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5 common startup branding mistakes

Because entrepreneurs are typically focused on the business of doing business, there are startup branding mistakes that are quite common, but can be overcome.

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Startup branding mistakes

Across industries, startups are founded often when a need is not being met and/or someone is passionate about an idea, but most entrepreneurs aren’t branding experts, so there are many mistakes that take place every day that hold many startups back.

Patrick Woods is the Director of a>m ventures, which invests creative capital in early-stage digital businesses. He says, “Founding a startup is a bit like building an airplane while in flight. Moving at the speed of sound, one false step could lead to disaster. Along the way, founders are faced with dozens of major decisions in areas like technology stack, finance and accounting, legal, and HR.”

Woods adds, “One area that proves particularly challenging is branding. Startups often don’t know how to think about their brand, much less have time to do anything about it.”

In working with dozens of startups around the nation, Woods has encountered many of the same branding pitfalls, offering in his own words, five common mistakes to overcome that will help any startup to build stronger relationships with customers and a sturdy foundation for scaling your marketing in the future.

#1: Starting with a URL

The most egregious mistake startups make when thinking about their name is firing up GoDaddy and typing stuff in, fingers crossed in hopes that something cool is available (and making stuff up when there’s not).

At a>m ventures, we say Just Say No Daddy to GoDaddy. In the real world, one directly types URLs into the address bar. They search, click links on social, and if you’re an app, they simply search the app store.

At no point in the process is it important that you have YourName.com. But for some reason, so many startups drop vowels and add weird top-level domains to shoehorn their name into a URL. Many great brand names are left on the table as a result of this myth.

#2: Worrying about branding too early (seriously)

It may seem counterintuitive for a brand guy to suggest putting off your brand work, but in my experience working with dozens of early stage startups, I’ve found that it *is* possible to focus on brand too early.

That’s because at the earliest stages, a startup doesn’t fully understand its business model or customers, much less what its brand needs to say about the world. Startups should hold off on spending time and resources on development until they’ve achieved or arrived at product-market fit.

Before then, multiple pivots will mean that brand work done to that point will become irrelevant anyway. So until then, focus on customer discovery and building something great.

#3: Mistaking *what* to say for *how* to say it

We’ve all seen the standard-issue startup website. It has a full-bleed background image, a huge headline set in some nice TypeKit font, and probably a big fat call-to-action button. And the headline is something like “The best way to fax online” or “the simplest way to conduct surveys online.”

The copy is all feature-drive, and provides no insight into deeper brand benefits, and perhaps more importantly, brand personality. Startups often know *what* to say, i.e. expressing their value proposition in terms of features and benefits. The challenge is moving from *what* to *how* to say it.

How you say something is what gives your brand meaning and personality. There are literally dozens of online survey tools, so how is your different? Brands like Mailchimp and Dollar Shave Club are great examples of building strong personalities around otherwise boring spaces, i.e. email marketing and men’s shaving products.

#4: Believing brand is about logos only

While having a great name and logo is important, brand development extends far beyond these elements. If your startup were a store, your name and logo would be the sign out front. They’d give customers some idea of who you are and what you do, but there’s more to the story.

What’s on the inside, literally and metaphorically? How do you talk to customers? Are you to the point? Or more playful, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek? How do you handle customer service? Do you offer huge sales and discounts, or are prices consistently set?

Your brand is realized wherever your customers, employees, the press, and others, encounter your brand. For that reason, it’s hugely important that you carefully consider how your brand interacts with the world.

#5: Underestimating the power of the written word

There’s a reason your writing professor encouraged you to write tons of drafts before turning in an assignment. Your first stab at something, whether it’s an essay or your About Us or Plans & Pricing page, will rarely yield compelling work.

The first draft is basically raw material, comprised of the key facts and features of what your describing. Once the raw material is captured, it’s up to you and your team to rework it into something meaningful, that communicates and inspires.

For companies of all sizes and stage, creating a compelling brand is always important, but never easy. That’s doubly true for early-stage startups, who must endure the added challenge of building both a brand and the company. There’s no secret formula for creating great brands, but avoiding these common mistakes will ensure you don’t poison your company’s chance for connecting with customers to build trust and excitement.

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Vishal Kr Singh

    November 14, 2013 at 4:41 am

    I strongly disagree with your first point, rest of the points I have actually noted it down.
    Domain name and Web space gives you a feeling that you already have something which so many people can already see, a sense of ownership of the name you have been dreaming of day and night.

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Business Marketing

5 ways voice is changing the SEO game

(TECH NEWS) As voice assistants take over our lives, you may worry how your SEO fares in this new, uncharted territory. Let’s discuss.

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voice and SEO

SEO is a moving target. The standards change constantly so, despite years of experience, many web designers struggle to meet all the optimization guidelines. How, then, can any business confidently approach the web design process? It starts with recognizing those evolving norms, the newest of which is voice search.

Why Voice Search Matters

For years, the dominant SEO rule has been mobile first. The introduction of voice recognition systems, like Siri and Alexa, to smartphones has dramatically changed how we interact with devices. In fact, 20% of Google searches are voice searches with that number expected to grow rapidly over the next few months. Businesses and web designers, then, need to make sure their sites are voice ready if they want to stay relevant. Though the sites may stay the same visually, they need to gain a new edge functionally.

From The Ground Up

Modifying your website to support voice search isn’t as simple as many other SEO transitions, but if you take a ground up approach to the process, you’ll be able to reshape your website around those changes. Still, you’ll need help to do this correctly. When adapting your website for voice, SEO consultant Aaron Rains recommends hiring an expert for a full site audit and analysis to maintain your page ranking. You don’t want your page to take a rankings hit because you’re trying to keep up with the trends.

Expanding Your Device Options

In addition to its advantages from a mobile perspective, making the move to voice search also means expanding your site’s horizons by making it more accessible to new devices, particularly the smart home speakers that are gaining in popularity. Users are particularly comfortable with these devices because they rely on natural speech patterns rather than half-formed search terms. Children growing up with these smart speakers in their homes seem to view them as part of the family and will be native voice search users as they grow.

Snippets For Search

Part of updating your website for speech is optimizing the content to match changing search patterns. One of the key ways to do this is through the use of featured snippets.

Featured snippets are designed to help put your website in the #0 spot – the top ranking. To do that, you’ll want to put the answers to your most popular queries in the first few sentences on your page. This is especially for purchasing and local search since people frequently use voice search to find local businesses. If you can optimize for the most important snippets early on, you’ll be way ahead on the competition and have a greater ROI.

Rebuild and Reassess

After modifying your website for voice, you may find your rankings initially drop. That’s because you need to request your site be re-indexed. Otherwise, search engines won’t be able to match queries with your new site content. Re-indexing will put all of your new information into effect and make it possible for users to search using the featured snippets. Re-indexing your site will also help you ensure that you haven’t interfered with the crawl-ability of your site.

Experts expect half of all searches to be voice-driven by 2020, but since 50% of users with voice search access already use it at least occasionally, now is the time to act. Even if many users are still wary of voice search, you can’t afford to fall behind. Those users will still be able to rely on traditional text search mechanisms, but that won’t help voice enthusiasts. If you lose those early adopters now, they might not come back when you’ve caught up with the voice search revolution.

This editorial was first published here in March of 2018.

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Business Marketing

10 podcasts that every business owner should hear

(MARKETING) If you’re a business and want to learn something, give one of (or all of) these ten podcasts a listen.

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So many choices, so little time

As podcasts grow more and more popular, it has become increasingly difficult to sort through the sea of excellent options out there.

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From interviews with business leaders to industry specific advice from experts, podcasts are an incredible free and convenient way to get a small dose of inspiration and knowledge.

Business podcasts for your listening enojoyment

This short list offers just a taste of the myriad of business podcasts available. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking for some tips on breaking into a new industry or a seasoned vet hoping to get some new inspiration, we hope you’ll find something here worth listening to.

How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz.

Podcast fans will recognize Guy Raz’s name (and voice) from TED Radio Hour. While that show can be a great source of inspiration for businesses, one of the most consistently inspiring shows is his new project that shares stories and insight from some of the biggest business leaders in the world. In just four months, Guy has talked to everyone from Richard Branson and Mark Cuban to L.A. Reid and Suroosh Alvi. While there are plenty of excellent interview-driven shows with entrepreneurs, if you want to hear about the world’s best known companies, this is your best bet.

The Art of Charm, hosted by Jordan and AJ Harbinger.

The Art of Charm is a business podcast by definition, but the advice it provides will definitely help you in other parts of your day-to-day life as well. With over three million listens a month, the incredibly populat show provides advice, strategies and insight into how to network effectively and advance your career and personal life.

StartUp, hosted by Alex Blumberg and Lisa Chow.

If you’re an entrepreneur, there is no excuse not to be listening to StartUp, the award-winning business podcast from Gimlet Media. The show’s talented hosts come from incredible radio shows like Planet Money and This American Life and bring a top-notch level of storytelling to the show, which provides behind the scenes looks at what it is actually like to start a company. Now on the fourth season, StartUp is one of those business podcasts that even people not interested in business will get a kick out of.

The Whole Whale Podcast, hosted by George Weiner.

One of the best things about podcasts is the wide variety of niche shows available that go in-depth into fascinating topics. One of those shows is the Whole Whale Podcast, which shares stories about data and technology in the non-profit sector. You’ll get detailed analysis, expert knowledge and can hear from a long list of social impact leaders from Greenpeace, Change.org, Kiva, Teach For America and more.

Social Pros Podcast, hosted by Jay Baer and Adam Brown.

Navigating the surplus of social media guides online can be a nightmare, so look no further thna Social Pros. Recent episodes talk about reaching college students on social media, the rise of messaging apps, and making better video content for Facebook. Plus, there are great case-studies with companies doing social right, like Kellogg’s, Coca Cola and Lenscrafters.

Entrepreneur on Fire, hosted by John Lee Dumas.

One of the original entrepreneurship shows, Entrepreneur on Fire has logged over 1,500 episodes with successful business leaders sharing tips, lessons and advice learned from their worst entrepreneurial moments. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always inspiring, this show is sure to have at least one interview with someone you can learn from.

The $100 MBA, hosted by Omar Zenhom.

Think of The $100 MBA as a full-fledged business program in snack-sized portions. The daily ten minute business lessons are based on real world applications and cover everything from marketing to techology and more. Cue this show up on your commute to or from work and watch your knowledge grow.

This Week in Startups, hosted by Jason Calacanis.

This is your audio version of TechCrunch, Gizmodo or dare we say The American Genius. Each week, a guest entrepreneur joins the show to talk about what is happening in tech right now. You’ll get news about companies with buzz, updates on big tech news and even some insider gossip.

The Side Hustle Show, hosted by Nick Loper.

This is the show if you want answers for the big question so many entrepreneurs face. How do I turn my part-time hustle into a real job? Featuring topics such as passive income ideas, niche sites, and self-publishing, host Nick Loper is upfront and honest about the tough world of side hustles. The show features actionable tips and an engaging energy, and may just be that final push you need to grow your gig.

Back To Work, hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.
Focused on the basics that you don’t think about, Back To Work looks deep into our working lives by analyzing things like workflow, email habits and personal motivation. Somewhere between self-help and business advice, Back To Work takes on a new topic relating to productivity each week.

#LearnSomething

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Business Marketing

A personalized daily digital marketing checklist

(MARKETING NEWS) For all businesses, it is not only essential to develop an digital marketing strategy, but also necessary to utilize it in order to gain customers, and ultimately make a larger profit. This app can help.

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clearpath digital marketing

There is no doubt that starting your own business can be overwhelming. Along with promoting your business at events, meetings and in person, digital marketing strategies play a key role in the success of a company. For all businesses, it is not only essential to develop an online presence, but also necessary to utilize it in order to gain customers, and ultimately make a larger profit.

Simply creating a website and Facebook page for your business is not enough. However, software tools can help simplify digital marketing. ClearPath is a tool that organizes and creates tasks to optimize your online marketing. By creating to-do lists for you based on your online marketing strategy, you can focus on the areas of marketing that improve your business, all the while receiving useful tips and advice.

Using ClearPath is pretty straightforward and only requires one prerequisite. Before beginning, you must have a website.

If you are already lost, don’t panic. ClearPath can help you develop an online presence. Once your website is linked up, you get to choose the marketing channels that you would like to focus on. These include Search Engine Optimization (SEO), email, social, content, analytics, local, pay-per-click (PPC) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Again, if you are lost, ClearPath is there to help you strategize.

After ClearPath analyzes your site, they start sending you customized tasks based they believe can improve your online marketing.

As you finish each task, you can simply check it off and it will disappear. New tasks will appear each day, and some may even repeat as they need to be updated.

Whether you are well-versed in digital marketing or not, staying updated with the newest ways to optimize your business online is a constant struggle. Tools like ClearPath give people a place to start. Although I don’t think it can supplement an active and experienced digital marketer, it is a tool that can help small businesses that cannot afford to add to their team yet. At the end of the day, it aims to save you time. And since time is money, your business will hopefully be more profitable.

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