Every business starts somewhere, and for a startup, that somewhere is in the concept. You get an idea for a great product, and then you build around it. Every aspect of your startup goes back to the kernel of the original idea, because that’s how building works.
How to Build Your Startup Brand from Scratch
Everything needs a foundation.
If your ideas are the foundation and structure, your branding makes up the finishing touches that turn a construction site into a busy, thriving building. And just like the entirety of your company itself, your branding has to start somewhere.
Launching a new company can be an iffy prospect. Just take a look at the lists of do’s and don’ts, the myriads of suggestions on how to structure and launch, concerns about backing and solvency, and the emphasis on startup resiliency and growth. There’s a plethora of warning information out there about how difficult it can be to start a company that actually lasts past the first few years — and the uncertain economic times that we live in are not making things any easier.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that 20% of startups fail within the first two years, and the numbers go up to 65% within the first decade of operation. Investopedia cites lack of market research, lack of marketing, and poor internet presence as among the main reasons why startups crash so quickly.
All three of those things, however, can be addressed within a good brand strategy.
Other problems that plague startups, as well, can be met and answered by excellent branding. In part, a whole-cloth approach to branding can address the issues of:
- Garnering attention before startup launch
- Drawing in new customers
- Building customer loyalty
- Motivating customers to emotionally invest
- Reaching new audiences
- Crafting the best customer service experience
- Communicating with the audience
- Establishing as an expert in the field
- Boosting traffic and search ranking
Every issue on the list is a problem that startups face — even in the best of times — but these things will definitely be faced today.
If you’re an entrepreneur launching your startup, you likely know that branding is a necessity. The real question is, how do you put your branding strategy together from the very beginning?
Here are some simple but absolutely vital steps to take. Use it to build your startup brand from the ground up.
Do Your Research
You’re an entrepreneur. You know that starting a new business requires extensive market research. You need to know the demand for your potential product or service, who your competition is, and what strategy best suits your approach.
Your branding follows the same path. Before you make decisions on brand logo, colors and fonts, research the competition. The last thing you want is to blend in with the crowd; make sure your startup stands out, avoid any design elements that resemble your competition too closely.
Graphic design trends, such as logo designs, can be valuable indicators of what will and won’t work for your branded visuals. But trends come and go — logos are forever (except in the case of a rebrand, of course). Let trends inform but not decide your ultimate design decisions.
Your target audience, as well, should play a part in how you brand. Elements such as the psychology of color and font present valuable insight into how your choices are likely to be perceived and reacted to by your target audience.
Researching your market and competition is a worthwhile endeavor because it starts to shape your brand even before making any branding decisions, giving your startup brand an ideal launching pad.
Brand from the Inside Out
Market research tells you a lot about what not to do. Once you’re ready to start making branding decisions, it’s a whole different ball game. It goes from being about saying, “No, that’s too much like everyone else,” to saying, “Yes, perfect, I want that.”
But there’s still a gap between, “I want my branding to look like this,” and, “This choice is on-brand.” It’s important to allow your visual branding design to be something of an organic process — your branding should not only fit your company but also showcase its values.
a. Brand for visual impact
Highlighting the importance of this fact is the statistic that 86% of consumers cite authenticity to decide whether they both support and form an attachment to any given brand. The visual choices you make for your branding should harmonize with your brand’s personality, which is why it’s important to brand from the inside out.
Customers want brands to be honest about themselves — more than 80% of consumers require brands to be trustworthy before they will do business with them. It’s much easier to engage with a brand when you trust them; even if some of your potential customers don’t agree with every aspect of your brand, the fact that your branding is upfront and represents those values truthfully goes a long way to building respect in your viewers.
b. Brand for engagement
Don’t try to leap into external branding decisions without first having a clear idea of who and what you are, what your brand is about, what identifies it in a crowd, and where it’s going.
Know what values you’re promoting and how they align with the values of your customers. Branding with authenticity and according to true values is a big part of not only getting the attention of your target audience, but building their emotional engagement and, ultimately, their loyalty.
It’s almost comical that seemingly small decisions about color palettes, fonts, graphic styles, and even use of space can have such a big impact on how a brand is received.
But your visual branding isn’t a matter of a decision here and there; it’s about the brandscape, what you see when you look at all of it as a whole. The brandscape is what sends the message that appeals to your target audience.
Depending on the type of startup you’re launching, you may have different branding needs.
- Email marketing
- Business cards
- Promotional products
- Digital marketing materials
- Print marketing
- Product packaging
There’s also the question of where you should apply your branding efforts.
In the digital world we live in — especially after the extra push to online services that came about in 2020 — it’s imperative to build a healthy, active online presence. No startup can survive and thrive without taking advantage of all available opportunities to make contact with the target demographic.
Startups should have:
- A company website
- Social media accounts on platforms that target the chosen audience, such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.
- Multiple points of contact with potential customers, including social media, “Contact Us” forms on the website, and email leads for newsletters and special offers.
With this variety of online opportunities, it can be overwhelming to ensure that your branding is consistent across all platforms and across all points of customer contact.
What this means is that you watch what your branding looks like, but also watch the tone and vocabulary within content, marketing, and individual engagement. You will be consistent in the values, personality, messaging, images — everything needs to remain harmonious across your site.
How important is this to your startup? Some statistics indicate that consistency across platforms can increase company revenue by more than 30%. For a small startup, a margin like that can make all the difference.
Always Be Branding
Much of what we’ve addressed thus far connects to the decisions you make for visual branding — and visual branding is what most of us think of when we consider branding in general.
Visuals heavily influence not only the first impression — it takes only 0.05 seconds to form a first impression — but also whether we’re inclined to continue to look at, read, or watch something. What we see has the weightiest impact on what we do.
But branding is more than just visuals. Ultimately, branding encompasses every point of contact between you, the entrepreneur, and your potential customer or audience. Customer service queries, complaints, and commendation all fall into the branding purview. It allows you to expand your brand beyond what the customer sees into how they feel about how they were treated.
Branding for customers
Connecting with your audience via your website, over social media, through emails, or in-person is a vital element of good branding.
And this aspect, like the other elements listed here, should begin at the very start of your launch — if not even earlier. Treat your customers well from the very beginning, and you’ll encourage their emotional engagement and loyalty to grow. Satisfied customers are some of the most influential factors in the success and growth of a startup; if you make your first audience feel that they were valued as a part of the process, they’re more likely to stay with you all the way through.
Regardless of how many times you need to rebrand as your startup continues to evolve, good interactions with your customers are a constant in excellent branding.
If you really want to build a fantastic brand from the ground up, that’s the perfect place to start. Start with the people you want to build your company around — your customers.
Establish Authority With Perfect Content Marketing
“Perfect” is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but usually either in an ironic way or accompanied by a head shake, as in, “Nobody’s perfect.”
It’s true. Nobody’s perfect. But that doesn’t mean that you can give up on creating content that is perfect for building your brand from day one.
Some entrepreneurs believe that branding and quality content are subsequent steps in the creation of a strong startup. “I’ll focus on the look of the brand first,” they say, “and then fill in the gaps with content afterward.”
But there’s too much competition in the world of startup businesses to leave anything up to chance. You may plan to eventually give your new customers good content and slowly build yourself up as an authority later on — but if you can get your brand off on the right foot, why wait?
And even more than that, can you afford to wait?
a. Quality content and consumers
Content is a huge part of the first impression that your potential audience forms about you, second only in importance to the initial reaction to your present visuals. As consumers, we want to pursue buyer relationships with brands that we trust; startups are inherently iffy, as we tend to rely either on what we see from the brand itself or on what we hear from other customers.
Your startup may have generated some buzz prior to launch, but the prime source for helping potential consumers take the plunge is you — you and your content. If your content is valuable, educational, and worth an investment of time, your audience will attach those same descriptors to your brand as a whole.
b. Content and impact on ROI
Not only that, but in a world where ROI is scarce, and startups have to seek serious funding to make it through the first year, content marketing is a key player in pushing brands onwards to success.
Content marketing has significantly boosted marketing leads for 74% of companies surveyed by Curata. Content marketing has been shown to result in five times as many sales leads, while also costing less. So it’s a boost for your conversions, and a helping hand for your budget at the same time.
Quality content and strategic content marketing provide multiple opportunities to connect with and educate your audience, forging a closer relationship and influencing their decision to engage with and invest in your startup. Content also gives you more chances to build your brand, interact with others, and show — rather than tell — the world what your startup is all about.
For all these reasons and more, a smart step in building your startup brand is creating valuable, authoritative content for immediate use upon launch, or even before as you start to build buzz.
c. SEO focused content
There’s more generic content out there on the internet than there are fish in the sea, which is why an important factor in content creation is compiling perfect content — perfect for your brand, perfect for your audience, and perfect to introduce them to each other.
Naturally, this requires thorough knowledge of SEO keywords and frequently asked questions for your niche, as well as insight into what needs your target audience has that you can fill with carefully crafted content.
Remember, too, that excellent content is a gift that keeps on giving — if it’s relevant now, there’s a good chance that it will be relevant in the future. You will have the ability to regularly update, spin, repurpose, and repost your perfect content to continue building your brand and strengthening your position.
From Startup Dream to Startup Reality — Making the Launch
It’s easy to dream of creating a successful startup. Most of us have had entrepreneurial dreams at one time or another, whether we followed through on them or not. Often, the idea isn’t the difficult part. It’s the actions required to bring that idea to the public and let it shine.
Branding your startup is a fundamental part of the process. Without excellent branding — including targeted marketing, unique visuals, fantastic customer service, etc., your startup would have virtually no chance of success, forget your ideas making out of your dreams.
It may seem overwhelming to contemplate the long, long list of to-dos required to launch a startup. Remember that famed startup founders like Jack Dorsey, Steve Jobs, Katrina Lake, and Anne Wojcicki struggled too. Each and every one of them and more had to go through some variation of this process.
Creating and founding a startup requires strength, bravery, belief — and branding.
Launching a new company isn’t easy, and ensuring success for your startup isn’t exactly a cakewalk, either. By applying good branding principles, your startup can get off on the right foot. From good content curation to user interaction, attractive branding, etc., let’s hope, your company hits the ground running.
Image Credit: andrea piacquadio; pexels; thank you!