It’s not enough to build a great product or company. You have to know how to build a brand, too.
One of the biggest questions I ask founders is, what’s the risk of not building a brand? They may think it’s not a priority, but what happens when opportunities arise and they’re not prepared to capitalize? No one wants to be the blank website or the empty deck when an investor or TechCrunch comes calling.
Start building your brand earlier than you think you have to!
In This Article
- What Is a Brand?
- What Is Brand Building?
- Benefits of Building a Brand
- How to Build a Brand: 5-Step Checklist
- Building a Brand Foundation
What Is a Brand?
Brand is what your company stands for, how your company expresses that viewpoint and how your audience perceives it.
Brand isn’t just your company’s name, logo or the colors on your website. Nike’s name and logo didn’t become iconic on their own. They only did so because they represented the company’s fashionable sneakers and popular advertising campaigns.
The Nike logo cost Phil Knight $35. The company name was selected based on a dream. It’s what you do with the mark that makes something become iconic! Let that sink in.
— Kyle York (@kyork20) August 9, 2021
Your company’s name, logo and colors are simply representations of your true brand, which is made up of your values, voice and tone. And your values, voice and tone must all be aligned. If you can’t articulate your values appropriately, they won’t resonate with your audience.
What Is Brand Building?
Brand building is the process of defining your company’s identity and values and making your audience aware of them through consistent, sustained marketing efforts. It is an ongoing, ever-changing process that forms the foundation for everything your company does and says in the market.
Benefits of Building a Brand
Successful branding helps you:
- differentiate from the competition;
- drive more sales;
- have a long-lasting impact;
- attract and retain talent; and
- charge higher prices.
And when your values, voice and tone guide everything you do as a company, it creates better experiences for your prospects, customers and employees.
The benefits of brand building aren’t immediate, which is why some people push it off to the side or wait until the last minute. But the long-term benefits are significant, and they have a compounding effect.
“The biggest mistake I made in my career was under-investing in brand,” says Tom Wentworth, former senior vice president of product marketing at Acquia and current CMO of Recorded Future.. “Think about brand. Think about making investments today that you can’t prove, but that you know are going to be the kinds of things that … as you’re a much larger company, you’re going to want to have in place.”
Think about your own recent purchases. Did you buy based off a brand? When was the last time you bought tissues vs. Kleenex? Brand building has been part of our daily lives in every choice we make. Shouldn’t your customers see your brand as you start?
The sooner you start brand building, the sooner it will pay off.
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and set the stage for business growth.
How to Build a Brand: 5-Step Checklist
Here’s how to get started building your brand:
- Take a market-in approach.
- Develop a messaging hierarchy.
- Identify your marketing channels.
- Be consistent.
- Put your face out there.
1. Take a Market-In Approach
When building a brand, the key to success is sticking out from the crowd and connecting with your audience.
Many tech companies take a product-out approach. They decide what they want to build or what they want to say based on their own experiences, and then they bring it out to market. The market-in approach, on the other hand, relies on data to inform your decisions.
Market-in is so important for brand building. Only when you know your competitors, comparators and overall market like the back of your hand can you truly define your message and how you deliver it. If you don’t know exactly who you are — and even more importantly, who you aren’t — then how can you expect your customers to do the same?
When you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being known for nothing. If you go too broad in your messaging, you may miss the boat with your core audience. But on the other hand, if you keep changing, you are never known for one thing. There is a balance, and it comes down to messaging.
2. Develop a Messaging Hierarchy
What do you want to be known for? How do you then take that message further, find out what makes you different and develop a unique point of view? How can you start sharing it with the world over and over again?
That’s what we call drumbeat marketing: an approach to brand building that emphasizes messaging, discipline and consistency.
A messaging hierarchy defines exactly what your company wants to be, do and say. To create yours, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your vision?
- What is your mission?
- What do you do?
- Who do you do it for?
- How do you do it?
- What are your differentiators?
3. Identify Your Marketing Channels
The next step in building your brand is to take your clearly defined message and shout it from the rooftops.
By taking a market-in approach, you should know who your target audience is and where they congregate online. Identify the best channels to reach them and filter your message through those channels in creative but repeatable ways.
An ebook can turn into multiple blog posts, which can turn into even more marketing emails. Or a webinar can turn into multiple YouTube videos, which can turn into even more LinkedIn videos.
Be disciplined. Don’t try to be everything to everyone, everywhere.
4. Be Consistent
Consistency is the key to branding success. From a strictly marketing perspective, only by repeating your message over and over again will it become part of your core strategy and resonate throughout your market.
At a higher level, think of your brand as a consistent set of principles that guides everything your company does: building and selling your product, interacting with customers, hiring employees, etc. When a potential customer reads your blog, watches an executive in an interview or sees your LinkedIn ad, those experiences should all align with how they perceive your brand.
5. Put Your Face Out There
As you develop your startup’s marketing strategy, there is no silver bullet to cut through the noise and have your company be heard. You don’t have the time or resources to do it all, but you can’t ignore it either.
So, start with this mindset: Be OK with the fact that you are the face of the company, and the line between your personal brand and your company’s brand may be blurry.
Leverage your network. Unified voices are powerful, and they give you credibility. The more people that know about your startup, the more it contributes to your successful branding. Never underestimate the number of people watching and viewing from the sidelines. Keep brand building, and the engagements will come.
Building a Brand Foundation
With the market-in approach and drumbeat marketing, you’re building your brand by delivering a relevant message to the right audience across all of your owned (and later, earned and paid) channels. Every social media post, blog and press release is adding to the foundation. Keep building on that and eventually your point of view becomes associated with your brand in your market — and that’s the ultimate goal.
Remember, every touchpoint that someone has with your startup is an opportunity. If someone walks away unsure of your messaging, it is a lost opportunity. Keep going! Keep building your brand daily!
Now you know how to build a brand. But do you need more help with marketing? Reach out to our advisory services team!