Startups, and technology startups in particular, are driven by product and engineering. Everything is put into getting a minimal viable product to market quickly, and branding goes on the back burner.
The startup creates the name and minimal brand assets in-house, leaving the deeper branding work for later. Inevitably, the product takes over, and the brand and user experience decisions are left to the developers and engineers.
Then, the focus moves to sales and marketing, leaving the team to catch up on developing a brand with little more than a logo and tagline. Marketing touchpoints are created hurriedly, without proper control and consistency, resulting in a disconnected experience that does little for customers.
Treating branding as an afterthought, rather than a foundation, costs your startup opportunities at the start and can lead to significant costs and time in the future.
While there’s no one blueprint for a successful launch, you can keep your product aligned with your brand with a solid brand foundation.
Focus on Brand Positioning
For many, a brand is simply a cohesive set of colors, logos, and typography, with the deeper messaging and ideas to be developed later. But those are assets, not what a brand is.
Ultimately, a brand is a promise of an experience to a customer. Brand positioning should be the first step in the branding process and determines how your brand is perceived by the customer and how you differ from the competition. If you can position your brand well, it can lead to brand equity and customer loyalty.
You can determine your brand positioning by:
- Knowing what your customers want
- Knowing what your brand can deliver
- Knowing your competitors’ positions
With these ideas in mind, you can craft a statement that will stick with your customers, showcase your capabilities, and separate you from the rest of your market.
Outsource Your Branding
Startup founders are often overwhelmed with product development and day-to-day operations, leaving little time or resources for branding. If this is the case, outsourcing to a branding agency can help you build a strong brand foundation that will last as you scale.
Branding agencies create, develop, and maintain brands using brand strategy or brand strategy and design, creative, and communications.
Agencies can be expensive, however. If you don’t have the budget, you can get help with branding standards and messaging from contract or freelance design and writing teams.
Insert Your Brand into All Touchpoints
A brand goes far beyond assets like a logo and colors. Your brand is an idea, a promise that should be included in every communication. Everyday communications are what stick with customers, so you need to consider your brand in touchpoints like social media interactions, chats, and emails.
Consistency across these touchpoints is vital. All of your messaging should be geared toward delivering on a defined set of expectations, consistently. This extends to every member of your team, so that customers can interact with your brand anywhere and know what they will experience.
The best way to accomplish this is with templates that guide your communications, such as social media campaign templates, email templates, and sales deck templates. These tools will help your employees deliver on your brand promise and respond as opportunities arise.
Implement a Strategic Roadmap
A brand strategy roadmap is useful for guiding your brand from the start and well into the future. Plan for a roadmap from launch to at least six months.
This roadmap should include:
- A brand vision that describes the ideas behind a brand that guide the future of your business
- A brand purpose that describes why you exist and what you want to accomplish
- Brand values that connect your brand’s behaviors, beliefs, motivations, and expectations
- Brand goals that outline what you want to achieve, whether it’s motivating changes in consumer behaviors or increased revenue
- Situational analysis that illustrates where you are right now and what opportunities and threats you may encounter in the future
- Key issues that may impact or impede your brand vision
- A brand strategy that outlines how you’ll manage the threats and opportunities
- Guided by strategy, the actionable tactics for addressing the threats and opportunities outlined in your situational analysis
Once you have all this mapped out, you can develop your customer touchpoints and create a brand brief for your team.
Develop a Solid Startup Brand
Your brand foundation shouldn’t be an afterthought for your startup. With a strong start, your brand can help you adapt to market changes and scale your startup effectively.
Brands are never “finished,” however. It’s a work in progress and evolves with markets, consumers, and culture. Even when your business is comfortable, where your brand is going and how it can improve can keep you resilient when you face new challenges.