When you are starting a business, the concept of a brand may only mean your company name and logo. Of course, unless you are a marketing professional who is looking to open their own agency. Your brand is what your customer thinks and feels when they hear or sees your company. As a new company, how do you establish a brand from the beginning?
The short answer, you simply cannot. You need to build your company and deliver your product or service exceptionally. Having said that, what you can start doing is establishing your companies brand identity immediately. Whether you are a technology startup, an independent insurance agent, financial adviser, or mortgage broker, you will be building your brand from the ground up.
I had a discussion with Jonathon Chan, Co-founder and Director at Clients, Partners & Associates Inc., where he understood that building a brand was important from the start – “I was the brand and everything flew through me at first for the first few years. Then I started to build the company brand.”
I was the brand and everything flew through me at first for the first few years. Then I started to build the company brand.
What Jonathon did correctly from the start was to put into place all the essential branding properties from the start. Not only did he do the obvious and create his company name and logo, but he also had a dedicated business number and website. Now, with over 10 years in the business, he is ready to build upon his brand and place in the market.
Since branding is what people think and feel about your business. It is how comfortable they feel working with you, a company that not only can deliver what they promise, but also look much larger than a one man show.
After working with hundreds of small businesses from every technical startups, to many independent consultants, and SME’s, the key attributes that were important to them as they started and grew their business was to look like they were a professional business, that has been around for awhile, and has an office. In a nutshell, they all wanted to look like a larger business.
they all wanted to look like a larger business.
Brand Marketing Assets
So you decided to start a business and your brand is represented by every single touch point, from your business card, website, social media properties, favicon, and etc.
Here is the list that I believe you need to set up for success, just so you know, this is the order I believe you need to roll them out on. Also, coincidentally, the ones listed at work
- Decide on a Company Name
- Create a Company Logo
- Get a Custom Domain to Match
- Launch a Simple Landing Page
- Create Social Media Properties
- Get a Dedicated Phone Number
- Print Business Cards
- Launch a Full Website
- Print Marketing Collateral
The good news is that the first 5 items can be done with little or no investment so you can start marketing and branding yourself immediately.
Let’s jump in.
1. Decide on Your Company Name
Before I quickly skip this item, because deciding on a name is very subjective and everyone has an opinion on what a good name is. Having said that, just be sure that the name you choose is one that you are happy with, no matter what anyone says.
Check out this cool video from Entrepreneur titled what’s in a name.
2. Create Your Company Logo
Before going out and hiring a logo designer that will continually ask you questions on what your company will do, provide you with samples and revisions, until it is something that you probably had in your mind. You can try to do it yourself for free on sites like Logo Maker.
At the end of the day, it might not matter what your logo is, check out this video on logo design.
3. Get a Custom Domain Name
It is a must to get a custom domain name to be used for your company website and email addresses. Being in a ditital world, there is no excuse for emailing prospect customers using your personal email account from Gmail, Yahoo, or hotmail.
I do understand that many new business owners do not come from a technical background and feel that it may be to difficult to get started, but it is much easier than you think and doesn’t take a lot of time. Setting up your own custom domain can provide you, and your business, the best ROI – time and money.
Check out this video on creating a custom email address
4. Launch a Simple Landing Page
Now that you have your company name, logo, and custom domain, it’s time to get your web presence up. The keyword here is “simple”. So before going into design mode and getting ready to spend time and money on building an entire website, look to build a that can help you establish a your company and letting people know who and what you do.
A favorite tool that I like to recommend to new business owners and startups is Launchrock. LaunchRocks helps you create Pre-Launch “Viral” Landing Pages for free. Bonus, you don’t need to hire a designer, developer, or even write a single line of code!
5. Create Social Media Properties
Ok, you are now ready to start talking about your company. Now that you have a nice looking website up and running, it is time to start talking, connecting, and driving traffic to the site ultimately looking for a customer.
Social media is the best way to start a discussion and create buzz around you and your company. But which platform do you jump on? Here is a list of the numbers of each one.
- LinkedIn – 97 Million
- Pinterest – 100 Million
- Snapchat – 200 Million
- Tumblr – 230 Million
- Twitter – 316 Million
- Google+ – 343 Million
- Instagram – 400 Million
- YouTube – 1 Billion
- Facebook 1.5 Billion
Source: Search Engine Journal, click to check out the great infograph!
STOP! Before you close this tab and start creating accounts on all of them, I suggest focusing on the key networks at this time. IN my opinion, they are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
When creating your accounts, be sure that choose an account name (a.k.a. the handle) that is the same on each platform. For example, we have “SlingshotVoIP” as the handle for all of our social media accounts. It would be not only be annoying, but it would be difficult for customers to find and add you on each network if they were different.
Having said that, if you have time, or need a break from the rest of the work you need to do, go ahead and create an account on the other platforms that you may look to use in the future.
We are more than halfway done. Not sure if you noticed, but the first 5 items cost little to no money, which should be great news if you are a startup. The remaining 4 items will certainly cost money if you want it done properly. Let’s finish this branding exercise.
6. Get a Dedicated Phone Number
Just like having a custom domain name for your website and email addresses, it is just as important to have a custom/dedicated phone number for you business.
Furthermore, if you want to attract customers nationwide, having a toll-free number can help improve with the perception that you are accessible anywhere. Maybe you don’t need a toll-free number because you are a local business, then get a local phone number to represent the area you are by getting the appropriate area code.
I have some clients that have both a toll-free number and one or more local numbers. For example, we have a toll-free number listed on our website, but I also have a Toronto and New York local phone number to be used by customers and partners in the respective area.
I know what you are thinking: “Edwin, why do I need one, my customers can email me. And besides, I have a mobile number.”
All business owners have a mobile smart phone nowadays, and whether you believe that a toll-free or local number is what you need, the main point is that a dedicated phone number is essential for any business.
Just for fun, do me a favor and go to your favorite companies websites and peruse their contact us page. What do you see? Whether it is Facebook, IBM, or even Uber, they all have is a phone number listed on it.
7. Print Business Cards
I can hear you now: “Edwin, why is printing business cards so low on your list?”
First off, it’s 2016! Not only does everyone have a smart phone where you can trade contact info immediacy by adding them on LinkedIn or emailing them at the spot.
Secondly, don’t be that person at networking events who is handing out business cards left and right! Be that person who is genuinely interested in the person you are talking with and, if the opportunity presents itself, ask them for their business card.
With their business card, you have the ability to contact them directly, and most importantly, you can introduce them to your company through your digital brand assets like your landing page and social media accounts.
And lastly, your business card would not be complete. You wouldn’t have your website, email address, social media, and business phone number ready for print.
8. Launch a Full Website
Boom, you are ready to launch a full fledged website complete with all the bells an whistles. This is an exciting time!
When you reach this stage, I will assume that you have already sold your service/product to at least 10 customers. Why 10? Because at 10 customers, you have a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses. You understand what it takes to deliver your product/service, how much to charge, and what makes you different in the market place.
Also, at 10 customers, you have made some money. And with that money, you can decide what and how to invest on your business. So before you hire a designer and web developer, you may want to ask yourself, how much more money will I make if I launch a new website.
Launching a full-fledged website is large project. A project that most business owners are not accustomed to. I would highly recommend hiring someone to do it.
With the popular website content management platform WordPress, you can easily find someone on UpWork or any 3rd party network, to design and implement your website.
The beauty of WordPress, you will not need anyone to maintain it, it is designed to be easily managed by a non-technical person so you can easily create and post blogs yourself.
9. Print Marketing Collateral
Last but certainly not least, traditional marketing materials like post cards, one-pagers, brochures, folders, and more.
Believe it or not, before the internet, google, and webpages, business owners had to invest into traditional print marketing materials before going out the door. It would likely jump up to number 3 on this list. Imagine investing before making one sale? Thankfully for the internet, we don’t need to do this until much later, or at all.
If you are at this point, congratulations once again. You are looking to grow and scale your business by getting out of the office!