You’re anxious to get your startup launched, and ready to start bringing in some cash flow. We get it. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are important steps to take first to make sure your branding is clear and you’re properly communicating your services, and your goals, to your audience.
While your visual identity + logo are important aspects of your branding, it’s not where you should start. So, before you get into our Zero to Hero package – you’re going to need to walk yourself through these steps:
Define Your Vision
There’s a reason you’re starting a business. Maybe it’s because you’re passionate about what you do, maybe it’s because you want to help people, or maybe you just see an opportunity to make money in a certain market (good news – it can be all three!). Take a moment to think about why you want to make this startup a success, and where you want it to be in the future. What kind of role can your business play in your community? In your industry? In your own personal life? What kind of impact can it have on the industry you’re about to enter?
Your Ultimate Goals
Not every startup is looking to achieve the same thing. Some businesses are looking for a few high-value clients per month, while other product-based businesses want to sell as much as they can. It’s important to set realistic goals for your startup, especially in the early stages. And you need to get specific! For example, don’t say “I want to sell a lot of Product X every month.” Instead, say “I want to sell at least 100 units of Product X every month for the first year, then double that next year.”
It’s important to get specific because you also need to track your progress toward those goals. Looking at real numbers and data will tell you how far away you are from hitting your targets, and you can take action if you’re not performing as well as you’d like.
Think About Your Product or Service
You’ve been so deep in planning and thinking about your product or service, that you may just start automatically assuming that everyone knows “why” you are offering what you are. That’s not true, however. You need to answer these simple questions to make sure you are marketing to the right audience. Then, turn around and explain them to someone who isn’t in the industry – is it simple enough for them to understand, coming from the perspective of someone outside of your industry?
What is your product / service?
What does it do / what do you provide?
Who should care?
Why should they care?
Research the Competition
Comparing yourself to businesses that are already established can seem overwhelming. But competition is healthy! Doing this research is a great way to get started for two reasons:
- There are some things that your competitors are doing right, and you should emulate that in your own way.
- There are some things that your competitors could improve on, and you should recognize that and the opportunity to get an advantage over them.
Points of Parity — where are your competitors strongest, and your brand weakest?
Take a look at all the places where your competitors market themselves – website, social media, and anywhere else they might show up. How effectively do they communicate their business? Is their website attractive and easy to navigate, so that you’re compelled to spend more time on it? Is their tone of voice clear and direct? Are they approachable, making potential customers feel at ease when they visit the site? Are their social posts receiving a lot of engagement? These are all factors that you can compare to your own efforts and improve on.
It’s easy to say that as a business, you want to sell to everyone. But if you want to create an effective marketing strategy, it needs to be targeted to a more specific type of person that you want to do business with. That’s where buyer personas come in – they are specific profiles of the people you want to reach. Identifying the age, occupation, education, and location of these hypothetical customers will go a long way in helping you reach actual customers. Check out this awesome FREE tool from Hubspot and create your own buyer persona: https://www.hubspot.com/make-my-persona
What is your competitive advantage?
After you’ve researched your competitors, it’s time to identify your competitive advantage. What gives your business a leg-up over these other businesses? What are you able to do for your customers that they can’t? Compared to bigger businesses, you might be able to provide lower costs, higher quality items/services, or a more personalized customer experience. If you’ve got these advantages, use them to target the people that your competitors are missing out on!
Create your Brand Mantra
Create a short phrase that captures your entire positioning platform in one short sentence. Repeat this over and over, every day, and stick with it! Once you’ve created your brand, consistency is key. So take this mantra and make sure that everything you publish is in line with it. This will be the cornerstone of your brand, and your audience will come to recognize it.
Name Your Company
This is a big one. There are a LOT of businesses out there, and they all have a name. So finding the perfect name for your startup can take a while. Here are a few simple guidelines for creating a good business name:
- Easy to understand so people get an idea of what you do right away
- Easy to spell so that customers can type it into a search bar without a problem
- Different from other businesses, especially those in the same industry
To take a deeper dive into creating a unique name for your startup, take a look at what Igor International has to say: https://www.igorinternational.com/process/igor-naming-guide_17.pdf?3a0b81&3a0b81
When you’ve got some great ideas nailed down, do your research to make sure they’re not already taken! The best place to start is Google – just search the names you like and cruise the results to make sure someone else’s business doesn’t pop up. Also be sure to consult the US trademark database to check your brand name http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/search-trademark-database and check out GoDaddy to make sure there’s a domain name available for your website https://www.godaddy.com/domains/domain-name-search
Write Your Brand Story
A good brand doesn’t just sound cool, it tells a story. To write your brand’s story, you’ll need to answer these important questions:
Who are we?
Why are we here?
What do we care about?
What do we do?
Why does it matter?
What does the future of this business look like?
Design Your Visual Identity and Logo
Great brand identities are more than a logo, they are a complete visual system made up of a logo and additional visual brand elements, including colors, typefaces, shapes, icon and photography styles, etc. Establishing all of these elements and keeping them consistent on all of your marketing materials is the magic that creates brand recognition.
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Voice is your startup’s verbal approach to its audience.
Tone is how your startup’s voice adapts to different situations and groups of people.
Your voice guides your tone, your tone considers who it’s addressing. Remember the buyer personas we talked about earlier? Chances are, you’ll want to address these different types of people in different ways. Some will be very formal and well-spoken, and others might be a bit more fun-loving and enjoy a good laugh. Knowing who you’re talking to and how to talk to them helps your audience gain trust and confidence in your brand, because it shows that you know where they’re coming from.
Let’s say you’ve got two meetings set up back to back. One is a group of potential investors who have made money on the stock market and are looking to invest in a startup. They’re wearing nice suits and dresses and carrying briefcases. In the other room is also a group of potential investors, but these people made their money running an organic farm. They’re wearing t-shirts and sneakers.
Both groups present the same opportunity for investment, but you need to address them differently. Adjust your tone to each group so that you make a better connection with each of them. Remember, the tone can change, but the voice behind it should stay the same. Inform, entertain, and persuade both groups to trust and invest in your startup.
Defining a brand identity for your startup is a vital step in the process of getting started. Your business has a personality and attitude, so follow this guide to bring it to life and make it work for you.