Translating your brand into making more sales – Twin Cities

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Second Sunday Series – Editor’s Note: This is the 11th of 12 columns on starting a business — one on each second Sunday of the month, from September through August. Last month’s column reviewed money issues, while the months before discussed the importance of staying focused, business systems to set up, making the first sale, ways to choose the startup’s focus, goal-setting processes, key startup steps, burnout, the entrepreneur’s personal assets and weaknesses, and self-employment as a career choice.

Amy Lindgren

Do you have a brand? More to the point, does your startup business have a brand? If you’re not sure, then the answer is no. But you need one, so keep reading to learn more.

As a first point, know that you can go deep into the weeds on this — and maybe you should — but for the moment, I’m going to suggest a kind of “brand lite” approach. You can learn more later about mission, vision, and selling or value propositions, among other ideas.

For now, let’s condense the concept of brand into its most streamlined form: Brand is what your business is known for.

In that context, brand is not just what you’re selling; it’s your image, or what comes to mind when someone hears your company name. It’s your business’ reputation and yours too, as the business owner.

These days, brand can be actively promoted as part of the company’s social media campaign, creating in a matter of weeks the name recognition that used to take years to develop.

That’s neat, but unless it also translates into sales, social media buzz is just … buzz. Without this understanding, startups can lose themselves putting up a tangle of posts and videos that build recognition but not revenue.

Since so much social media is free or low-cost to use, that may seem like a no-harm problem. Why not try everything until you figure out what works? One reason is that your time is a limited resource, and these “free” campaigns take more steps to execute than you’d expect.

You could also be launching promotions before you’ve identified the basic elements of your business’ brand. When that happens, the messages landing on different platforms can be chaotic or confusing to potential customers. And confused customers tend not to buy, so instead of driving sales, you may actually be driving sales away.

The following rules can help you avoid these pitfalls.

Don’t confuse the message for the tools. Whatever you decide your brand will be — the message you wish your customers to receive about your product, or your reputation — will be independent of the tools you use to promote that message.

Go where your customers are. Suppose you’re selling food supplements to enhance nutrition for the elderly. Will the customer be the end user (the elderly person)? Or that person’s caretaker (statistically, likely to be a middle-aged woman)? Or a health care professional? While your brand message might stay the same, your method of promoting will vary according to the customer group.

Start with the basics. Visual elements such as logo, company colors, and package design will be part of any promotion you pursue, so it makes sense to start there. Then, don’t forget the power of referrals from satisfied customers. Deliver your product or service well enough and you may find that others are building your brand for you.

Ready for your homework? Thinking about the business you’re starting, fill in the blanks for these sentences:

1. My business is/will be known for _________.

2. When people describe my business, they’ll use words such as ________ and ________ and _______.

3. As a business owner, my reputation will be for __________ and ______________.

Next, consider how you will ensure these statements come true. What will you do to secure this reputation? How will you market the business so that these words come to mind for the consumer?

Write down as much as possible for the moment, and then you can decide if you’d benefit from having a marketing professional help you incorporate these elements into a full-fledged branding strategy. If not, you’ll still have the pieces in hand to guide your own branding effort as you launch your business.

This will be an ongoing process throughout the life of your business, so be prepared to revisit these questions at least annually. In the meantime, come back in a month for the last installment in our Second Sunday series, and we’ll wrap up this year of columns provided to guide your business startup journey.

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