Starting a business is an exciting, nerve-wracking time. Any entrepreneur knows that in order to drive a business forward, the brand needs to be lived and experienced from all levels. All the big corporations started somewhere. Humble beginnings, such as the garage where Hewlett Packard began, are the best places for start-ups to cut their teeth.
From handing out your business cards to welcoming your first customers, there is nothing quite like creating something from nothing.
In the UK, it seems that more people than ever are taking the plunge and starting their own businesses. Nearly 600,000 start-ups were registered at Companies House in 2014, a significant rise from the previous year and the record that needs to be beaten.
This is great news for the economy and with small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMEs) forming the backbone of the UK, it makes sense to offer start-ups as much support as possible.
Triumphs and Failures
It is a 50/50 split more or less: of all the new start-ups in the UK, half will roar ahead to success, while the other half sinks without a trace. Knowing what separates the triumphs from the failures is important; learning from the experiences of others can be the factor that contributes to keeping your business not only afloat, but driving on to bigger and better things.
Branding is key. It is the very thing that will set you apart from your competitors—but with your market a crowded place, how will you stand out in a sea of competitors, all promising the same things to the same people?
Here are some suggestions for branding that will set your SME apart from the rest:
- Clearly define your business idea. Your portion of the marketplace is crowded. You are jostling for position with established companies, all who have client bases you look to with envy. A clear distinction between businesses that fail and those that thrive in a competitive market is a clear business idea. Similar to working out what your unique selling point (USP) will be, you brand will set you apart from competitors. Once you have this, don’t be shy. Many new companies might sound like they start with lofty ambitions (e.g. “to be the best designer in the world”), but at least they know where it is they’re going and what they want to be.
- Name your business ideal. You may have started your business thinking it could propel you to mega-riches…a bank account bursting with cash. If this is your only business ideal, then you need to know that you are likely to struggle against competitors who are established, successful and truly passionate about WHY they’re in business. These bigger businesses have ideals other than money. They have solid links to their customers. In other words, their answer to the question “Why do we exist?” would not be “To make money.” What is it that you want to do with your business?
- Identify your customer. 80% of the population can drive. Does this mean that 80% of the population wants to buy a car? No. Half of them might want to lease a car. And the other half—the half that wants to buy—will be made of up of people who want different things, have different budgets and are motivated by different emotions. The lesson here is simple: not every customer will want your product. Trying to appeal to the masses is an expensive mistake and a waste of time. Hone your brand appeal to the people who matter most to your brand. The blanket, scatter gun approach does not work.
- Set your cost. Any start-up that cannot answer basic financial questions is on the downward spiral toward business oblivion. Your branding will affect everything you do from production cost to margins to profits. Always remember that you are in business to create value and generate profit, and even though money is not a valid business ideal, it is necessary if you want to stay in business.
- Make a brand plan. Just as you’ll need a physical document called a business plan, you will also need a brand plan. This plan will describe what your business stands for, which types of customers you want to attract, how you will reach them, how you will earn profit and how you will measure success. A brand plan brings discipline to building a brand and keeps you and your team members from running off in different directions. It is the document…the entity…that you will fall back on, again and again. Imagine the day when you hire your first employee; you should be able to tell them what you are about and why you exist. Now that’s a great branding start.
Colour Graphics is an established design and print company that has worked with many thousands of start-ups and new businesses over the last 25 years. Colour Graphics have watched those businesses grow and flourish as they created brands that set them apart from their competitors – and have been part of this journey!