How to develop your brand strategy? This is certainly one of the key questions that entrepreneurs should ask themselves.
Brand strategy can be everything for a startup business. Your brand can make or break you, and not only mean the difference between failing and thriving, but also in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars in company value.
Be intentional about it. Don’t get stuck or distracted and held back by branding, but do value it as a way to gain a competitive advantage and get more of what you really want.
1. Understand The Value Of Branding
If you are in the process of thinking how to develop your brand strategy remember that branding can impact every area and stage of your venture.
Most obviously the brand a company has will determine who its customers are and how much they will pay for a product or service. It will play a big part in sales and customer acquisition, and how much that costs. It will directly impact traction and growth potential.
What many entrepreneurs often overlook is that brand strategy can also impact their fundraising efforts and even their eventually exits.
A brand may be a big turn off to some investors, or the brand alone can make your company highly attractive to acquire, and add many zeros in value and the price you can achieve in a M&A deal. This is what I typically see when interviewing on the DealMakers Podcast entrepreneurs that have sold their companies for billions.
In some cases, larger companies have acquired far smaller ones and adopted their brand due to how popular and powerful it is.
It’s true that you can always change your branding later, but it will be expensive and probably painful as well. Better to get it right the first time around.
2. Brand Positioning Strategies
There are a variety of ways to strategically position a brand. If you are in the process of solving how to develop your brand strategy these most often include:
Price – Maybe not the most sustainable, but one of the most common strategies is to simply compete on price.
Service – Are you faster, more reliable, more convenient to do business with, or just more pleasurable to do business with?
Values – Are you an ethical, inclusive, green, high quality or otherwise value-driven brand?
Emotion – Many of the best brands have been driven on emotion and their brand storytelling. Coca-Cola sells happiness instead of beverages, Airbnb sells control and standing up for your rights, Rolls Royce sells prestige.
3. Elements Of A Brand Strategy
Developing a brand strategy includes:
- Determining how you will choose your branding
- Considering both short and long term brand strategy and development in the future
- Product or service pricing
- Design and packaging
- Product design and functionality
- Sales channels and marketing (including where and how)
- Deciding how your brand should make people feel
- Designing and establishing a brand identity and brand style guide
4. Brand Identity
Key items that will be a part of your brand identity will include:
Logos – How you will be instantly recognized everywhere?
Domain names – What will people type or speak to find your online? Check on GoDaddy what is available.
Phone numbers – Area codes can say a lot about a business and its positioning
Email addresses – How will they be structured to blend with the rest of your brand strategy?
Social media networks – Which networks you choose to have a presence on and not can say a lot
Location – Where is your business located? Silicon Valley, NYC, or somewhere else?
Slogans and taglines – What is your business all about?
Colors – Even these small details can have an instant emotional and mental impact
Influencers – Who will be the ambassadors of your brand and what does that say about you? Includes celebrities, micro-influencers online, and who your investors are
Key team members – Who are involved at the top of your business? It will matter when it comes to raising money and attracting other talent and gaining press
Company culture – You might not remember what Zappos sells, but you’ve probably heard about their great culture
Recruiting – Your job ads, interview process, and how much you pay all speak volumes about you, your venture, and where it’s headed
Language and messaging – The words you will use and won’t are a key part of branding
5. Step One
The first step when you are thinking about how to develop your brand strategy for your startup business is all about deciding who it is for.
Who is your brand meant to connect with? What impact should it have on them?
This is most obviously customers. Focus on building a good and popular business and everything else will eventually fall in line.
Just don’t forget that if obtaining funding is going to be an important ingredient, or you plan to sell or take this company public, those investors and potential buyers are forms of customers too. Will your branding say the right things about you and your value to them too?
Storytelling is everything which is something that you will need to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted. Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here).
If you want a more robust pitch deck template you can use for free the one I created below which has been used already by thousands of entrepreneurs to raise millions.
6. Forward Thinking Brand Strategy
There is a lot going on in the early days of any company. There are many pressing things to focus on. Including getting results. Just keep in mind the demands on your brand strategy for the future as you march towards your ultimate vision.
What will the demands on your brand be as you expand into new product lines and services, move into enterprise-level business or make it available to the masses? What about when you hope to move into new countries and languages?
You may be able to punt some of these decisions down the road, but you’ll have to tackle them eventually. Providing your current brand strategy is strong enough to get you that far.
Branding is a big deal. In many cases it is everything. Some branding seems super simple and effortless, and it works wonderfully. Yet, once you really start thinking about it, there can be many factors, choices, materials, and decisions involved.
Ace this by truly knowing your customer, as well as tapping the best branding experts, and your fundraising experts and M&A advisor to really give your startup the best chances or the biggest possible success.