DifferentiateFor many start-ups, branding is a vaguely understood concept that gets lost in the shuffle among the many concrete tasks that go into a business launch. However, without strong branding, start-ups have a tough time advancing to the next stage of business development.

Here, then, are five useful and easy-to-implement tips for starting up your business on a solid branding foundation.

Tip 1: Differentiate 

Differentiation is what separates your business from the pack.  It is what arouses curiosity, gets people in the door, gives prospects a reason to say “yes” and wins a loyal following.

Whatever you settle on as a point of differentiation should be meaningful, memorable and material.

  • Meaningful – The differentiating characteristic of your business, product or service must have decision-influencing value to the customer. Twenty-five gluten-free menu options offer such value, whereas a low-energy light bulb above every table probably does not.
  • Memorable – Your brand has to stick. Instead of “Really hot hot sauce,” try something like “Tonsil-toasting hot sauce.”  Real-life example: Lots of companies tout fast delivery. Here is how Jimmy John’s makes this commonplace benefit memorable:
  • Material – It is imperative that you walk your branding talk! If you claim freaky fast delivery, it had better be freaky fast. When companies fail to live up to their branding claims, they lose all credibility and create armies of brand bashers instead of brand evangelists.

Tip 2: Focus on a Specific Market Segment

Trying to be all things to all people dilutes a new brand, because it requires a company to stress everything vaguely instead of a few things compellingly. Stressing personal injury legal services strongly appeals to a particular market segment; stressing legal services of every kind appeals to everyone … and no one.

People are attracted to brands that cater to them. And even a small market segment has enough “thems” to get a start-up off and running.  Some start-ups can thrive over the long term by continuing to develop a single segment. Others grow by methodically, adding market segments that fit with the first one.

Tip 3: Have a Tagline 

Every start-up should use a tagline. The tagline strategy is simple: If your company name doesn’t explain what you do, the tagline should get that message across. If your company name does explain what you do, the tagline should highlight one of your key differentiators.

  • The Jones Company carries no branding power. The Jones Agency / Hazardous Waste Disposal Specialists delivers a clear branding message.
  • Jones Hazard Waste Disposal tells a branding story. Jones Hazardous Waste Disposal / Licensed in All 50 States tells a better one.

Tip 4: Present Your Brand Consistently

Start-ups (and even established, large firms) err by displaying several variations of their logo and other branding imagery.  To maximize memorability, be consistent with your color scheme, fonts, tagline, and logo layout and positioning. Remember – it’s the golden arches, not the golden, green or metallic blue arches.

This is a small, simple point, and one that makes branding implementation easier. Don’t overlook it!

Tip 5: Tell Your Brand Story Consistently

Your broader brand message is often described as an elevator speech. This message, consisting of several sentences that describe what you do, why you’re better and why customers should care, needs to be communicated consistently by all members of your team:

  • Sales reps should talk about your company in the same way to every customer and prospect.
  • Team members should incorporate the elevator speech message in their social media profiles and bios, especially on LinkedIn.
  • Team members should incorporate the elevator speech message in their social media conversations, and in real conversations with business associates and even the next-door neighbor.
  • Every team member must live up to the brand promise in his or her on-the-job activities. This is the ultimate branding maker-or-breaker. It always comes back to walking the branding talk!

Over to You

What helpful branding tips can you share? What makes your brand stand out from the crowd?