As a consultant for startups, one of the most common questions I am asked is: "Is building a brand really necessary for a startup?" Well, given that 10 years ago we perhaps had 6-10 vendors per category, and today it's more like 15-20 per category, my answer is a resounding YES, and that it is more important now than ever!
With multiple choices for products and services, and product features overlapping and blurring, consumers really need help to navigate and find the right solution for their specific problem. As you go higher up the product or service value chain, consumers are seeking trust and deep validation along their complex buyer journey. They are more likely to engage with a brand that has a reputation and that they can trust.
The collective perception of a product or service is key to helping them make a decision. This is why I cannot stress enough how important building a brand is for your startup. The early days of your startup are absolutely vital in laying the foundations to achieve this.
Unless you solve a super critical need in the market or you are a first mover in your space, your new business isn't on your potential customer's radar. Most startups would have products or services that do things better or differently from existing products or services. So it boils down to effectively communicating WHAT you do, WHY you do it and how DIFFERENT you are, to help spark an impression in the consumer's mind about your product or service.
Remember, your customers are looking to solve their problem, so putting out a brochure about what you do doesn't grab them initially.
Here are 3 brand building essentials you can do as a startup to help lay the foundation for a strong brand:
1. Define your purpose Articulate the "WHY" about your business. Define what you deeply believe in and let the world feel your passion behind the product or service that you offer. People gravitate to good brand stories and it helps form a strong initial positive perception about your brand.
Some examples: We buy Body Shop products because we believe in Anita Roddicks' story and feel her passion. We buy Apple products because of their commitment to challenging the status quo and creating amazing products that change the world. We stay in AirBnB homes because we cherish their purpose which is to create a world without strangers, and help travelers experience a destination like a local. YOUR purpose is your beacon and guiding light and one of the key reasons why your customers care about you.
2. Differentiate or Die I'm going to have to be really blunt here as there's really no two ways about this. If you can't effectively communicate how different you are from everyone else in your category, you're going to find it very hard to get traction fast.
You need to have a clear positioning to cut through the noise and eventually own a place in your customer's mind.
Your brand personality and promise will help you stand out and eventually build your brand equity. Just ask Michael Dubin, now a Billionaire from Dollar Shave Club.
3. Be consistent Brand building is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes consistency and alignment in what you say and do, to build trust. Trust needs to be earned. The days are long gone , where we as marketers could effectively buy trust and top of mind awareness by surrounding consumers with our 'brand' messages
Today no one really cares about a company's self indulgent marketing messages. In fact consumers don't want to be marketed to! They have had enough of advertising shoved down their throats. They have all the power now and will make up their own minds about your product or service, SIMPLY because they can.
Provide customers with the self-serve information they are looking for. Remind them about your brand story, what you stand for and how you can help them solve their problems. Do this consistently and see your reputation build up, eventually leading to increased conversions and business success.
Now that you have the 3 essentials to help you establish your own distinctive brand, go on, build your dream business and help change the world in your own unique way.