How much should early-stage startups with limited resources invest in their brand, and what are the most critical components?

Most early-stage startup founders are either hackers, business people or subject-matter experts, and most teams are laser-focused on building something awesome. When is the right time to focus on brand-building and what's the best way for a startup to use its limited dollars on branding?


The most powerful element of your brand in the early-stage of your startup is your reputation. Every interaction you have can positively build (or negatively impact) your brand.

This can't be bought, but can be easily lost. Common ways I've seen start-ups lose their reputation early:

1) Not listening: Startup CEO asks a customer to participate in customer development and spends the entire time trying to convince the customer they are wrong, don't understand the problem the way the CEO does, or spends time trying to sell the potential customer instead of learning and listening to the customer's needs. The same goes with investors and advisers.

Over-promise / under-deliver: This can be fatal and if not, at least set you back several steps and takes many shapes (product functionality and experience, milestones, projections, etc)

Unresponsive or uncaring: Coming across as lacking concern, empathy and/or humility is perhaps the most "viral" way to ruin or lose brand value. It seem as though every week there is a story getting shared via Twitter of a CEO, founder or key team member who is bringing down their brand in this category.

Failing to make customers love you: While all of the above things can negatively impact your brand, if you don't turn people who experience your product or service into true fans (not a like button), you won't build a lasting brand.

Keep your brand focused on your reputation in the early days. Stay laser-focused on this kind of brand-building. It is the surest way to build real brand equity.

Happy to talk through any and all of these points in more detail with you on a call.

Answered 11 years ago

The best time to begin incorporating identity strategy into the mix is when the vision for the product is clear. If you can clearly articulate what you are building, the key features, the environment you are attempting to create, and who your target customers are, you're ready.

Here's the good news—quality brand and identity advice and visual design does not have to be very expensive. I've worked with large agencies and freelance experts in the past, and the only difference I have experienced is the cost.

Wishing you much success!

Answered 11 years ago

In my personal experience from B2B start-ups.

The best time to start building a brand is from day 1, I know this sounds cliche but let me elaborate:

Three key components through which you can build a brand without spending too much money:

a. SUPER Duper Customer Service and Support. That is the best and the cheapest thing you can do to build a brand for your early stage start-up from Day 0-1. Pick up calls within 2 rings, respond to emails within 5 minutes, resolve issues within 30 minutes.

b. Next stage is: Killer Messaging

When you start selling in the open marketplace through Cold Calls and Email Campaigns:

Focus on messaging on your website. Have a very clear value prop right on the home page with a 60-70 second professionally done video and use services like TechValidate to get Customer reviews on.

c. Stage 3: Spread your wings. Become a thought leader.

Lead your industry segment by producing insights and truly thought provoking content. Participate in smaller focused conferences/seminars where your target audience visits,

Answered 11 years ago

At Vidyard, I focused on brand at Day 1/ground Zero. Depending on your market, it's likely true that (in large part) people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

You're organization's brand is the only way to reveal culture to potential customers and recruits. A solid brand (logo, colours, style, method of communication) will help you close deals (both customers and employees).

That said, depending on your role (assuming you're the "business guy") your brand should be built by you (you are the brand).

Time to think about it = always
Money to spend on it = Logo (99 Designs - this should also dictate your colour scheme) Everything else (sales collateral, website design, decks, etc.) should be built by you.

Answered 11 years ago

I think when we're speaking about "limited resources" we actually mean 3 things: time, people and money.

So I will try to cover all of them:

1. Time

The best time to start building your brand is the moment you've got your idea for your business. You must build brand awareness while you're building your product and you should communicate the progress with your audience.

That way when you actually launch you will already have a community that you can work with.

Spend as much time as you can and start doing it as early as possible. Simply because your products/services are not going to sell by itselves.

2. People

Most of the startups I know hire too many engineers and not enough marketers. It's very rare that you will succeed with only 1 person dealing with SEO, content development, community building, PR, etc. Have at least 2-3 people in your marketing team or consider oursourcing some of the work.

I have an inbound marketing agency myself and can offer you a fair price for an exceptional service and results.

3. Money

Your marketing budget should be around 10-15% of your funding/revenue. I suggest you invest more into inbound marketing activities to see a bigger return of investment.

It is hard to tell where to put your money exactly because I don't know specifics about your business. If you need a marketing advice, don't hesitate to call me and I will try to help you in the best way I can.

I'm giving you a VIP key, so you can call me for free

Answered 11 years ago

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