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At Pierpont, we work with many high-growth entrepreneurs. Each brings their own business approach and set of tools that have made them the successful business leaders they are today. Some of those tools they picked up along the way – others they learned from business development organizations such as theAustin Technology Incubator.
While in graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, I had the opportunity to intern with the Incubator and work with startups on how best to begin the brand-building process.
Although the tips and resources varied for each business leader, here are a few that proved to be most beneficial when branding a startup or small business.
1. Understand that the startup team and the startup brand are one and the same, especially in the early stages. Brand and consciously build your individual and team profiles online and offline in the local community to help build awareness.
2. Once you know how you are presenting yourself, get to know your customer target like you know your best friend. Create typical customer personas with their likes and dislikes, daily habits, education, employment and views on key product/service issues.
3. Interact with customers and ask for their feedback. A brand will be talked about and shaped by consumers with or without you. Consumers increasingly have more control over brands, namely because of – you guessed it – the new digital age and social media. Use this to your advantage with brand ambassadors. Like most relationships that are mutually beneficial, the brand-consumer relationship is a combination of chemistry, timing and compromise – a unique blend that can only occur if you engage in two-way communication and listen more than you talk.
4. Become the authority in your given industry. Not only offer the best product/service but be a source of news and expertise. Blogging, Twitter and videos are popular mediums for thought leadership and generating buzz. Submit to startup listing sites as well.
5. A solid and distinctive brand culture is vital to success. To create one, you can start by developing a list of the core values that define your brand and possibly compiling those into a best practices document. Consumers are looking for brand values and symbols that mirror their personal values. This means you must offer meaning along with the product/service. Plus, a resonating brand culture doesn’t hurt when mitigating product/service kinks.
6. Try not to invest all of your dollars in the visual aspect of branding (graphics, user interface design, etc.). Instead, focus more on the user experience of the brand. Whether it is one-on-one interaction or providing a comfortable, engaging environment, customer experience is a vital part in developing your brand.
7. Do not try to oversell your product/service. A brand is a promise to fulfill customer expectations that should be kept. Consistency of experience, look and feel and quality is the best way to keep that brand promise.
We’d like to hear your favorite tools or lessons learned. Please share below!