Picture this. A team of aspiring entrepreneurs spend months – even years – building their business. They have a stellar product, and the investors to back it; they and are fully confident that they can blow their competition out of the water in five, six months tops. Of course, this rock-solid confidence begins to erode somewhat as a scarce stream of customers trickles in, and they watch their financial safety net slowly but surely wear away. What, they wonder as they desperately try to keep themselves afloat, did they do wrong?
These would-be success stories made the mistake that spell the end for many promising startups: they conflated a successful product with expectations of a successful business. Simply put, a business needs a concrete brand in order to progress beyond the initial, investor-supported stage of development; even the best products will tank if they aren’t supported by a visible brand. Think of it this way: customers may love your product, and even want even recommend it to other potential clients. But their approval is contingent on knowing that your business exists in the first place.
Attracting customers requires a marketing plan, and a marketing plan requires a thoughtfully considered brand. Aspiring business owners need to think through and create their brand identity – then, promote it. Here are a few tips for doing so.
Consider your brand identity.
What do you do? How are you different from your competitors? What are your company values, your story? Introspection is key to building an initial brand identity. Once you have an idea of how you wish to present yourself, write it down.
Then, take the brand idea you drew up and run with it. Research your competition; how are they presenting themselves? Make sure that you present your company brand in a vastly different way – if your brands are too similar, you run the risk of being forgettable; interchangeable. But building a unique, distinct brand will position you as a competitor, and even instill loyalty into your customer base.
Make yourself visible.
If a business is based out of an unmarked building and lacks even basic marketing materials, it might as well not exist. Be visible! Buy advertisements and distribute them throughout the area. Invest in an eye-catching sign and a striking logo. Give yourself the best chance possible by making it easy for potential clients to find you.
Embrace social media
Social media is a key part of any effective marketing strategy. Circulate news about your business, and establish yourself as a thought leader in your field by posting on industry news and topics.
That said, sometimes an over-utilization can be just as detrimental as under-utilization on social platforms. As Amy Atwood advises in an article for CoxBlue, “Don’t steal the show!” Spamming social feeds with promotional content is one of the quickest ways to turn people away. Be thoughtful with your social media marketing.
Work hard for the customers you already have.
Never take your customers for granted. Working hard for clients is vital, especially in the first few years of business. Your reputation is one of the most precious tools you have as a fledgling business – so take advantage of it! Provide stellar customer service, and encourage your customers to share their experience, or to recommend you to others. Even in a social-media dominated landscape, word-of-mouth marketing is remarkably effective. Consider the flipside, as well: If you offer terrible or lazy service, potential customers will likely hear about it.
Sometimes, hard work and product development isn’t enough. Consider your brand identity, and market it! Your entrepreneurial success is contingent on being able to do so effectively.