Lesson 2: Brand First—Vegetables Before Dessert
BRAND STRATEGY IS MORE THAN A CATCH PHRASE
It’s common for businesses to try and focus on many things simultaneously once they have a business plan: things like sales, getting a website, keeping current customers happy and prospecting for new ones. This can and does work, it is in fact critical for growth, but to maximize the return on all those efforts, you have to have a solid brand strategy for customers to connect with.
The hard truth is that 90% of startups fail. Not even the internet has changed this. Despite the plethora of new marketing tools and ways to reach your customers, the percentage of failures is still dauntingly high for anyone looking to take the plunge.
Most startups may think branding is not that important and can tackle that later. The fact is that branding can help you focus on your True North and help you make informed decisions on who to hire, what type of customers to pursue and make sure you never lose sight of why you started your business in the first place. That’s because developing your brand means asking certain questions: What are your values? Your position in your market space? How is your widget or service different from your competitors? How can I obtain followers that will become ambassadors for my brand?
Branding can cut a few years off of your scheduled growth projection and will help you hit your growth goals sooner.
I learned this the hard way: I held off on creating a cohesive brand identity for my agency despite having already done it for several of my clients. I was the proverbial cobbler with no shoes for my children. When I rebranded from Trent Design to Trent Creative, more than pushing pixels, it helped move the needle quicker and more succinctly. Creating that brand did everything that I tell my clients it will do. It defined my agency to my employees, my customers and to my prospects.
Defining your brand includes your positioning, unique selling points, key messaging, values, personality, brand essence and your claim of distinction within your market space. It will help with your elevator speech and also ensure that your messaging and visuals are consistent through all of your touch points so that any multi-channel efforts work together to support the single, well-defined vision of what your company is to your audience.
If you consider the brand strategy and experience first, you can align your mission, vision and business plan in a way that builds off your brand image. It will be easier to make decisions regarding the look and feel of your identity and marketing materials and ensure your outreach efforts are always optimized for building a tribe of followers and faithful customers.
Once you eat those vegetables (developed your brand) you can move onto reaping the rewards and have the dessert of your choice.
Knowing and communicating your 'why' lets you lay the foundation of your brand essence. Simon Sinek created the concept of finding your ‘why’ and it is a great resource. He explains why it’s important to find out why you do what you do and goes into detail about how people can't make an emotional connection to the how or what you do, but they can resonate with your why.