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The start-up brand strategy - making your brand pay.

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

Start-up brands... the challenge for start-up brands is very different from established brands, the approach and need for brand investment depends not only on the scale and ambition of the business but the sector and maturity of the market.

If the brand is a small business that is looking to scale organically, getting off the ground, creating sales with short-term activation and building revenue to remain viable can take precedence over building the right brand for long-term growth.

Investing in your brand strategy

Sorting out your vision, mission, values, positioning, look and feel and tone of voice, can, at an early stage of start-up - seem like a daunting, unrequired and costly exercise with no guarantees of return. After all many start-ups don't make it past 2 years and many sink with debts or relaunch themselves in new guises. So why with this backdrop invest in a brand as a start-up?

Your brand is your voice

It's the most memorable thing you have, every time you communicate with customers or prospects you are leaving an impression. Each impression you leave builds a picture of the type of business you are - and based on this customers decide how they want to engage with you and how valuable your product or service is to them.

Your brand is not just a logo it is every experience and interaction that your customers have you your business.

Creating the right engagement

Creating the right thoughts and feelings is imperative to creating the right actions and therefore growing your business and being able to change a premium for your products and services, this is called creating the right mental availability.

Mental availability across all customer types is the battleground of all brands - with so many options why choose your brand... The aim of any brand is to build the right thoughts feeling and actions that put you ahead of your competitors, if done well your brand builds front-of-mind preference and greater affinity and consideration amongst your customers and prospective customers. To create mental availability you need to create meaning, difference and salience - this is both a science and an art.

Being memorable and building emotion

Mental availability leads to front-of-mind preference and this is all about creating the right sort of memorability not just at the point of purchase but in a stage called the priming stage. The priming stage is when your customers are in day-to-day mode - they are not looking for your product or service but they are aware of brands and messages that appeal.

So how do you create front-of-mind memorability in your marketplace? I am pretty certain you are not going to be unique. in the market, if you are well done! In most cases there will be others offering a similar service or product - so if you can't stand out in full with a unique product what can you stand out on? I have to say this is not done with features and benefits.. these are expected and you must talk about them, but to build a strong brand you create stand out by creating human emotive storytelling and by creating an emotional connection.

If you are a B2B brand please remember that brand emotions mean just as much to B2B as B2C - we all use mental heuristics to make our buying selections, these are driven by the emotive not rational part of our brain. Anyone who tells you that B2B is a purely rational buying process is... simply wrong. Some markets are more rational than others, but this is not the primary driver for preference as the work by Les Binet and Peter Field tells us.

Build preference

To build affinity, emotion, and consideration you need to know your audience, this enables you to build a strong and consistent message that is meaningful and different - the chances are your products are not different but how you present yourself, your tone of voice and your focus can be.

Get your story straight

Initially getting your story straight and planning how this runs across all your communications and everything you do is essential to directing your brand voice. Alongside this you need to set out;

  1. Who you are targeting

  2. What they needs from your category

  3. How they shop

  4. What the barriers to engagement are

Keey it simple

Develop a messaging hierarchy and try to land on one or two key things you can say about your product or service - we can only remember one or two things so saying too much actually weakens your proposition.

Do some research

It is essential to do customer research and I am always amazed at how few businesses do this. How can you hope to stand out when you don't know what your customers want, how they behave or what they need? Additionally knowing and tracking your competition is key - with so many choices nudging people to choose you instead of another product or service is an ongoing battle.

Be there for the long-term

A brand is a long-term game, brand is about priming your audience so that eventually you have brand pull and desirability which ultimately creates the ability to change a price premium and drive higher volume and word of mouth among other things.

The basics you can't afford not to do

If you are a small business, I can't press on you more on the importance of getting the basics of brand right: A simple way to get started is to print out this blog and set aside half a day to try and answer the following questions:

  1. Who are you? (What's your "Why, How What?")

  2. What's your story?

  3. What's your vision and mission for the business that customers will resonate with?

  4. Why are you different?

  5. What makes you meaningful in the market?

  6. What is your value proposition?

  7. What do you want customers to “think, feel and do” when interacting with your brand?

  8. What are your values? how are you delivering these

  9. How is each interaction delivering your brand?

  10. What's your personality and tone of voice

  11. How are you different from your competitors

  12. Are you memorable?

  13. Why should your customers care?... If you don't, why would they?

  14. How do you shop? which brands impress you? Why could you learn or adopt

  15. Are you visually giving the impression that you want?

  16. Is our service reflecting how you want your brand to be remembered?

  17. What is your long-term plan? - how will your brand stay the same, or will it change and evolve - are you planning for the future?

Spending time on these areas takes time and is tricky. I suggest always doing research - research is essential to understanding how your business can thrive in the long term and what your brand value is to customers - ask customers, look at competitors, take on board all feedback.

Your guiding star

Pulling together your brand strategy creates a guiding star that you can keep coming back to and ensures you are consistently working to build a clear and memorable business that stands for something, rather than having a scattergun approach, each interaction, each sale, each communication you have build memorability for your business. And, the name of the game with strong branding is memorability... after all, we don't buy something we don't remember. I like to think of this as the "So what" test...think to yourself.. would anyone else care about this?

Talk to us today

Don't waste time - If you want to have a chat about your brand, and its trajectory moving forward get in touch. I offer full-day workshops for small business start-ups to help them set their brand trajectory. If you would like to know more about the next workshop, get in touch to superpower your brand into a profitable part of your business strategy.

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