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How to turn your start-up into a valuable brand

Find out why it can pay to think big as a business owner, nurturing your business so it can become a successful, recognisable brand.

Starting a business isn’t just about making money, breaking free from corporate life or simply pursuing doing something you love. Many new business owners think big, nurturing their start-up so it can break into the realm of successful, recognisable brands.

In the early days of starting up, building a brand can seem something of a distant dream. Yet, a clearly defined brand is worth striving for. It can do wonders for your business by helping customers recognise your products and services, increasing customer loyalty.

The best brands go beyond the transactional nature of buying from a company. Instead, customers develop a deeper emotional connection, where buying products and services from a brand help form their identity, show off their status or reinforce personal values.

Want to learn more about what it takes to market your start-up?

Learn how to think creatively and define your brand with our free Marketing in the 21st Century course. Part of our Learn with Start Up Loans partnership with the Open University, our online course is free to join, delivered by experts and includes a free statement of participation on completion.

Why is branding important?

Brand awareness and transforming your start-up into a recognised brand can pay dividends.

According to 2015 research by the Content Marketing Institute, nearly one in 10 (89%) of marketing professionals claim brand awareness is an important goal for businesses. Brand values matter and tell potential customers a lot about your business. Adweek found that 91% of shoppers would rather buy from an authentic brand, while Forbes found that consistent branding across channels such as social media and website increased revenue by nearly a quarter (23%).

The best brands conjure up positive feelings about the business, providing additional justification for customers to buy. Whether it is John Lewis’s ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ promise to IKEA’s inspirational ‘Wonderful Everyday’, customer relationships with brands extends far further than the products they buy. John Lewis’s Christmas TV ads make news headlines, with brand advertising a part of everyday conversation.

What is a brand?

What makes a brand can be tricky to pin down.

A brand is more than simply making great products or delivering excellent customer service. It brings together lots of elements. Customers experience these brand elements in different ways – from how they are treated by staff to the quality of packaging and from how a business appears in the news to the charitable activities it undertakes. A brand is the sum of all aspects of a business, making building a brand quite challenging.

The key to creating a brand is consistency and transparency.

If your brand is built on a commitment to sustainable business, for example, all aspects of the business need to support this. A successful, sustainable brand might use recycled packaging, have a transparent, sustainable supply chain, fund employee cycle-to-work schemes and use renewable energy in its offices. By consistently adhering to brand values – in this case, sustainability – customers can see the brand is true to its values and can connect with it emotionally.

Read our step-by-step guide to creating a brand

How to turn your start-up into a brand

Brands aren’t built overnight. The most successful brands put a lot of effort and money into creating a brand.

If you’ve big ambitions, then getting started on building your business as a brand should be on your to-do list. The good news is that you can start small and, with relatively little outlay, start to organically create a brand that grows as your business does.

1. Start with the customer

Successful brands deliver an excellent customer experience. Customers enjoy buying from brands that treat them well. Invest in staff training and set out how to deal with customers. From service at the till to how your employees deal with customer complaints, ensure your customers are treated fairly, quickly and positively.

2. Create brand values

What does your business stand for? What does it stand against? Why should customers believe in your business? What makes your business different from just being a company that people buy things from? Write down a list of the values that your start-up will live by. These can be values such as a commitment to the environment or always treating customers with respect. These are your brand values. You can share these with your employees, customers and suppliers. They should govern how your business operates, such as always buying renewable energy or sourcing local produce.

3. Tell your story

People relate better to other people than to faceless businesses. Put a human face to your business and tell your start-up story. You could include details on your website about how and why you started your business, record a video about what your business does, and show your team in action on social media. Explaining what your business does, the people behind it and the brand values you believe in will help bring the story of your start-up to life and provide plenty of hooks for customers to relate to you and your brand.

4. Aim for uniqueness

Being unique is easier said than done. New brands can take a refreshingly different approach, zigging when other companies are zagging. However, brands that stand out often go against the grain of similar established businesses. A great example of brands that have done things differently are budget airlines. Easyjet’s bright orange branding, cheap seats and lack of frills for example differentiated it from established airlines, creating a recognisable brand that quickly won customers.

5. Be emotional

Successful brands build an emotional relationship with customers. That doesn’t mean your start-up needs to tug at a customer’s heartstrings – emotional responses can range from positive, happy, joyful and excited through to surprised and admiring. You can start creating an emotional connection through small changes. Using more everyday, informal language in your marketing materials can help people relate to your business. Including handwritten ‘thank you’ notes can surprise and delight customers. Sponsoring a good cause, such as Tesco supporting Cancer Research’s Race For Life, can show your brand in a whole different light.

6. Visibility matters

Your start-up may have incredible brand values, wonderful customer service and a unique way of doing things, but it counts for little if potential customers don’t know about it. Make sure your brand is visible. Share your successes – and failures – on social media to show a human side to your business. Be consistent about brand elements – the language you use, logo design, brand colours – so customers see a joined-up brand across different channels.

Learn with Start Up Loans 

Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on effective marketing techniques. Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses include:

Plus free courses on finance and accounting, entrepreneurship, project management, management and leadership.

Disclaimer: While we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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