Are you a solopreneur, entrepreneur or small business owner on the journey of building your business? Start-ups have a variety of different needs right from the start and branding is just one of them. Yet, branding is an essential aspect of a new business for any start-up. Not every new CEO understands why branding is relevant, or why it needs to be implemented before launch.
Importance of a Solid Brand Foundation
In all of my years assisting business owners with their marketing, design and branding (since 1998 in fact) I have worked with all sizes of entities from small-scale solopreneurs and service providers to larger businesses such as credit unions needing assistance with mergers and acquisitions; as well as school districts and various B2B/B2C companies. Regardless of scale, each of these companies experienced similar struggles when it came to building a strong brand.
All of that experience spotlighted a few trends:
- Businesses that have been around for a while, but didn’t focus on their branding early on, discovered that they ended up spending more time, money and energy attempting to correct problems their brand void caused in their business than they would have if they invested in branding from the start.
- Businesses that invested in the branding process quickly came to the realization that, had they gone through these steps first, they would have avoided many wrong turns and wasted budget dollars.
- If they hadn’t bought into the idea that they “couldn’t afford to work on branding” right from the start, they could very easily be at their current level sooner—but with more success, fewer struggles and less money spent.
Top Branding Tips for Startup Businesses
I am often asked what my top branding tips are for newborn companies. As with anything truly profound, the best advice seems both obvious and simple. For a business looking to establish themselves in a specific area, industry, or niche:
- Keep It Simple.
- Build Trust.
- Be Uniquely You.
Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, many business owners over think their brand, try to incorporate too much (or wrong) advice, or pursue methods that deliver little to no results. We’re not saying it’s going to be easy, but keeping these three simple tips in mind will help you avoid many common hurdles. They are the golden rules of the Bravvy branding process.
Startup Advice for Building Your Small Business Brand
That all sounds well and good, but how does a branding novice take these three tips and use them practically and successfully? Learning from mistakes is great, and learning from others can be even better. Here are some examples from my branding experiences that will help you effectively utilize these three tips to build your brand.
Avoid Overcomplicating Things
Remember to keep Rule #1 in mind at all times: keep it simple. Where many businesses go wrong is they try to do too much at once or they overcomplicate the process. For every task, consider the process involved. The simpler your processes are, the easier it will be for you to stay on top of the work and for your customers to work with you.
Also, be realistic. You can’t be everything to everyone. Narrow your focus down to your specific niche or target audience. A company can always grow and build from their center but will become lost and disorganized if they don’t build that center at the beginning.
Keep the bells and whistles to a minimum. There needs to be a clear, straight path for your leads to follow. If you have a ton of options or packages, too many website features, or your hands in a variety of different ventures – you are going to confuse people. A confused customer will quickly drift past you and onto a business with a more simplistic and clear approach.
You Don’t Need Everyone’s Input
When your work is still untested, it’s going to be tempting to get opinions and advice from people. This validation process makes it feel as if we are on the right track. The problem with this is that it will often lead you astray instead. If there are too many cooks in the kitchen, you’ll end up second-guessing everything.
To be uniquely you, you have to filter through advice and ideas and hone in on what fits your brand strategy. Just processing a mashup of ideas will take you away from your center and keep you from being laser-focused on the goals at hand.
Trendy is Not Successful
Just because it’s new and popular, doesn’t mean it’s a fit for you or your business. While being a new adopter can be fun and rewarding, it is also time-consuming and expensive. When you are a start-up, you can’t afford to make a bunch of unnecessary risks. Let someone else be the guinea pig. If it truly interests you, then try it out once the waters have been tested. Trying on all the newest options is both risky and confusing
The Fine Line Between Instinct and Fact
Your instincts are valid and important. There is a benefit to paying attention to what your gut tells you. However, it won’t always be the answer you are looking for or the solution that will work best for you. A combination of instinct and research is a more viable method for achieving results. Be authentic but be smart as well.
Choosing a Brand Name
One of my previous clients used a name that was hard to say and to spell, and didn’t tie into anything in their industry. While their concept made sense to them, no one else “got it”. This is not keeping it simple.
The Bravvy process helped them rebranded with a new name. This time the audience was clear about the product offerings, and the company was able to narrow down their focus, which lead to developing new products.
Discovering Your Target Audience
Occasionally, a small business owner will get excited about an idea and jump in with both feet without doing the necessary market research. Just because there is a global market and you can reach everyone, doesn’t mean that everyone is your ideal customer. That’s a big area of territory to market to and not nearly as effective as honing in on demographics that work for your niche. In order to build trust you have to connect with the right audience, not just any audience.
Delivering Clear Direction
I’ve worked with small businesses that ran out their marketing budget because they were advertising everywhere. This was a huge investment and they weren’t getting the results they expected. Without that ROI, they ran out of funds to focus on what would work for them so they could narrow it down to a solid marketing strategy. The result? They had to fold and go out of business.
One of my past clients was an outdoor adventure company that assumed their target demographic would be adult males. With lackluster sales, they came looking for guidance. After looking at their own customer data and it was crystal clear that the majority of their sales were actually coming from women! Rebranded their site and marketing to be more welcoming to women helped build trust. Once we built that trust with the right audience, their sales began improving.
Branding for Your Audience
Your business (and your brand) isn’t about you; it’s about your audience. Guesswork, and making choices based on your personal preferences, is not a great strategy for resonating with your ideal clients.
One of my clients experienced frustration because they were trying to convince their audience that what the company offered was what their customers wanted. This is a backward, and ineffective, approach. Plus, it centered around what the owner wanted. Rebranding with an audience-centered focus cut their sales process in half and raised their bottom line.
My Startup Advice for Your Brand
This extensive list of examples and branding tactics to learn from is just an expansion on our three top tips. Any of these “don’ts” can be avoided if you remember to keep your branding simple, build trust with your audience, and strive to be as authentic as possible.
When it comes to developing your startup or new business, it’s vital that you take it slow and pay attention to all the minor details. Market research is essential to avoid the bumps, trials, and tribulations some of these other companies went through when they were establishing their own brands.
Branding can seem overwhelming to any business owner, that’s why we developed the Bravvy process. Our Build a Savvy Brand program was generated from our years of experience helping small businesses get back on track with their branding.