5 Steps to Brand Your Startup for Success


About 476,000 new businesses are created each month according to reports. Many will struggle during the first few years — and half will fail.

On the other hand, half will succeed.

Knowing what separates those that bottom out from those that bubble up is what can make the difference in the health and longevity of a startup. A solid, defined brand — the driving force within a company and the promise to its customers that both moves the business forward and keeps it on track — is essential to a business’s success.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds. “We’re going to be green.” “We’re going to be the company that cares.” “We’re going to be luxury.” There are 30 million companies in the U.S. alone — each one with its own brand. How do you find a place for your new business in all this? How do people recognize you through all this chatter?

While each brand is different, there’s a similar path that successful companies take to find their place.

1.Clearly define your business idea

You need to have a clear place in the market. Think about what makes your product or service different versus others in the marketplace. Once clear on what you offer and where you’ll play, focus on how you can do it in a superior way.

Cinnabon started in 1985 with a very clear idea — become “the world’s best cinnamon roll.” Now they’re a global phenomenon.

It all starts with a clear business idea and a compelling, superior offering.

2. Have an ‘ideal’ for your business

Successful brands are typically fueled by a bigger vision or ideal other than financial success. An ideal serves as a guidepost that will keep your business on track and help it become a brand rather than another product. This will help establish a solid loyalty with like-minded customers. To find this for your business, fill in the blank: “We exist to_______.”

3. Identify your target

Your product won’t appeal to all consumers in the marketplace, and it can be very expensive to try to do so. A well-defined target will help you build a better product and come up with better ideas. Create a vivid picture of your ideal target consumer, and focus your efforts on them.

4. Understand your business’s math

You need to understand the basic math that determines how viable your business can be. You should be able to answer simple questions such as: “How much does it cost to produce the product?”, “How much do I need to sell it for?” and “How long will it take to pay out?” A successful business is one that creates value and generates profit.

5. Have a plan

Draw up a brand plan — a physical document that describes what you want your brand to stand for, what you’ll offer, which customers you want to attract, how you’ll reach them, how you’ll make money (this is your business model) and how you’ll measure success.

This not only brings discipline to your business endeavor, but also becomes the business plan to share with potential investors down the road.

Remember that creating a brand is a lot like interactions with people: We become acquainted, we try their goods or services, we decide whether we like them or not, and then we begin to have — or not have — a longer, deeper and more profitable relationship.