“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Jeff Bezos sure knew what he was talking about when he said these words. Your brand is to your business what your character is to your personality. If you want to truly engage with your customers and create an ecosystem where you and your customers trust, value and benefit each other, you need to get your branding right.
In a market already dominated by top brands, getting your startup to break even and gain any kind of market foothold requires you to create a strong brand. Your branding must reflect the character of your startup and your customers should be able to relate to it.
Just like Howard Schultz of Starbucks said, “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” 62% millenials report that brand engagement is more likely to make them a loyal customer.
However, when branding, startups face one big problem. Most believe that branding is something only top corporates do. But, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Regardless of the size of your startup, branding your business is something you should do from the beginning.
Here is a step-by-step guide to creating a brand for your startup as proficiently as the corporate big players do:
Identify Your Target Audience
Before you begin creating a product, you need to know who you want to sell it to. You must always have your target audience in mind and customize your branding according to the preferences of that demographic. Making children’s toys and making moulded furniture are two vastly different things, even though they both involve shaping plastic.
Even if you eventually wish to market to everyone, you must begin with one group of customers first. Facebook may be the most-used app by people of every demographic today, but it was initially targeted at youngsters, mostly college-goers. You too must identify who you want to market to and modify your mission statement, web design, branding language and other elements accordingly.
Study Your Competition
One of the most ingenious things businesses do when branding is study their rival brands. This is an effective way to find out which products/services your potential customers are using, what their expectations are and what you can do better. You can find out the kind of messaging your competitors are using to talk to their customers, how they distinguish from each other and what kind of space is left for you.
You may choose to then align your core branding values with the industry norms or cause a disruption by offering something entirely new. The important thing to remember is studying your competition gives you a clearer picture of your path.
Nail a Consistent Core Branding Strategy
This is your essential branding checklist – a unique logo, a catchy slogan, an engaging website, a distinctive voice, and a differentiated brand messaging. Each one of these elements needs to be consistent with your mission statement and reflect your business values.
This is the stage at which you shouldn’t refrain from seeking expert help. Hiring a part-time design intern to sketch an alphabetical logo and put together a sloppy website may not be your best bet. Hire a professional and work closely with them to create a branding message that aligns with your personal brand.
After all is said and done, you simply cannot win customers without talking to them. 43% online shoppers say that they respect/value a brand more if it interacts with them on social media. As a small business, you should be extremely personable and communicate with your customers on various channels including social media, email and blog.
Don’t Be Afraid to Disrupt
When hotels, small and big, were vying for customer attention, offering incalculable luxury, discounts, specialized services, and a hundred other perks to lure guests, Airbnb proposed the idea of sleeping in a stranger’s home in a possibly unknown city. What sounds downright absurd is now a worldwide phenomenon, thanks to Airbnb’s astute branding message that emphasized the adventure factor and the idea of ‘not just going to a city but actually living there,’ even if just for a night.
Moral of the story – regardless of how experimental your idea is, you can pull it off with clever branding and service to match.
The market is full of products and yet, it offers an ocean of opportunities. As long as you can provide a new product that saves more money or time, and provides more delight or convenience, there will always be place of you in the market.
Hailing a cab in New York may be an Olympian feat, but Uber certainly revolutionized a rigidly conventional market with an ingenious branding strategy, positioning itself as the ultimate brand that can make your commute easier.
Perform Brand Audit
Be it a startup or any home-based business, brand audit must be performed to calibrate its current performance and positioning against the goals you set for it. Brand audit lets you assess what your customers think of you, how far you’ve come, and what your next steps should be. You will need to recheck who your main competitors are, where your target audience is, what differentiates you from your competitors, and what you can do to provide better customer experience. Some ways in which you can do this are:
- Carefully observe your Web analytics
- Ask you customers what they think with the help of surveys and polls
- Put yourself in the customers shoes and test the product yourself
Following these steps will give you a palpable understanding of how your business is performing and where its weaknesses lie, so you can continually fix them and grow your brand.
Don’t let big words perplex you. Branding isn’t something reserved for just a handful of million-dollar corporations. It is for everyone out there, even a solitary blogger working from a shack on a beach. Just observe how the best in the business do it and plan your strategy accordingly. A unique voice and effective messaging that your customers can relate to are the most important elements. Once you’ve taken care of these, you too can brand your business like the best in the industry do.