Many people think a brand is a logo, colors, fonts, and designs. In reality, a brand is what these features evoke in the customer and a promise to provide a specific experience.
While logos and other details help brands maintain consistency and recognition, branding is making calculated decisions to create the customer perception you want.
Startups can become very focused on product development, often neglecting the vital task of building a brand. Branding and marketing are considered an expense, not a long-term company investment.
How to Develop a Solid Brand Foundation
Focus Your Brand Story Around the Customer
The brand story tells the customer who you are and what you stand for as a brand and shapes your interactions with customers. Your brand story should provide a clear understanding of the company’s purpose.
More than finding a great deal, customers want to connect with brands that reinforce their sense of self. A successful brand story fosters an emotional connection between the customer and the brand, attracting an audience without huge ad spend.
Brand stories can be simple. In fact, some of the most successful brand stories are a simple description of the problem the company tried to solve, how they solved it, and the outcome they achieved. Tell your brand story in a way that helps customers relate to your brand and your purpose.
Let Customer Insights Drive Your Strategy, Rather Than Features
Your product is the focus of your business, so it’s natural to want to showcase its features in your marketing campaigns. While product features are useful and deliver the solutions you offer, choosing to highlight them makes the customer do all the work.
If you want to connect with the customer, it’s important to highlight the benefits of your product’s features, not the features themselves. Connect these dots for the customer in a way that gives them context and shows the real-world benefits they can have by purchasing your product.
Create Touchpoints for the Whole Customer Journey
Touchpoints are an important part of the customer journey. They’re all the points when your customer interacts with your brand and leaves an impression of the brand, product, or service. You can create brand loyalty and deliver a seamless, positive customer experience.
Each touchpoint in the customer journey should be developed to stay consistent with the brand and what you want the customers to perceive. They should represent your brand clearly and accurately, attract the attention of new customers, and motivate customers to complete an action.
The best way to create these touchpoints is with these questions:
- What is the first impression of the brand?
- Is the messaging consistent with the brand identity?
- Does it differentiate my brand from my competitors?
- Will it attract prospects?
- Does it motivate customers to follow through on an action?
- Does it leave a positive, lasting impression?
Think through your touchpoints like a customer and you can ensure that your customer journey is a positive one that moves your brand forward.
Unlock the Power of Your Brand
Every brand needs its own tailored strategy, but these broad strategies can help you harness the power of strong branding for your startup:
Don’t Neglect Customer Experience
User experience (UX) gets a lot more attention than customer experience (CX). In reality, both are vital to your brand’s success.
UX refers to the experience people have when they interact with a product, while CX refers to the interactions people have with a brand on a whole. UX considers performance metrics like clicks to completion and error rate, while CX considers the overall experience from start to finish and how it reflects on the brand.
UX is a component of CX, but many startups get so wrapped up in the UX that they forget about CX. If you have a product with many comparable options in a saturated market, optimizing CX gives you a chance to show how your brand is different from the rest.
Get Insights from a Customer Advisory Board
Getting an outside view of your product and what makes it unique can be challenging and time consuming. A customer advisory board is a great way to gain insights on your product and brand from a customer.
A customer advisory board is a collection of hand-selected customers that are brought together to discuss the product development process for the brand. Done well, a customer advisory board can give you in-depth, honest assessments of what you’re doing well and what could be improved. Customers also share how you brand fits into their lives and how the products are used in the real world.
Adopt a Proactive Mindset with Brand Communications
Strategic brand communications are integral to brand strategy and help you direct your efforts at the right people, at the right time, and on the right channel. Targeting your communications ensures that your efforts drive results.
Your brand communications plan should include these components:
- Audience Identification: Determine the audience, or audiences, you’re directly your communications toward.
- Goals and Objectives: Communication should have a purpose in the larger organizational strategy, such as increasing sales or driving brand awareness.
- Key Messages: Develop clear and concise messaging framework that communicates what your brand does and how you do it.
- Tactical Plans: The tactical plan is the blueprint for communications and should have a linear strategy to achieve your goals and objectives.
- Metrics: The only way to determine if your efforts are working is by evaluating metrics. Part of your strategy should be choosing the metrics that support your goals and objectives to see what was successful, and what wasn’t, so you can tweak your strategy moving forward.
Develop a Plan to Review Ideas
Ideas, recommendations, and feedback for your brand strategy can come from customers, employees, and prospects. Not every idea is a gem, of course, so it’s important to have a plan in place to decide which ideas have value.
When you establish guidelines to determine which ideas are suitable for your brand and which ideas go against your goals, you can ensure that only the most relevant and beneficial ideas make it through.
Turn Employees and Partners into Brand Advocates
Who better to promote your brand than your own employees and partners? Empowering your employees to promote your brand gives you an edge over competitors with not only customers, but with attracting talent.
Choosing employees to advocate on the behalf of your brand lends plenty of authenticity to your marketing and recruitment efforts, as well as increasing your social presence. Give your employees the tools and training to spread the word throughout social media, events, and with customers. You can encourage participation with in-house competitions, one-on-one coaching, and meetings to learn more about your employees’ stories and ideas for branded content.
Adapt to Change
Change is part of the business world. Change may come from cultural shifts, fluctuations in the market, or challenges within your business. Sometimes, startups aren’t prepared to manage these situations and rebound from significant change.
A contingency plan can help you stay agile when the market pivots. Contingency plans give you a backup for when your primary plan is no longer feasible, so you can adapt to dramatic or damaging situations and protect your brand’s progress and reputation.
Author: Patrick Smith
With ideas for leading brands, Patrick solves real-world business problems for enterprise organizations, startups, and everything in between. Prior to C2 Creative, Patrick developed marketing campaigns at several leading advertising agencies and hybrid digital organizations. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from Illinois State University.