When you look at an established heritage brand like Coca-Cola, Nike or McDonald’s, you don’t see all the mistakes that were made along the way. You don’t see the wasted time and money, or the damage that was done with poor decisions. What you see is the final product—a brand that works.
You can look forward to some bumps in the road as you build your brand; however, you can also significantly smooth out that road with the right advice and some cautionary statements about what to avoid.
Let’s get “started.”
Six Start-Up Don’ts
A lot of “experts” are telling you what to do as you start your business. What they’re not telling you is how to do it [correctly] or what to avoid. I’m noticing an unspoken sentiment in the business world. It says that business newbies need to make mistakes “in order to learn.”
I disagree. Why can’t new start-ups learn from the businesses that have gone before them? I don’t think watching you fail at things I could have helped you prevent is going make you a better business person or a smarter brand builder. To the contrary, I think you can learn from what I have learnt, and therefore reach your goals more quickly.
That’s not to say you won’t fail; however, when you do fail, it will be in ways that are unique to your brand—not generic things that most people get wrong.
So in the spirit of lending my learning experiences to you, here is my list of Top Six Mistakes Start-Ups Should Avoid:
- Building Your Life Around Your Business: All too often, I see start-up owners looking at the ways they can mould their lives around how they expect their companies to operate. They decide how much time their businesses will consume and then break the bad news to their families. This is backwards. Instead, these business owners should be deciding what kind of life they want to live (family, friends, holidays, hobbies, free time) and then build a passion project around those desires. This helps them to make informed decisions about how much profit they’ll need to net, how many team members they’ll need to hire, how many customers they’ll need to have, and more.
- Ignorance of Your Ideal Customer: You need to create the brand you want to see in the world; however, if that brand is something that no one wants, it’s not going to be there for long. It is possible to create something that feeds your WHY and fulfills your passion, whilst filling a consumer need or solving a consumer problem. In order to make this happen, you’re going to have to get to know your ideal customer (the person who needs what you’re offering). You’re going to need to study their habits, get to know their routines, understand what bothers them most, get a grasp on what problems are plaguing them, learn what emotions spur them into action…and then speak directly to them in everything your brand does.
- A Slapped-Together Logo: You’re scrambling to get things together. You have capital, marketing, raw materials, your grand opening…lots of things to think about, and putting a logo together is just part of that. So you hire somebody on the cheap to throw one together, just so you have something to put on your business cards. This is a huge mistake. Too many start-ups put the logo first, when in fact, they should be naming their values, mission, vision, brand colours, story, message, benefits…and then hiring an expert to create a logo that communicates all of those things effectively.
- A Lack of Consistency. A well-designed brand will send the same message in all media and under all circumstances. This applies to visual, audio, video, written, spoken and in-action communications. Today’s consumers are bloodhounds, and their noses have been developed to sniff out the inconsistencies that are indicative of poor strategies. They have learnt to do this because there’s so much to choose from; you have lots of competitors that can match your product or match your price…but integrity, honesty and authenticity is something that is harder to come by. And so, your potential customers are looking for evidence of this (through consistent messaging) and hoping to connect with the brand that proves its desire to deliver genuine service.
- A fancy, yet meaningless, brand name. Brand builders are required to be creative in many areas; however, when it comes to naming your business, it’s all about common sense. Remember that consumers have short attention spans these days, and that they’re looking for messages that can be quickly absorbed and translated into benefits. Your business name should be internet-searchable (keyword-rich), fame-name-worthy (15 characters or less and available as a Twitter handle) if possible, and most importantly, descriptive of what your brand offers. I know you want to demonstrate your ingenuity; however, I would suggest you save that for your branding and marketing strategies.
- Refusing to Recognise the Competition. Every brand has competition. Yours is not exempt. Even if you think you have no current competition, it only takes a moment for someone to decide to compete with you…and to start building a competitive brand. Some brand builders follow their competition in order to copy their moves, or to stay engaged in a price war. Instead, I suggest that you keep an eye on your competition in order to monitor the satisfaction levels of their customers. What are they missing? What could their customers be happier with? This will help you to plan your ongoing strategy, and to deliver something they’re not.
I trust that these start-up don’ts will help you to get off on the right foot, and to build a brand that not only supports the life of your dreams, but that you can live with (and love) every day.
I have lots more advice for start-ups and long-term business owners alike, and it’s all available to you through the resources showcased on the How to Build a Brand website. Visit us. Peruse the many options, including lots of FREE ones, and be sure to contact us should you have any questions about what programmes will best suit you as you move forward in your branding journey.