3 Steps to Building an Authentic Startup Brand

As a startup founder, you know you need to develop a brand, but do you really understand what that means?

What exactly is brand? If you are like most people, you probably thought “logo” or maybe the words ‘reputation” or “target market” came to mind.

Brand, at least a good brand, is EVERYTHING. Mission, logo, messaging, stories, customer descriptions, employee’s, reputation, sales – all of it. Good branding encompasses everything that increases the value of your startup, inspires your team, and helps you get new customers.

Often times, entrepreneurs struggle to define themselves and carve out a brand in a space that might be new territory or worse overcrowded.

We spent some time with Milestone Integrated Marketing Partner, Stacy Barr, to discover what it takes to build an authentic brand as a startup company.

Prioritize Defining Who You Are Over Your Logo Design

Far too often, companies make logo design their number 1 brand priority. While logo design and defining your visual identity is important (and fun), it’s not a make or break element of your brand.

“Let me start with the biggest mistake a lot of companies make, Stacy explains. “The biggest mistake that a lot of companies make is they say, ‘The first thing I need to work on is my logo.’ No. That’s absolutely the wrong thing to do. I don’t care what your logo looks like. Do we think Budweiser’s logo is great?  I don’t know.  Do you think Coors Light, looks great?  What about IBM?  It doesn’t matter. Get a logo done as inexpensively and with the best quality that you can, but the first to focus on is to figure out who you are and find your voice.

To start defining who you are as a company, ask yourself:

  • What problem does your product solve
  • Who are your competitors (Don’t say “No one”. You have them. Think harder.)
  • What makes your product unique
  • Who are your customers – How do they speak, live, make purchasing decisions, etc.
  • Why would they choose your solution over another option

Learn to Tell Stories

Storytelling is essential for every brand – even B2B brands. Stories evoke emotion, emotion moves people to action, and people make purchasing decisions (not corporations). Whether it is for developing key messages or pitching a sale directly to a customer, learning to incorporate stories into your brand will strengthen it.

“I love the fact that you bring up storytelling because it’s absolutely crucial,” says Stacy. You’ve probably seen people say ‘I’m a B2B company so I speak this way because I speak to CEO’s or CIO’s’ or ‘I’m a B2C company and I speak this way because I speak to Mum’s or Kid’s or Dads’

But the problem with that is it puts people into these buckets. I’ve been in presentations with CEO’s and CIO’s and CFO’s and they are just people as well. Tell a good story. Speak human to human.”

Build Credibility Through Advocacy

So you’ve defined who you are and you have developed a bank of stories that support your message, now you need to help your customers trust you and your brand. With increased access to information, customers are increasingly aware of when they are being marketed to and are reluctant to make purchasing decisions based off of marketing campaigns alone. They are increasingly looking online for reviews from people who have already used the product. It’s important to find brand advocates early on, get their testimony, and use that to build early trust with the brand.

“We know that consumers are very wary of marketing. They can filter very easily. Even though they recognize that a lot of social media and Google reviews have been taken over by professionals, the idea of testimonial, of having someone else tell you something still carries weight,” Stacy explains. “It says ‘Look, someone else had tried it, someone else has tested it, someone else has gone through the process, that someone also thinks that it’s a great idea.’ It adds a ton of credibility.

With these pieces in place, you’ll be well on your way to building a strong brand for your startup that will resonate with your audience and be able to grow as your company does. 

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