that plays an important role in the success of your marketing strategy. Now, as a small business or start-up, it is not easy to lavishly spend money on branding, but guess what — you don’t need to. Once you’ve done your research, there are some easy, cost-effective ways in which you can build your brand strategy and assets to strengthen your company’s identity. Let’s look at some of them below:
1. Develop your business values and write your mission and vision statements
Your mission and vision statements give people a clear idea of what your company does. They understand the direction you’re seeking to move into and how they can expect you to grow. Your values, on the other hand, communicate how you do your business and the principles you stand for. These connect with the emotions of people and play an important role in building your image in the market.
2. Develop your tone of voice
From your business research, you know how you differentiate yourself in the market. You have also defined your target audience, but how does your brand talk to them? Do you wish to come across as serious or fun — that depends upon your business strategy. That is why you develop your tone of voice. The way your website, brochures, and presentations talk about your business has a huge impact on how people perceive it.
3. Develop your name and logo design
Your name and logo create the first impressions for your business. As Maja Bencic, naming consultant in Dubai, points out, “Your name should follow your brand positioning and stand out from your competition’s. It creates a brand story together with the tagline, visual identity and communication, and will stick around for a while, so make sure you check possible negative connotations in all the targeted languages and trademark it.”
4. Develop your design assets
Humans are visual. It may seem pretentious or a small detail, but fonts, colours and overall design speak volumes for your business. They represent your company’s personality. Different fonts and styles set different moods, which need to be consistent with your brand Good designers with branding experience will help you design your visual identity, which is strong yet extendible for when your business expands.
5. Be consistent in all your branding and marketing platforms
There is nothing worse than a brand communicating differently across channels. It dilutes the brand you’re trying to build. Make sure all your channels and communication pieces tie back to your key messages and follow the brand guidelines in terms of tone of voice, design, etc.
6. Deliver on your brand promise
“Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand” - Seth Goden
This is perhaps the easier, but one of the most important aspects of your brand reputation. You can spend millions on marketing but if your company doesn’t deliver what it promised its customers and stakeholders, you’ll lose their trust.
7. Live your brand
If you’re the founder of a business, your personality is strongly connected with that of your company. At the end of the day, people will link your work values; and will trust your business only if they trust you. That’s why you need to imbibe and live the values and culture that you wish people to associate with your brand.
Products live on shelves, but brands live in the minds of people. If you want your clients to trust and recall your company when thinking about a business opportunity, then invest in building your brand. Your business success depends on it.