The #1 marketing mistake startups make is to throw money at marketing without developing a brand foundation which supports well thought-out, targeted and measurable marketing activity.
A brand foundation is not just about designing a logo, choosing fonts and colour palettes, or other elements of a brand’s visual identity. It’s not about building a website or acquiring Facebook fans and Instagram followers. It’s also not about SEO, PPC, or any other marketing channels which can be used to promote a brand.
A brand foundation is essential to attract your ideal customers and provide a brand experience which assures return business.
Why? Because well-crafted brands that mean something to your target audience create loyal customer relationships, which in turn generate higher revenue and a greater return on marketing investment – helping you spend money cost-effectively on the right things, rather than wasting money on the wrong things.
What does ‘stuck’ look like?
Building a brand foundation is often where startups get stuck. There’s an old Japanese proverb which perfectly describes this ‘stuck’ state:
Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.
This state exists somewhere between an inspiring business vision and rushing around making things happen to bring in revenue. You might already have a name, a logo, and business cards. You’re probably building a website, writing PR blurb and creating Facebook campaigns. You know exactly what makes your business different, but articulating that difference within the context of a market and competitors, and in a way which resonates with your ideal customer, is not so easy.
In the startup stage of a business, there’s such a huge focus on bringing in revenue that the idea of spending time and money on something ‘fluffy’ like branding might not initially make sense. Many startups think that as long as they have a striking logo and a catchy tagline, that’s a brand, right? But brand is much more than that.
What does ‘brand’ look like?
A brand is the perceptual space that people hold in their minds about who you are, what you do, how and why. If you want long-term business success, your brand needs to say more than ‘buy this stuff’.
A brand strategy helps you to carve out a clear market positioning and messaging for your business – it defines who you are, what you’re selling, and to who. Most importantly, it defines why you’re a better choice than your competitors, through how you create unique value for your customers. It helps your brand to stand out in this constantly changing, fast-moving world.
Brand and marketing are of course intrinsically connected, but they’re not interchangeable, and understanding the distinction is important if you want to grow your business successfully.
Marketing is about communicating what you are selling in a way that encourages customers to buy. In other words, the job of marketing is to increase awareness to attract new customers. Your brand is what remains when the marketing is done. Your brand creates loyal customers.
A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. Seth Godin (Author, Entrepreneur, Marketer & Public Speaker).
In other words, your brand ‘lives’ in the minds of customers – it’s what sticks in peoples’ minds about you – based on your image, your reputation, and the interactions that customers have with you. It’s how they experience you.
What does a ‘brand driven business’ look like?
Startups might be forgiven for thinking that brand strategy is hard work. But no-one understands your vision for the business, or is better placed than you to drive the development of your brand. The three steps to building brand strategy are:
1. Know your market – find and define the gap in the market where your brand sits. Profile your customer and your competitors.
2. Build your brand positioning – be clear about what you do, why it matters, and who should care about it.
3. Craft your brand messaging – create targeted messaging that is credible and relevant to your audience, and consistently communicate it and deliver it in everything you do
Future blogs will expand on these three critical steps.
Look around you as you go about your day-to-day life. We are constantly bombarded by brands, ads and marketing messages in the real world and online. Think about what those brands are trying to say to you. Does it feel convincing or flimsy to you? If it’s flimsy, they’re probably guilty of making this marketing mistake, meaning they likely don’t have a brand strategy.