Great entrepreneurs are masters of controlling perception.
Whether they are shaping how their product or service will be perceived in the market or they are influencing how investors perceive the vision for their company, entrepreneurs understand the value of controlling the narrative.
This value stretches far beyond just simple marketing or pitching—it is the very essence of what your company is and will become. A brand is much more than a mere logo or color scheme. The brand you create will influence your product development, design choices, workplace culture, and pretty much everything else you do throughout your journey. That’s why over 80% of the Fortune 500 Company CEOs rate their “brand” as their company’s number one asset, and you should too.
That being said, in this article we are going to discuss two essentials YOU NEED for a successful entrepreneurial brand strategy.
1. Develop a Strong Personal Branding
One key attribute to successful branding, especially within innovative startups, is to give great attention to your personal brand. Ideally, your branding should, in one way or another, take the form of a narrative. That way, consumers and investors alike, not only know why your company exists, but why it was founded by you. For example, we all know the story of the rise of Tesla, and its famed portrayal as a “tech company” rather than an automotive company. This label is not a result of its business model—it’s automotive revenue accounted for nearly 87% of its total revenue. Rather, it’s the brand they created, or more accurately, the brand created by Elon Musk.
Tesla is synonymous with its Founder and for good reason. Elon is viewed as a world changing, cutting edge innovator by many consumers and investors. This view is in turn associated with Tesla itself. That’s not to say their products don’t fulfill these high standards; delivering on your promises is a huge part to maintaining a successful brand. However, we can account a significant portion of Tesla branding to Elon and how the company never lost sight of his original vision.
This is something that entrepreneurs should aspire to embody. Lay out a clear vision for your fledgling company strongly tied to your own passion, and deliver. People have a much easier time connecting with other people rather than a corporate logo. So when creating your logo, slogan, or website, remember why it was YOU who created the company in the first place.
Moving forward, don’t just work to guide your startup in the best direction you see fit, challenge yourself to embody the vision you set out for your company. Use platforms like Linkedin to your advantage to create influence and don’t be afraid to get in front of a camera. Try speaking about your ideas at conferences, go on podcasts, and pretty much do anything you can to make you and your company indistinguishable from one another. So when creating your logo, slogan, or website, remember why it was YOU who created the company in the first place. Challenge yourself to
2. Understand Brand Positioning
Ok so you understand where you, as a founder, fit into your brand…great. But now the question arises, where does your brand fit into the market? Similar to product-market fit, you want your brand to reflect the key differentiators and value propositions that give you an edge over your competitors. If you are selling a convenience product, one that seeks to make customers’ lives easier relative to the competition, your logo, website, packaging, and marketing content should center around ease of use or low barrier to entry. If you are selling an expensive quality product, one that seeks to reflect a higher prestige than the competition, your branding should center around luxury.
A classic example of excellent brand positioning is Apple. Today, technology consumers are hell bent on shopping by price comparison. Go to any online store selling TVs, computers or phones and you will quickly learn that. Despite this, Apple widely leaves price out of their branding and instead focuses on the value their products offer and the sense of community formed with their consumers.
Their devices are by far the most expensive and are only really meant to work with other expensive Apple products. That’s not because they aren’t aware of what consumers want, they just understand their brand’s position in the market. Apple offers a suite of products and services meant to be used in tandem because their branding centers around exclusivity and innovation.
They use their brand’s position in the market to justify their prices. All of their marketing assets are in alignment with this vision including their website, advertisement, logo, slogan, and pretty much every part of the user experience.In order to accomplish this, you need to keenly understand your competitors and consumer behavior. Really take time to honestly evaluate your branding and relate it back to the core values of your company. Is your logo and slogan there because of personal preference or do you have a unique position in the market you are trying to reflect? The answer to that question will make or break your brand. Strive to get out of your own way, get unbiased feedback, and be very intentional about your brand choices.
3. Be Bold
Every business has competition, and as an entrepreneur, your startup must stand out from not only the established companies in your industry, but also the thousands of other startups launched every year. This means that having absolute clarity on what your brand stands for, what your big “why” is, and how you’re going to communicate your message and that distinction to your customers, is crucial to your brands’ potential success. If you are not all in on that big “why”, then you run the risk of just blending into the hundreds of other businesses in your space trying to innovate.
It can be challenging to properly and fully develop your ‘brands’ profile’, but once done, it becomes vital to the fundamental success of your business. As an example, many entrepreneurs around the world have built their success through a brand profile that has been strongly rooted in the provenance of their unique geographic location. The hospitality and restaurant industry is particularly crowded, but with enough differentiation from other restaurants in the same locality and an authentically lived and experienced brand story, you can attract a loyal customer following. This can pretty much be applied universally to any niche.
4. Deliver on your Promises
Every successful brand comes with an unshakeable promise—in fact, your brand promise is a core part of your brand. Having a brand means that your customers can and should expect certain rewards whenever they interact with your company. Startups often fall into the trap of exclusively focusing their brand efforts on outbound marketing rather than looking back at the products or services themselves. Ideally, your branding efforts should be equally spread across all facets of your consumer facing business.
Whether that brand is incredibly high performance technology or exceptional customer service, the key to sustaining your startup is to deliver on your brand promise. Your brand promise must be non-negotiable in its delivery and fulfillment all the time.
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