Startup Branding 101

When it comes to marketing your business — branding is an old concept. Unfortunately, it is often one that few many startups utilize properly. Review these 7 tips to improve (or build!) your brand.

September 10th, 2017   |    By: Niraj Ranjan Rout    |    Tags: Product, Branding, Growing a Business

According to figures reported in the GEM Global Report, 100 million new businesses are launched annually.

Thats nearly 11,000 startups per hour. 

So, how do you beat this competition? By raising more funds? By marketing more aggressively? Maybe. But, I believe that increasing the brand value of your startup can help it not only survive the competition but thrive.

Startup Branding 101

When it comes to marketing your business, branding is an old concept. Unfortunately, it’s one that few startups utilize properly. Review these 7 tips to improve (or build!) your startup’s branding:

Tip #1 — No persistence, no brand

For example, what are the labels you would associate with the Nike brand?

You’re probably thinking somewhere along the lines of sports, Michael Jordan, spirit, determination, persistence, etc. 

So when marketing yourself, pick your niche early on, and ensure that everything you say as a brand and everything you do as a brand resonates with your selected niche. While the results might not show up in the short term, it’s the persistence that will count.

Pro Tip: When branding a startup, do not expect results for the first two years – keep going nevertheless!

Tip #2 — Oldest trick in the book – exclusivity

Using Exclusivity in Startup Branding

When Pinterest first launched, it was an invitation-only service. Not all users could get in, and before you knew it, Pinterest hit 10 million users and people were going crazy for the invite.

That’s the magic of exclusivity.

Exclusivity can be anything – you could accept fewer customers, or you could give special offers to your longstanding customers etc.

Pro Tip: Focus more on less. If you focus less on more, it’s likely that you’ll lose the sight of the larger picture.

Tip #3 — Take care of aesthetics

Apple’s only big differentiation in its initial phase was aesthetics. When everyone else was building chunky, and frankly ugly computers, Apple focused on integrating beauty and technology.

Let’s admit it, we all are naturally more receptive to eye pleasing stuff; that’s why it’s important to take care of this aspect.

For Example:

Pro Tip: Ensure that each and every detail on your website and the product is aesthetically pleasing. However, I have to emphasize that having an aesthetically pleasing website alone is not enough. It is crucial that you actively track and measure the engagement you are receiving. Using this data, you will be able to optimize and fill gaps within your website, and make it more appealing to your visitors.

Tip #4 – share your brand’s story

Brand storytelling is a powerful way to breathe life into your business and illustrates what your startup stands for to your audience.

Instead of saying “We stand for excellent customer service”, share examples of how you went above and beyond to make a customer happy, or ways that you are improving your product. By sharing the story behind why you stand for something, it is shared in a way that builds trust with your audience.

On a personal level; when I first started pitching about Hiver, my startup, to both investors and potential leads, I realized that I had a better outcome when I took the time to explain my startup and it’s story, rather than just diving into the features and details of the product. Even if we couldn’t make business happen with that particular investor/customer, I noticed that they were more than happy to refer us and point us to more leads.

Pro Tip: When telling business stories, stay consistent in aspects such as values, and ideals.

Tip #5 — Always take the high road

Chrome - Keep Calm While We Steal Your Data Coffee Mug

In 2013, Microsoft attacked Google by selling merchandise (mugs, T-shirts, and hoodies) with anti-Google messages like “keep calm while we steal your data” alongside the Chrome browser logo. Google’s took the high road and responded, “Microsoft’s latest venture comes as no surprise; competition in the wearables space really is heating up”.

Taking the high road doesn’t mean you ignore a particular issue.  It means avoiding that reactive, emotional and impulsive reaction you have towards that problem.

If your competitor is bad mouthing you — take the high road. If a customer is blaming you, just because they can — take the high road. Whether it’s your fault or not — always take the high road.

Why? By taking the high road in tough situations without engaging in any reactive behavior, you portray gracefulness and broad-mindedness, and that’s just great for the brand that you are trying to build.

Pro Tip: People will never respect an abrasive brand. If a competitor is bad-mouthing you repeatedly, react but keep the gracefulness intact even in the worse of situations.

Tip #6 — Determine your brands values

Before you launch your startup, you need to decide on your values.

For example, Airbnb’s mission statement reads – to create a world where you can belong anywhere.  When a travel ban was imposed by the US government on refugees earlier this year, the company made sure they stood up to the values they believe in by offering free housing to people affected.

Tweet from Brian Chesky, CEO of AirBNB

Pro Tip: Customer-centricity has always got to be on your list of values. Every single process should be designed with your customer in mind.

Tip #7 — Work on your marketing mix

Your marketing mix consists all the relevant marketing activities. It is one the most crucial steps when creating your brand — especially for startups that have time and money constraints.

For example: If you’re an early-stage, bootstrapped startup, it doesn’t make sense to spend a huge chunk of money on creating a television commercial. Instead, it makes more sense to market using more cost-effective digital platforms. For this reason, selecting the right marketing tools and deciding how much of what to use early on is key.

Pro Tip: Start thinking of your brand from day one. Product development and brand building should always go hand-in-hand.

In closing, I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes about startup branding, said by none other than Jeff Bezos:

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.

 

About the Author

Niraj Ranjan Rout

Hi, my name is Niraj and I am the founder of Hiver, an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool.

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