Starting up your own business is saturated with problems that need solving, ideas that need streamlining and decisions that need careful consideration. But all of these things – these decisions – can be whittled down to meet one single requirement; the need to stand out.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are starting up in, or what sector of the market you want to capture, competition is more fierce than ever before, and that means earning your crust is more of a challenge than ever before. That is why it is so important you stand out from the crowd and get yourself noticed, and that comes down to one thing and one thing only; branding.
Of course, it is imperative to offer a top quality product or a much-needed service, but at the heart of every successful business is this idea of branding; that unique identity which people look at and trust, look at and know what they are going to get, look at and smile.
What branding achieves is a perception. It encourages people to hold a certain image of you in the head, whether that be about you as a company, your values, your products, service level, attention to detail, quality or cause.
That is why branding is so important to success, and so hard to get right. But, if you do, then you will be able to get people to think about you in the exact way you intended.
This brings us onto the all important question, how do you go about creating a successful brand? Well, grab a notepad and pen, and start taking down notes, because the earlier you work toward the desired perception the easier it will be to achieve it, and thus the quicker you will achieve growth.
Know the audience you want to serve
When you are just starting out, knowing who your main audience is can be all about guesswork. You go through a period of trial and error. But you don’t have to.
If you know your product, then you may know who you want to aim your product at, which will be a huge benefit to you. The most successful brands in the world have a thorough understanding of the characteristics that make up their main target audience.
These include buying traits, personal interests, communication preferences, social media usage, and causes. Sure, big supermarket chains that offer everything under the sun – such as Target – don’t need to understand their target audience because they target everyone.
But you are not Target, so the ‘appeal to everyone’ will almost definitely be counterproductive to your marketing strategies, campaigns, brand identity and the connection between you and the consumer, which you want to be as organic as possible.
That is why you will want to do as much research on your target audience as possible. That means working out who they are, even if it is painting a very broad picture of them.
For example, a single man living in Manhattan and making over $120,000 a year will give you a very different brand image to that of a married mother with three children living in Michigan.
It is also important to understand what their most pressing issues are, where they go to for the latest news, who they trust, what they care about and how susceptible they are to bullshit. All of this stuff will benefit your branding aims.
Be different in some way
If you close your eyes and think about what Apple is as a brand, chances are you’ll think about their slick and smart products, their minimalistic design and their sexy packaging. That is what they have become known for.
That is what makes them unique and distinctive, and they have built their entire business around the perspective. Take their iPhone 7 ‘Don’t Blink’ campaign as an example. It was essentially just a series of words on a screen, and yet it went viral.
But they aren’t the only company to have build a brand based on a strong identity. Domino’s pizza is that pizza company that promises to deliver to you in under half an hour.
Both Tom’s and MyGumboots have built a brand using cause sales tactics, each of them respectively donating a pair of shoes and boots to children that are needed. They have used a philanthropic cause to build their brands.
This may seem like a daunting prospect to consider, but you don’t have to be a creative genius. You just need that little idea – that little angle – that will separate you from the crowd.
Once you have that thing, it is just a matter of focussing on it and keeping true to it, and in time you will become recognized for it. Basically, being a one trick pony is absolutely fine if that trick is really, really good.
Branding is all about consistency
Building a brand that encourages association among its users – clients, and consumers – means you have to be consistent. Your repeat business is going to be based almost entirely on the consumer expectation, in which they expect the same level of high quality and service as they got the first time around.
A great example of this can be found in the restaurant game. A restaurant can build its reputation on innovative food, great service or even price. When you go to Pink’s in LA, you expect to get the best chili dog there is when you go to a Scream pub, you expect to get a beer and a meal for next to nothing and when you got to a Michelin starred hotspot, you expect to get the cleverest food imaginable.
There is not a brand that has been inconsistent and succeeded. That is what history says anyway, and the future will follow that trend too. The reason for this is simple; the markets are saturated, and something as small as an inconsistency can give consumers a reason to look elsewhere.
When you create a brand, you are adhering to a standard of quality set by you. The gods of this trait are without a doubt McDonald’s. You could go to their branches in Wisconsin, Lithuania, Shanghai and Canberra, and you wouldn’t find that their Big Mac tastes the same in all of them. It is staggering.
Maximise your exposure to sell your brand
Your brand will only get traction if you know how to use the different channels available to you and mimic the same brand image across all of them.
This can be tricky when you are just starting out because, unlike big and established businesses, you won’t have massive marketing budgets available to you. That means you won’t be able to advertise your brand at halftime of the next Super Bowl, or on cinema screens before the next Fast & Furious film comes out.
However, research by the experts at The Webmaster has shown that the internet – and the rise in popularity of social media – has closed the gap between massive conglomerates and startup companies.
It can be a simple matter of starting a blog as a means to boost your SEO or using the different social media platforms to your advantage. We live in an age where people have built brands through nothing more than Instagram posts.
They have cornered a market by branding themselves in such a way that people would visit their Instagram pages to see their makeup pictures, which they then grew into make-up tutorials on Youtube, and now they have their own line of lipsticks and eye shadows worth millions and millions a year.
Anyone has the ability to reach almost any consumer these days, whether that be through a visual social media platform like Pinterest or Instagram, or through something more aligned to a business service, such as LinkedIn.
It is just a matter of knowing how to maximize your exposure strategy without breaking the bank, harnessing the power of search engines to get your brand found.
Build your success on passion
Passion is needed for short-term success. However, if you’re aiming to build a brand – a big brand – then passion is the secret ingredient when it comes to both achieving success and achieving longevity. Not only is passion infectious, it also absolutely necessary to your own stamina and determination.
Let’s take JK Rowling, the most successful author of all time. It took her 7 years to write the first Harry Potter book, and she had to shoulder numerous rejection letters after she had finished it. That’s where passion comes in.
Steve Jobs is another fine example of what can be achieved when you have a passion for something, whether that be technology or animated films. Passion is what propels people to keep putting the graft in, and that graft is what tends to lead to great things.
But it isn’t just your passion as the leader, the owner, the ship-steerer that counts because a consumer that is passionate about your product is just as infectious, which means others around them will be encouraged to check out your brand through osmosis.
In case you hadn’t heard already, word of mouth is the most irresistible method of marketing. Word of mouth is an advertising campaign that costs you nothing and is supported by testimonials from people who use it, people that are independent of you, people that are willing to put their name to your brand without getting anything in return. Who can say no to that kind of passion?