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How to Build a Brand

As a founder, it’s not enough to build a great product or a 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 when an investor or TechCrunch comes calling.

Start building your brand earlier than you think you have to. And that brand starts with you — the face that is synonymous with the startup. You’re already selling and telling your story every day. Now it’s time to expand that.

The Market-In Approach to Brand Building

When building a brand, the key to success is sticking out from the crowd and connecting with your audience.

Many founders 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. There is a balance, and it comes down to messaging.

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.

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How to Build a Brand with Drumbeat Marketing

Drumbeat marketing is an approach that emphasizes:

Messaging: developing a hierarchy and defining exactly what your company wants to say.

Discipline: how you’re going to articulate your message.

Consistency: repeating your message so it becomes part of your core strategy and resonates throughout your company and your market.

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:

  1. Be OK with the fact that you are the face of the company.
  2. Leverage your network. Unified voices are powerful, and they give you credibility. The more people that know about your startup, the more it builds up your brand.
  3. Most importantly, don’t stop!

Building a Brand Foundation

With the market-in approach and drumbeat marketing, you’re building a 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!

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