Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Taylor Moore who is a freelance copywriter.
For each successful startup we hear about, there are dozens or even hundreds of startups that weren’t been able to make it. Not because of a lack of good intentions or because they didn’t have a good product or service, but because they didn’t succeed in building a brand and setting themselves apart from the competition.
Current market conditions require startups to have a well-conceived and professionally designed brand identity in order to be able to compete for their market share. But how should brand building be approached and what are the first steps that need to be taken?
In this article, we’re going to explore brand-building essentials that will help you get started.
1. Embrace the significance of branding
There are so many definitions of branding out there, but most of them are based around the idea that branding is the process of shaping customers’ perception of a business with the goal of establishing a unique position and gaining competitive advantage in a chosen market.
Nowadays, when customer perception has come to be influenced by so much more than how well a product or service delivers on its promised function, branding allows businesses to transform selling into a memorable experience for their customers, one that will foster deeper emotional links with the business and inspire trust and advocacy.
We’re also well aware how difficult it can be to change customer perception once it becomes negative. This is why new business owners need to take a proactive approach and carefully plan a branding strategy even before launching their business. This will help them create a positive perception of their business among the public. As the famous adage goes: better safe than sorry!
2. Formulate a plan
In order to make sure that your target customers will be able to relate to your brand, you’ll need to do more than just rely on intuition and personal aspirations. You’ll need to develop a comprehensive branding strategy based on market data that includes expectations, opinions and needs of your prospective customers. This way you can be sure that your target customers are in focus throughout each of the stages of the planning process.
To get started, make a list of your long-term and short-term branding objectives. Since long-term objectives are usually broader and more abstract (e.g. creating brand awareness, differentiating your product, building customer trust), short-term objectives need to be very concrete and measurable so they can serve as stepping stones for reaching long-term objectives. Establish realistic time frames for their realization and consider if you’ll need to hire an external professional to handle a specific aspect of the brand building process.
3. Get to know your target market
Trying to blanket every person in the marketplace with the same messaging and the same approach is hardly an efficient way to connect with prospects. So, instead of talking to everyone and then realizing you’ve been talking to no-one, you need to clearly define a narrow market segment (or segments) you’re going to target and then shape your brand messaging and imagery to appeal to these specific demographic and psychographic groups.
In order to know exactly who your target customers are, you will need to research the market you’re going to enter. You can do that either by conducting primary research (surveying and interviewing potential customers, assembling focus groups or observing prospects as they interact with a business that sells products or services that are similar to yours), or by gathering and analyzing information from secondary sources (existing data available on the Internet that was assembled by government agencies, industry and trade associations, media sources etc.). Once you understand your prospects’ needs, desires, and behaviors, you will be able to craft a resonating message and image for your brand.
4. Create a differentiation strategy
Branding is all about setting yourself apart from businesses that already exist in the marketplace and giving customers a reason to purchase from you, and not from anyone else. It is about showing that you have a unique way to satisfy peoples’ needs or that you can deliver unparalleled service in your niche. This differentiation factor is your unique selling proposition.
Think about what it is that you can offer that no one else can. Do you have a unique product? Are you going to compete based on product quality, features or perhaps price? Whatever you choose as your unique selling proposition, make sure it is something that cannot be easily imitated. As long as customers know they can’t get the thing you’re providing them with elsewhere, they will keep coming back to you.
5. Build your visual identity
A brand is very frequently equated with a company’s visual presence. While this isn’t entirely true and there’s much more to branding than just the visual component, your startup’s visual identity definitely is an important element of the branding process. By visual identity we mean the logo, colors, textures, fonts, photography styles that convey the character of your brand.
In order to make sure the visual aspect of your brand’s communication is consistent across different touchpoints where customers and prospects can encounter your brand, you can create a written document that will hold and govern all of your branding or style guidelines. This way you will be sure that your values and the way you wish your brand to be perceived shape your visual identity, not the other way around.
A strong brand is one of the most valuable assets your startup can have and one of the most important keys to its success. It will differentiate you in the marketplace, help you build a positive image and recognition, as well as enhance your credibility with customers. Besides that, it will be a clear statement that you are adhering to your mission and values, and investing into your product/service.
Hopefully, the above-mentioned guidelines have given you an idea how to approach the process of building a brand and lay a solid foundation for your startup’s long-term success.
About the author
Taylor Moore is a freelance copywriter with a passion for all things business and marketing. For more talk on content marketing, conversion optimization, branding and customer service, follow her @taylormtweets