Fifteen years ago, on a Thursday afternoon, two marketers embarked on a courageous journey to start a full-service marketing agency – one founded on the vision of using smart strategy to strengthen creative aimed to spark curiosity and instigate action. Using their middle names as inspiration for the name, these marketers had no idea they had established the roots of what is now William Joseph Communications.

Founded from humble beginnings, William Joseph is no stranger to the hard work and challenges that face start-up companies when it comes to building a brand. Where do you start? Who do you talk to? What do you research first? Essentially, your brand is the experience you give to customers, and good branding should be at the heart of your business. Based on our branding experiences, here are some things to consider when building your brand as a start-up.

Choose a good start-up name: Put simply, the name of your company can drastically affect the consumers you attract, your reputation in the public eye and the overall acceptance of your business. If the name is too complex, is hard to say or is hard to spell, it will be difficult for people to remember you. The complexities of your company name can also affect your marketing efforts. If you decide to be edgy and name your company Apple, for example, you’re probably not going to have the budget or resources to be competitive in the digital sphere. Have a look at our previous post about naming and re-naming your company for some of our top rules when considering your name. (We broke down how to name your company here!)     

Define your brand:  A carefully cultivated brand tells current and potential customers what separates you from your competitors, and carves out a space in your audience’s conscience so that your company name, and images and messages associated with it, calls to mind a complex web of associated signifiers. Ask yourself some questions when defining your brand and its attributes: What are your mission, vision and values? What is unique about your brand, and what emotional and function attributes are you hoping will be associated with your brand experience? Remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression, so having a well-defined brand could be the difference between your success and failure.

Do your research: While you will conduct a lot of research when you define your brand, we cannot stress the importance of doing thorough research enough. Aaron Shapiro, the CEO for brand strategy agency Huge, said “In the tech world, there are no truly original ideas; everything is somewhat similar to what someone else is doing.  So, you need a way to communicate what your start-up does with a special twist.” Bearing this in mind, doing a detailed competitor analysis is an important step in identifying how the value of your brand is different from theirs. Research will also help you determine where your business see’s itself in 10 years, and what it will take to get you there.

You’ll also need to identify your target audience, and have an in-depth investigation of their psychographics, geographic locations as well as their social status, needs, and motivations. To be successful, you’ll need to establish an emotional connection with your consumer base, one that inspires loyalty and provokes action. This is virtually impossible without a comprehensive knowledge of who you’re targeting.

Create a compelling story: So, you’ve figured out your brand, identified your target audience and done thorough research on your competition. Now, it’s time to tell your brand’s story. As mentioned above, you’ll need to create an emotional connection with your audience. You can do this by being authentic, aligning with your audience’s values and relating to them by just being human.

As the WJ team always says, effective marketing demands powerful messaging to overcome competing voices, and to stand out, you must be original, connect with the public and provoke action. Creating a compelling story can help make this happen. So, how do you create a compelling story? Through smart strategy, content creation and marketing, visual identity, active voice, well-crafted creative, the list goes on and on. Whatever story you create, make sure that you’re transparent and open about everything you do and the products and services you provide. Otherwise, you may ruin your reputation before your brand has even begun to take shape.

Invest in your brand – It’s OK to ask for help: Building a brand from scratch is no easy feat, but don’t be scared. Having an experienced professional on your team who has done this before can make all the difference (especially one which has significant experience with start-ups). Marketing and branding specialists like William Joseph exist to help you realize your potential and succeed, right from initial research and analysis all the way up to branding and building your marketing plan.

While marketing is an investment, it is one that can generate powerful returns. See WJ’s previous blog on Why Start-ups Need Marketing  here.