No matter what business you're in, there are a few pieces of advice that all entrepreneurs looking to build a successful brand should follow. At Inc.'s iCONIC conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, the founders of three successful startups-- EventBrite, Umami, and American Giant--together offered three vital lessons on what it takes to cultivate a thriving company. 

1. Create Customer Loyalty

A brand's longevity depends on a base of devoted customers who will continue to support it. The key to the success behind Eventbrite, a global event ticketing marketplace that processes four million tickets per month, is what co-founder Julia Hartz called "irrational loyalty" to the brand.

"Irrational loyalty really comes from where a company has decided to invest in a brand that builds a relationship with consumers," Hartz said. "You build that trust and build moments of delight so consistently that consumers will choose your company over another, even if it's irrational."

As an example, she mentioned that on the rare occasions she eats at Chipotle, it's always with someone who "loves Chipotle." Adam Fleischman, the founder of Umami Restaurant Group, agreed, saying that the power of companies like Chipotle is that their brand often resonates with customers even more than their products do.

2. Lessons, not Failures

The old saying that there's no such thing as failure, only feedback may sound like a cliché. But for these entrepreneurs, it holds true. When asked whether he would make different choices if he could start over, Bayard Winthrop, the CEO of apparel company American Giant, highlighted the value of his past errors in judgment. "If hindsight were 20-20, I would have done a million things differently," he said. "But I'm not sure if I would pass up the scar tissue we built up along the way."

Similarly, Hartz said she prefers to view the missteps she made along the way as "evolving forward" rather than a kind of failure. "I don't even think of them as mistakes, I think of them as lessons," she said.

3. Take Pride in Your Product

Eventbrite, Umami, and American Giant all serve different audiences, but their founders agreed that consumers are increasingly more selective about where they spend their money.  Consumers today "are way more informed [and] more proactive in judging the brand they're participating with," Winthrop said. That places more demand on companies to deliver a high-quality product. If you don't, he said, "you get exposed pretty quickly."

Fleischman agreed, citing the poor performance of McDonald's in recent years as an example of this trend. "The food customer is a thousand times more informed than they were even 10 years ago," he said. "Whether it's tickets, sweatshirts, or food...[consumers] aren't looking for hype, they're looking for the real deal."

Hartz also noted that improving your company's product or service is worth the cost. "It's not always the most economical decision in the moment," she said. "But in the long term you really have to look at the loyalty it builds."

Published on: Jun 24, 2015