Vladimir Gendelman is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Detroit and the founder and CEO of Company Folders, Inc., an online printing company that offers a lifetime warranty. As an entrepreneur who helps build brands through print media, Vladimir offers his strategies for successfully building your brand from the ground up.
Starting a business is exhausting. Between refining products, building a clientele, and jumping through all the requisite legal hoops, new entrepreneurs barely have time to eat or sleep--let alone think about how to build a brand identity.
It can be likened to having a newborn baby to care for. Just as parents are responsible for guiding their child to become the best adult he or she can possibly be, it's your job to help your business grow into its brand identity. But it's easy to let that slide as you're juggling all the emergencies that crop up in the first few years of your infant company's life.
Here are five tips to help you build your brand's identity--even in the hectic early days.
1. Seek inspiration
The first step to building your company's identity is to look at what others are doing. You may notice branding tactics that are popular in your industry, find a cool font, or run across an illustration that inspires you. Or, you might have the opposite experience and see some things you don't like. If every company in your industry uses a font you despise, all the more reason to choose something different and stand out from the crowd.
2. Play "Twenty Questions"
When you seek inspiration, it's important to analyze your motives. Picking a logo because "it looks cool" isn't good enough. You need to choose branding that reflects your company's character, not just things you think look good. To make sure you're on the right track, ask and answer questions about your company's culture, products and goals. This process will help you gain insight into your company's current identity--or lack thereof--and choose how it will connect with your business' personality and customers.
3. Focus on the details
Consumers are much more observant than most business owners give them credit for. Your clients may not have the vocabulary to express why your brand identity works or doesn't, but they will notice if it's right or wrong. For instance, choose a font that matches your brand's personality. The wrong choice could send the message that your company is immature when your intention was to convey a youthful identity. This seemingly simple mistake can undermine your company's image and confuse your customers.
4. Don't ditch print design
We may live in a virtual world, but humans are not virtual beings. Sometimes the best way to reach people is with something tangible, to establish a physical connection with your brand. A great print design can tell clients everything they need to know about your company. For example, business cards that deviate from the standard size or shape suggest innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. Thick paper creates a high-end feel, while non-paper cards convey a message using wood, plastic or other unconventional materials.
5. Maximize social media
Social media is one of the most efficient ways to market your brand because of its vast reach: Facebook alone recently surpassed 500 million members. Advanced targeting tools let you network with many of these people--with whom you probably wouldn't otherwise connect. Social networks have their own personalities that can enhance your brand identity because your audience will connect their preconceived idea of that site with your company. For instance, LinkedIn tends to imply professionalism, while Twitter is typically considered more fun and quirky.
The key to building a strong brand identity is developing a game plan as early as possible. By establishing clear goals, you'll be positioned to present a consistent brand image across all of your marketing platforms. And if you play your cards right, that identity will be one that can grow and evolve with your company.