5 keys to building a startup brand

Startup business owners have a million and one things to think about -- how to incorporate, hiring staff, naming their business and so many more essentials. 

Building their brand is part of the mix, too. And a brand is built little by little, one brick at a time.  So, here are five of those “bricks” to think about if you recently launched or are about to launch a new business:

1.       Word choices can create very different impressions. For example, do you describe yourself as a freelancer? That’s fine as long as you accept that “freelancer” implies a very small business that probably charges a lot less money than an established business. If your goal is to build a significant business with more employees than yourself, describe the business with words that suggest a bigger enterprise than “freelancer.” When someone asks what you do, refer to “we,” not “I.”  Something like, “Our company provides such and such services,” creates a totally different impression than “I’m a freelancer who does such and such.”

2.       Physical location also says a lot about you. Even if finances dictate that you start out working from home, you don’t have to advertise that fact. Get a mail box with a street or highway name that doesn’t sound like a subdivision or your apartment.  And when someone asks where your office is, don’t answer. Just say that you tend to meet with customers mostly in their offices as a way to make it easier for them. If your home office (or impressive mail box address) is on the west side of the metro area, say “We’re over on the west side” or “We’re near the XYZ building,” referring to a well-known landmark in your area.

3.       Your digital identity is critical. Of course, you’re going to need a website. It doesn’t have to be extravagant but it does need to be polished, professional and to tell potential customers enough about who you are and what you do to give them a good impression. If you want to look bigger than you are, don’t use a home address, and refer to “we” and “us” rather than “I” and “me.” You can also create a company page on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social channels.  

4.       Your personal appearance speaks volumes, too. There’s no right or wrong here. If your market expects to see you in flip flops and a T-shirt, great! If they’re jeans-and-polo-shirts people, or suits-and-neckties people, just be sure you dress accordingly. It’s amazing how many people show up at an event dressed all wrong for the crowd. Remember, it’s easy to get rid of an unnecessary jacket or tie, but when you show up underdressed, that’s a bigger problem.  Like it or not, your clothes have a huge impact on your personal brand.

5.       Consistency is key. Whatever you want your new company’s brand to be, make sure you express it consistently. Edgy and hip, polished and serious, formal or blue collar – decide how you want to be perceived and make sure everything you do supports that image. The more inconsistent you are, the harder it is for a potential customer to grasp what you are about. And confusion is rarely helpful in landing a new customer.  

- Eric Whittington