Creating brand equity is not something you do overnight. But if you're methodical about it and do it right the first time, you'll save yourself some big headaches - and money - in the long run.

Building a brand was critical for our success, when in 2007, I founded ShowUhow, a digital video product experience platform, helping to accelerate sales of LARGE consumer products online. We had to get our brand correct to deliver on our mission to build relationships with major manufacturers and top 100, traditional brick and mortar retailers to support them with engaging and acquiring millions of new customers.

For most start-up founders when you're in the throws of building a business, branding may not be the first thing on your mind. Tweaking your business model and actually generating revenue might take precedence. But forgetting about your brand could be a mistake. Building the right brand for your business from the start will pay dividends down the line, and it will likely save you money because you won't have to redo it.

Branding is important. There's no way around it. Brands are the layer of insurance around your business. Without them, you're resorting to competing on price, which is a zero sum game.

So what is branding?

"Branding, when done right, infuses soul into your company," says branding expert Fabian Geyrhalter, Principal at FINIEN. "It creates values that are shared and helps build a tribe that loves what you stand for even more than what your product actually is."

Put simply, if people love your brand, they will pay a premium.

And while brands should be attractive and smart, they are far more than a logo and a tagline. So how do you make your brand come alive?

1. Create your story

First, take a step back to create your story. For starters think of your brand as a person. How would you describe him or her? Sexy, erudite, backwoods, cosmopolitan, worldly, badass? Come up with about 20-40 keywords that you want your brand to stand for.

Next, write down why you created your company to begin with. How did you get here? What put a fire in your belly to do this in the first place?

Finally, kill your brand. Imagine it's 50 years in the future and your band dies of ripe, old age. What should your brand be remembered for? What loss would your customers feel without your product in their lives?

2. Go deep with your customers

Building a brand isn't something that should be done in a vacuum. You have to craft it in conjunction with your customers' needs. After all, your business isn't about you; it's about them. Go ahead, walk a mile in their shoes.

Keep in mind that you don't need to solve for all customers. You can't please everyone. Think of your perfect customer. The one you can really help. Craft your brand with them in mind.

By the way, no one ever got deep customer empathy by sitting in their office. You have to get out there. Mix it up with your customers. Go to their offices or wherever they might use your product. Watch them at work. Follow them home. (Just make sure you get permission first!)

Get granular on that ideal customer. What demographics do they represent? What's their gender, age, ethnicity, location, income level, home ownership, and marital status? Do they have children? How educated are they?

Go deeper: Are they a trendsetter? Old school? Homebody? World traveler? Fashionista? Bargain hunter? What do they want to be? What are their goals? Where do they see themselves in the future?

Create a persona and plaster it on an office wall. You're working for this person every day.

Look out for Part 2 of this article next month that will cover tips on how to define your brand and choose the brand name.

About the Author

Kim Folsom, Founder of LIFT Development Enterprises, is a not-for-profit, community development organization with a mission to help underserved, underrepresented small-business owners - and Co-Founder and CEO of Founders First Capital Partners, LLC, a small business growth accelerator and revenue based venture fund. Learn more about Kim and her company's mission to help grow and fund 1000 underserved small business make a billion dollar impact by getting on the path to generating $5M+ annual revenues and adding 20 jobs by 2026 via their Founders Business Growth Bootcamp program.

Published on: Dec 18, 2017