Many entrepreneurs seem to think that all they need to do is hire a creative design company to develop a logo, color palette, cool web site and related creative materials and their brand development will be complete. These services are indeed very valuable and can make a huge difference in helping the business to express its brand clearly to the marketplace. However, before opening your checkbook, much of the success in brand development for early stage startup businesses and solo entrepreneurs starts at home.
The entrepreneur is intimately tied to the business in almost every aspect and most importantly, by reputation. This reputation conveys qualities to potential customers, partners, investors and employees that influence their desire to engage with the business. Before committing large sums of scarce cash to creative agencies, take a few simple steps to establish the foundation for your brand. Later, when you can afford to engage them, you will give them a solid base to work from and increase the value of their work.
First, clarify who you are by developing your brand personality. This begins with your own unique personality. There is some aspect of your personality that attracts people to you. If you’re not sure, ask your friends and family. Even if the trait seems a little quirky and not corporate-like, emphasize it because it is already working for you. Along with your personality is a unique benefit that other people say they get from you. Perhaps you are a great problem-solver, a good listener, or an outstanding dealmaker. Make sure that this personality trait and unique value are evident in everything you do.
Second, clarify your purpose and direction by developing a set of guiding principles and goals. Guiding principles are the core set of value statements that guide your behavior in decision-making and in working with others. They also help others to understand how they can expect to experience working with you and your business. Clear, measurable goals help to keep you on track and they let other people in on where you are going. Together, the goals set the compass point and the principles or values help to guide your decisions and actions.
Third, communicate your intentions by sharing your knowledge and expertise. Helping others to solve problems or advance their own initiatives is a powerful way to build your reputation and your brand. Take advantage of all of the electronic tools available including blog articles, videos, social media feeds, eBooks, and seminars and even printed books. Don’t give up after just a few weeks because you didn’t see your business growth explode magically. Building a brand can take a long time. A reputation for delivering highly valued products and services comes after many people have experienced them and then told others the good news.
In all aspects, don’t forget your personality, core value proposition, guiding principles and goals and make sure these come through in all your communications and interactions with others. Consistency over time is the key to building your reputation, trust, loyalty and those precious referrals to others.