When you're launching a startup, you need to think about building your brand. Whether it's the name, logo, color palette, website or marketing techniques, a good company needs a good brand to pull in potential customers.
Building a brand from the very start is simple so long as you keep "the three C's" in mind: clarity, consistency and constancy. That means building a clear, coherent story that does not contradict itself or your business operations, and then disseminating that story far and wide to your target audiences.
This guide covers the basics of brand building and promotion to help you build your new venture into a thriving company. [See the three C's in action and find out more insider tips for how to build a killer brand.]
Constructing a brand from the ground up
Each step of the way you will have new opportunities to build your brand's story. Here are some of the major mile markers in your brand-building campaign.
Naming your business
Your business's name will, naturally, be a core component of your brand identity. What do people think of when they hear your business's name? Is it your product or services, your industry, your ethics? The way to ensure you start with a name that will be conducive to your branding effort is to consider what story you want to tell. Then, consider the name of your business the title of that story.
"Your name and image should support your company's mission," said David Langton, president of Langton Creative Group. "When you have to explain your logo or apologize for your brand it's a clear sign that a branding effort is not working."
Design is a major component of building a brand identity. Logo, imagery, color schemes and so on should all reinforce your brand's story and be consistent (the second C) across each visual component.
"Creating a brand is more than just a logo and font choice, it's the personification of your company. It's who you are to your end user, the emotional connection," said Marie Still, chief marketing officer at AAMP Global. "It's the consistent experience that builds trust and loyalty. Creating a personality and platform that is scalable will allow you to evolve your business with your consumers."
Developing a website that is aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate while reinforcing your brand identity is also imperative. You want both form and function here: Your website should reflect your logo and imagery, color scheme and reinforce that brand story while also helping your customers take advantage of your products and services. Regularly improving your website in accordance with customer feedback is a great way to show your brand listens and cares.
"Always look for ways in which you can improve your site," said Drew Sandholm, marketing director at Quontic Bank. "There are always ways to make things easier and faster."
Visit our small business guide to creating a website for more tips.
Disseminating your brand identity
Once you've developed your brand identity, you've still got to get the word out. Good marketers leverage a number of channels to do so, connecting with people in person and online, organically and in a targeted way all at once. A diversification of tactics is essential to branding success.
This is where the third C, constancy, comes in. Regular appearances of your brand in your audiences' circles – whether that's social media, in print, in person or on your website – will reinforce the brand identity you've cultivated. Here are some ways to spread the word.
Marketing and outreach
Odds are you have a pretty good idea of which market segments you're targeting. Consider your target audience and go to where they are; don't just wait for them to come to you. For brick-and-mortar businesses, gaining a face-to-face foothold in the locality is crucial, and one important way to do this is by attending local networking events.
"Most towns have business groups; ask around to see which ones are the most popular," said Laura M. Cummins of Nine Dotz Consulting. "During these meet ups, businesses can share some exciting highlights about their business to help create buzz."
Cummins advised collecting business cards during these events. You can use this opportunity to ask people to like and follow you, and if you can add them to your mailing list to keep them posted about events, news, and promotions.
"This is how a business can start building a powerful contact list while building brand awareness," Cummins added.
Search engine optimization
SEO refers to the act of boosting a website's appearance in search engine results based on certain keywords. Often, this is done through native blogging on a website. This helps grow what is known as "organic" traffic; that is, potential leads that find your company through searching about a general product, service or how to solve a problem.
By developing intelligent, accurate and engaging content related to your industry, you will be able to boost your search rankings and begin to draw in more leads without paid advertising.
"SEO is as important as PR and marketing" said Termeh Mazhari, a NYC-based PR, marketing and SEO consultant. "Optimizing your website for your keywords can often put startups at an equal playing field with larger companies. I recommend that startups hire SEO experts that are also writers so they can not only advise on what keywords to focus on but also write compelling SEO-friendly copy for their websites and blogs."
To learn more about SEO and how to boost organic search, check out our guide.
Social media is a good way to humanize your brand and engage your target audience. Consider the story you've been telling and develop a social media voice consistent with that message. Always stick to that consistent branded story, and remember that frequent engagement – not spamming advertisements – cultivates the best brand relationships.
"With the introduction of algorithms on essentially every major platform, organic reach is on the decline," said Eric Johnson, content and video specialist for Minnesota-based Feedback Wrench Web Design. "Instead of trying to post overtly promotional content – something that's punished by many social media algorithms – focus on informing, entertaining and inspiring. This is what your customers are already searching for."
Check out our marketer's guide for social media to learn more about creating high quality, relatable social media content.