Defining and refining your brand: a step-by-step guide

Marketing - Getting Started: Part 2

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A strong brand will help attract customers and inspire investors.

A common misstep among startups is to focus on product and leave brand development until the last minute. Follow this step-by-step guide to make sure you’re on the right path. 

Step 1. Know your customer 

Identify your target market

You may understand what makes your business great, but if you don’t have a clear target audience in mind, your brand will fall flat. Get your team around a table and discuss some broad assumptions about your customer base. Narrow your focus using data and market research. Don’t be afraid to reach out to real people using surveys or interviews. Collate what you’re learned and move on to the next step. 

Discover what they care about

A brand is about connecting with customers. One way to approach this is to try and think like the clientele and understand their problems. Customer Journey Mapping can help clarify the major hurdles in your customer’s lives, their needs and wants, and any pain points that might inspire them to use your business. You might also: 

  • Check out competitors’ approach to solving customers’ problems
  • Search relevant social media feeds and subreddits  
  • Use Google Analytics to understand what people are searching for and the language they use 

Take what you’ve learned about your customer and begin to imagine your startup as a person who can help solve their problems. 

Step 2. Know your startup

Agree your brand values

A ‘value’ is something you believe that drives your choices and actions. Write down six core values that you think best describes your business. The key here is that each value must be actionable, driving your day-to-day operations moving forward from here on out. 

Remember that values will shape everything you do in your business, from who you hire to how you navigate a crisis. Values can be applied to decision-making, customer engagement and many more. When in doubt, go back to your story and think about why you’re in business and what you want to achieve. 

Work on your startup’s personality

A useful way to understand your brand is to envision it as a person or personality. Write down a collection of traits, characteristics and values that best describes your startup and how that will help you to connect with your target audience. Figuring out your brand’s personality and communication style will help turn customers into advocates or even evangelists. You’ll know you’re done when you can almost picture your brand as a person.

Step 3. Know your voice

Develop your tone of voice

When you are clear on the audiences you are talking to, and what sort of personality your startup has, the next step is to develop a brand tone of voice. What sort of language should you use to reflect your personality? Do short, punchy sentences reflect your brand, or would longer words and phrases show a maturity and expertise that you want to convey? Tone of voice needs to be consistent and needs to match your other brand assets.

Step 4. Create a visual identity

Let the visuals do the work

Creating a logo and website is often one of the first marketing tasks that eager founders tackle at the start of their business journey. It’s an understandable step, but it is normally preferrable to follow the steps above to flesh out your business’s personality and values before trying to capture them graphically.

Changing logos and even names is all part of the startup journey but takes up time and resource. The longer you can wait before creating a visual identity, the more efficient and assured the process will be.

Step 5. Communicate your brand

Document your achievements 

A brand guide will help capture and clarify your decisions. It will also be invaluable as your business grows and the founders are less involved in every communication. This document could start off as a single page but should develop as the business grows. It will ensure everyone is on the same page, and that customers and stakeholders have a clear and unified experience of the brand. 

Master your marketing with more advice and information:

  • Part 1: Create a marketing plan.
  • Part 3: Improve your marketing with customer personas.
  • Part 4: Use social media to promote your startup.
  • Part 5: Get started on SEO and paid marketing.
  • Part 6: Find the right video approach to meet your needs.
  • Part 7: Use content marketing to build your business.
  • Part 8: Improve your reach with advocate marketing.
  • Part 9: Create content efficiently with this marketing hack: founder to founder video.
  • Part 10: How to market your business on a limited budget: founder to founder video.
  • Part 11: Discover how to find and target your market: founder to founder video.
  • Part 12: Use these marketing techniques to boost your ROI: founder to founder video.


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