Building a viable brand is the most draining yet profitable exercise a tech startup can go through, especially in its green years.
What is an early-stage startup?
Generally, there are about six stages of startup growth phases starting from pre-seed, seed, to early, growth, expansion stage, and ending at exit.
Although not all companies pass through this sequence due to market uncertainties and rapid technological transitions. An Early stage startup is a company at a growth phase that has gotten some traction with tangible product development, results from market testing their MVP, alongside an established customer base, and working towards positive cash flow.
Startups at this stage can be said to still be in the product validation phase, where they continuously test their solution with the market and refine based on the metrics.
Such companies are always on the hunt for strategic partnerships and VC funding opportunities so they can level up. They are usually confronted with issues such as a profound lack of cash, time, and resources when trying to scale. Hence, the early stage is a very critical phase of a company’s growth process.
Why should early-stage startups care about branding?
To put it more succinctly, why should early-stage companies invest in brand building when they haven’t achieved a product-market fit, yet? When all they have is probably a product still in the works and a whole lot of uncertainty surrounding whether it’ll be a huge success or a mediocre failure.
Just why should they bother? How would they even go about branding at this stage without amassing an empire in costs?
That is what this article seeks to answer in the next couple of paragraphs.
Early-stage startups should be actively involved in branding simply because it is never too soon to begin brand building for new startups. A brand message appeals to potential customers, not you, the entrepreneur; so you want to put customers at the center of all your growth pivots instead of solely focusing on product development.
It is important to develop your brand voice and tone right from the scratch because the brand makes the business. Good branding builds an emotional connection with the right people, through the right channel, anytime, any day. Also, you never can tell who might be watching!
Profitable brand-building strategies for early-stage startups
Here are brand-building strategies for early-stage startups:
1. Research extensively on target customers
As an early-stage startup, the odds are you don’t have all the answers. Far from it, basically, all you have is an idea you’re pushing because of its high potential to become a multi-billion dollar company, your passion for what you do, and that’s it!
Well, that’s a good place to begin but you need to take it several notches higher by conducting intense market research on what really resonates with the market before going all-in. That is what startup early stage is primarily about, anyway.
Before building a brand as a startup, you need to find out what is currently bestselling in your niche. Observe established businesses, and take note of how they advertise their brands to the market.
This insight will help you position your brand sooner or later. The goal is to be conversant with your ideal customers, what they like, their spending patterns, technology preferences, and the like.
2. Incorporate new technology trends
In building a scalable startup, your product offering should be easily adaptive to new technology trends. When you are able to prove your adaptability to new trends to customers, then you have a brand in motion already. Your branding strategy should also be flexible in order to satisfy your target group.
Remember, early-stage companies do not have market certainty yet, they are still in the process of product testing and MVP development. When testing what works, don’t be too rigid on a particular method or solution.
Actively seek out new technologies and incorporate them into your final product. It is typical for early-stage startups to focus their energies on product development, yet researching new technical trends can give them an upper hand over their competitors.
3. Leverage digital branding strategies
Profitable branding doesn’t happen overnight but one tool early-stage startups can leverage to hit their visibility goals faster is the internet.
Nearly every company is being represented online in this digital age. In essence, the internet is crowded with marketing campaigns from both established businesses as well as from young startups.
New startup companies can benefit from digital marketing tools and build that emotional connection they desperately need to create with their audience.
Entrepreneurs can leverage digital channels like social media platforms, blogs, websites, YouTube, email, and company newsletters, to advertise their businesses on a shoestring budget.
Another strategy is to build an established following online by providing valuable content consistently and offering expert advice on problems in your industry. Maintaining a digital presence adds to your overall business image in the long run.
4. Business positioning
I wish I could say you should try to be everywhere to build a great brand. But interestingly, you just need to be in the face of your target market to get known, liked, and eventually trusted to deliver value.
First, your business modeling will determine the market segment you’re primarily serving out of all the calibers of people out there. Positioning your business only applies to a specific group of people your product is meant for.
Doing this successfully will require strategically placing your business where your prime customers will see the goodness you provide, why they should buy from you and how your product will give them a great advantage in life.
For instance, supposing the prime users of a product are people between the ages of 60-70, placing focus on online branding strategies might not be as fruitful as physical and other non-digital channels.
Certainly, there will be an initial reaction of skepticism when reaching the market as a new business but with consistency, you can claim your market share and even scale your business over time.
5. Visual packaging
A popular maxim says ‘seeing is believing.’ A large part of early-stage branding lies in the visual representation of a new business. Things like logo, brand coloring scheme, and even choosing a business name should not be taken lightly or decided on impulse.
A logo, for example, tells your brand story only with a few elements, while a brand name determines how far you’d go as a company in the entrepreneurial space. Imagine such power disguised as such negligible elements!
Much care should be taken with these things when starting out, we’ve seen how powerful companies had to rebrand at a much later stage in order to capture all they stand to represent.
If you can, invest in professionals to design your company logo and help with deciding on a brand name, in line with your core values and principles.
Building a profitable brand for early-stage startups requires consistency both in product quality, customer experience, brand communication channel, and central message throughout all the growth phases.
You have to show up every day, seven days a week, four weeks a month, and every single month in a year with the same uniqueness. The result is that your ideal customers will get used to your product and help to promote you without too much marketing effort on your part.