A Matter Of Life Or Death: Branding for startups
To borrow from a manager in another field, branding’s not a matter of life or death; it’s more important than that.
Like Mr. Shankly, my tongue might be in my cheek, but only ever so slightly.
Of course, if you believe that branding is simply about managing image or reputation, it won’t strike you as shocking that many start-ups go to market with their prize offering in tow and little else.
‘Why put lipstick on a pig’, they say, ‘especially when making-up can be so expensive?’
But if, like me, you consider branding to be about making the right offer to the right customer at the right place and time, then you’ll appreciate that it can make the difference between the life and death of the new business.
Simply put, if your customer doesn’t see you as just right for them, then you might as well shut up shop and go home. So the priority for every start-up has to be the business of setting out your stall in a way that makes sense to your customer.
Now that may involve a little make-up, but much more importantly, it means teasing out the part that your offer will play in the life of your buyer and playing that role in everything you do.
Say, for example, that you plan to fix problems for your customer and that you determine that the most effective way for you to do that (in a way that both fits the bill for your buyer and sets you apart from the competition) is to play the part of trouble-shooter.
(That’s the positioning part of branding).
So what do you do next?
It’s gloriously simple: you play the part of trouble-shooter.
What does that mean exactly?
It means you look, speak and act like a trouble-shooter.
It means that if you see trouble, you shoot it. Whilst others fiddle about, meet trouble half way or sit on the fence, you take that gun out of your pocket and you nail trouble there and then.
(That’s the branding part).
It also means that you don’t make trouble for your customer in other ways. You make sure that every little thing you do finishes in one way and one way only: with trouble stone dead.
Of course, you can dispense with many of the niceties. No one expects a trouble-shooter to come house-trained. In fact, it’s rather worrying to find your hired gun wiping his boots on the mat before doing the deed.
So getting your branding right is quite a simple task. It takes planning before you go to market and discipline when you get there. And maybe just a touch of lipstick.
But not, of course, if you’re a trouble-shooter.
Some people say that branding’s a matter of life or death. I say it’s more important than that. Particularly if you’re a start-up.
Over To You: What part does your offer play in the life of your customer?