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A Common Pitfall for Startups

It used to be that all you needed was a logo and a cool product or service and away you went with your new business. Today however, the landscape to start, fundraise and grow a company is a far more complex place. The need to focus on getting your brand and message dialed in very early on is now more important than ever before!

Why is brand so important?

Let’s first clear up a misnomer: your brand goes way beyond a logo, graphic design element or really eye-catching content. When you think about your brand, you want to approach it from the whole experience perspective- meaning the customer experience AND the employee experience. Your brand is what promotes recognition and sets you apart from your competition. It tells everyone about the DNA of your business, your “what and why”. In turn, your brand provides motivation, direction, and synergy for your staff and teams.

A well-designed brand sets an expectation. And establishing what this expectation is (and isn’t) should be one of the very first things you do in a new business- ideally prior to launch. Unfortunately, early focus on creating the brand is a process that is all too often dismissed as a “nice to have” versus a “must-have”. From my experience, I have seen wasted budget spend, internal dissension and missed fundraising opportunities due to a lack of an established and cohesive brand. A lot of heartache can be avoided if everyone pauses going in multiple directions and first puts their minds to defining the brand as early as possible.

Clarity and focus are also outcomes of setting your brand up in the early stages, helping you make those critical pivots that everyone can understand and avoiding any confusion in regard to the direction of the business. The last thing you want when trying to get your business off the ground and scale quickly is a disillusioned team going in multiple directions. An established brand helps to keep the whole team engaged, motivated, aligned and tells your team how to act, how to win and how to meet the goals of the business.

A clear and strong brand also connects with customers and is what generates referrals. People like to talk about the brands they like, feel passionate about. On the other hand, they can’t tell someone anything about a brand they don’t remember or emotionally connect with. A good brand makes customers feel good and comes across like they are speaking directly to them. Making any purchase is an emotional experience, whether it’s food, clothes, mortgages or life insurance. Every purchase is emotional.

Looking at the long term, a strong brand will provide value to your business far beyond the physical assets you have. If you aspire to be the next Apple, Coca Cola or Chick-fil-A, then they are great examples of being worth far more than their physical assets. Their brands have created value that far exceeds their physical value.

How you present your business and the promises you want to keep is a critical first step for startups. It creates an environment where integrity, trust and affinity become table stakes within the company and with target customers. When times get tough (and they will), having a compelling brand with a clear and common ground can be your greatest asset!

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