Perhaps the biggest challenge for a startup is to stand out among all its competitors. To do so, a startup must brand itself effectively. It must create an indelible image for itself that sticks in the minds of potential customers. Yet most startups are strapped for money. The cost of a branding agency is way out of their reach. No worries. Here are seven ways startups can brand themselves cost effectively.
1. Have a Launch-Ready Product
One of the major mistakes startups make when branding themselves is to start the branding process before the product is ready to launch. Think about it. If a company gets potential customers excited about the product, brands it, and publicizes it—what’s it going to do when customers line up on its doorstep ready to buy—yet there’s no market-ready product for them to snap up?
They’ll go to that company’s competitor, of course, and buy the next best thing. With a bad taste in their mouth for the company who ramped up their appetites but delivered nothing to satisfy.
Wait. Don’t risk disappointing the company’s potential customers.
2. Vive La Difference
There’s a reason why this French phrase became one of the most common English catchphrases. When a company—or anyone, for that matter—features those characteristics that make it stand out among the crowd, it wins. Period. As venture capitalist Maya Ibrahim, in an interview with entrepreneur Wendy Marks in Fast Company, puts it—“Draw attention to a feature…that matters to customers.”
Get out your highlighter and highlight “that matters to customers” in neon. It’s not the features that the company thinks are important. Choose a feature that will jump out at potential clients and grab them by the purse strings.
3. Use Plain English
After a startup has found that one benefit that will draw in customers like a juicy worm does a fish, it needs to talk about that benefit in language those customers will understand. Business jargon and techie-speak are out, plain English (or whatever language your customers speak) is in.
4. Translate That Benefit into a Slogan
Slogans capture customers’ imaginations, stick in their mind, and open their wallets. If a startup can brand their benefit with a catchy slogan, it has a huge leg up on its competitors, who may get hung up on the details and never get to the main point.
- Identify Target Customers: When a company thinks about a catchy slogan, it must also take into consideration its target customers. A slogan that appeals to those who are most likely to buy the product gets more traction. Use Facebook Analytics to dig deep into the demographics of those who “like” a company’s page to get a snapshot of who the company needs to aim for.
- Create the Slogan: Gather ideas from the company team. Sometimes, a company whose focus is more technical than creative needs to outsource creative from a freelance copywriter or graphic designer. Outsourcing these tasks from a boutique agency who specializes in just one area can save money, compared to hiring a full-service advertising agency.
- Test the Slogan: After the company has several contenders for the slogan, it needs to test each slogan on its target market. Again, Facebook Analytics is a great place to create campaigns on the cheap for these slogans. Test only two at one time to keep it simple. After the company has a winner, it’s time to use that slogan to work its branding magic.
5. Launch the Product
After the startup has its slogan—and with it the brand’s identity—it’s time to launch the product. Use the slogan to create an instant pathway to customers’ brains with every facet of the campaign. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to make waves. It simply has to reach the right people with the right product and the right message.
- Create a Press Release: The trick to writing a good press release is to make it newsworthy. How does the company’s product fit into current events? What breakthrough benefit will make its customers’ lives easier? Outline these benefits, close with a paragraph about the company—be sure to include the slogan—and get it into the hands of journalists hungry for copy. Press releases are even more important for companies whose target customers are local. Hint: Before a company launches a product is the best time to take local journalists out for coffee or lunch. Then, when the company is ready to launch, the journalist already can put a face to the name on the release. For the most impact, deliver the press release to local journalists in person.
- Brand Every Aspect of the Product: >From its labeling to its packaging to the company website, make the product reflect the brand image conveyed on the slogan. With an eye-catching logo and an attention-grabbing slogan, the product will be ready for the next step: an advertising campaign.
6. Advertise Wisely
A startup doesn’t have to hire an expensive Madison Avenue firm to get the word out. Use the ingenuity that created the startup in the first place to come up with creative advertising ideas.
- Social Media Campaign: Use that data that the company mined earlier to create ads that show up in target customers’ newsfeeds. Brand every post with the company’s logo and slogan. Use Google Analytics to come up with phrases and words—called keywords—that capture the brand’s uniqueness and the attention of potential customers.
- Tweak the Company Website: Once a company has those keywords, use them to transform the current copy into words that better convey the benefit to its customers. Incorporate the keywords into the text in a natural way in everything from the page title to the meta description to captions on photos and infographics. Use the slogan and logo on every page—in every communication. Keep the brand foremost in customers’ minds.
- Use Local Promotions to Attract Local Customers’ Attention: Use everything from sponsorship of local events to handing out T-shirts at local festivals to get the brand, its logo, and its slogan in front of local customers. Build good will into a publicity campaign, and a startup will build brand loyalty.
- Engage with Customers
Once the advertising campaign brings in inquiries, keep up the conversation. Respond to social media comments. Tweak the product to better meet the customers’ needs. Tailor the conversation to incorporate the idea behind the company slogan—which should showcase the benefits of the product—to keep the brand focus consistent.
With this seven-step branding program, startups can use the very ingenuity that gave rise to their company to stamp an indelible image of their products—and the company itself—in its customers’ hearts.