Fallback Icon

Branding Marketing

The #1 Branding Mistake Startups Make

By: Robert Wallace

You might be wondering how there can be a #1 mistake when it comes to branding. Branding is a vast and complicated topic and there are endless philosophies and approaches to creating and implementing your company’s brand. But I assure you, there is one, and it’s so obvious you probably didn’t consider it:

The #1 mistake startups make when it comes to branding is not establishing a brand.

Many entrepreneurs make branding their last priority, which means they never get to it. It’s an understandable mistake when they also have to focus on building the right product, selling, managing a team and keeping the company alive. While branding may seem like the last of their worries, what many entrepreneurs don’t realize is that if they put in the time and effort to create a brand that clearly articulates mission and value, through language and graphics, they will have an easier time selling, finding investment and building a team.

Great branding isn’t just about the product you’re selling now, but about maintaining the sales momentum into the product you’ll be selling tomorrow.

Ben Mack, Think Two Products Ahead

Branding is more than a logo or a tagline. Branding is the visual and textual representation of your values, beliefs and strategic vision. When you look at branding this way, you can’t afford not to establish your brand. Here are two of the most practical things a strong brand can do for your company.

A Brand Helps You Sell More

Sell more stuff, to more people, more often, for more money, more efficiently.

Sergio Zyman, former CMO, Coca-Cola

A well thought out brand will help you sell more, no matter the type of selling you are doing. Whether you are selling your product or service to a customer, pitching your idea to a potential investor or recruiting someone new to join your team, having a clear brand will help you win them over.

With a clear, thoughtful brand you can stake a claim to your winning position in the market. Being able to clearly articulate your unique value propositions and communicate your values through language and graphics will play a crucial role in converting customers. Without a clear brand, your message will get lost amongst the many competitors your customer is likely considering. Take the time to determine exactly what you want your customers to remember about you and use that in all your marketing efforts. Make it simple and easy to understand.

In today’s digital and tech marketplace, communicating your product’s value and differentiators may be one of the biggest obstacles you face. Even if your product is superior to your competitors and solves your target customers need, your product won’t sell itself. Meaning you probably aren’t going to experience runaway success, or even moderate success, simply by building a great product. There are tons of great products available to consumers, with more being created everyday.

This is a very noisy world, so, we have to be very clear what we want them to know about us.

Steve Jobs

In this time of rapid innovation and educated consumers, you need to use branding to stand out. People no longer make their purchasing decisions based solely on features and functionality, they also expect benefits, value and mission. You have to connect with your customers on a deeper level in order to communicate and deliver these benefits. Authentic branding and effective marketing is the key.

Not sure how to develop authentic branding? Start with your purpose and your target customers. Dig deep and ask yourself:

  • Why did you create your product or service?
  • What was so important that it compelled you to take the path of entrepreneurship and develop something new?
  • Why does your company exist? Who are your most important stakeholders?

Next, focus on your customers. You need to understand your target audience, how they think, what they want, how to solve their problems and what will get their attention. Talk to customers and make sure you know the answers to all these questions. Finally, translate those answers into market positioning, messaging, imagery and offerings that resonate.

Branding also helps when pitching to an investor or recruiting someone new to your team. There is inherent risk in creating, investing or joining a startup and its your job to assuage any concern about that risk by communicating exactly why you are going to be successful. Investors want to know exactly what position you are going after in the marketplace and how you will own it. Potential employees also want to understand your mission, to determine if it aligns with what they believe and if they are willing to take the risk and join a startup.

Authentic and clear branding, used effectively, can also help you seem larger and more established than you are. This isn’t about deception, but about presenting yourself as a trustworthy and reputable company, despite your youth and smaller team. Coming across as established and professional can be helpful for a startup when trying to convert customers, attract investment and find talent.

Create beautiful messaging and imagery that resonates with your customers, investors and employees and you will be amazed at the response and financial return.

A Brand Helps with Marketing Execution

Along with helping you sell, great branding makes your job easier. We all know content is king when it comes to marketing. In principle, a content marketing strategy sounds great and many companies have every intention of developing and implementing a content strategy, but in practice, content takes a lot of time, resulting in many content plans falling by the wayside.

For startups, content provides a great way to establish credibility, find customers, provide value and boost awareness. In terms of dollars, it’s cheaper than traditional marketing and advertising channels (online and print advertising, conferences, paid digital marketing, etc.), but in terms of time and resources, it can be very expensive. One easy way to make content marketing quicker and easier is, you guessed it, developing your brand.

Before you run off to create a bunch of blog posts, newsletters, e-books and guides, take a step back and focus on your branding. Developing your values, benefits, imagery and brand guidelines will make developing and creating content much easier. Branding work will educate what type of content you should be creating for potential customers, what topics you should be covering and which platforms to include in your strategy.

Once you answer these questions, you can begin creating your content. Except now you won’t have to begin by staring at a blank page and wondering where to start. You will have voice guidelines, imagery, colors and other graphic details to help you get started. You will be able to develop marketing materials faster and with fewer revisions, including websites, emails, social media posts, pitches, sales collateral and pretty much anything else you need for marketing.

Of course, creating content and marketing materials will always take time, but once you have your branding complete, you can develop materials faster and tweak as you go, rather than starting from scratch each time you need a new post or a new piece of collateral. This makes your job easier and provides continuity for your customers, making your brand recognizable and more importantly, memorable.

Written by Robert Wallace

    Want more?

    Get extra insight with our newsletter.

    In the media

    We’ve shared our secrets with…

    Inc Entrepreneaur Press & Media