Creating and carrying out a branding strategy can make or break a startup.
Take the recent medical startup Call9. This company differentiated itself with a telehealth strategy of “pay what you feel like paying.” While it was great for patients, saying doctors got mad is an understatement.
Unfortunately, Call9 had to shut down in 2019. Just one year before the world began using telehealth services more than ever.
But since you’re here, your startup isn’t going to make branding mistakes. Instead, you’re going to learn how to form a brand strategy for startups.
Table of Contents
1. Get very specific with your audience
In my early days as a marketer, I thought it was best to always have a large target audience. Right? Well, not always.
The “cast a wide net” approach might work well for fishing or dating but not for branding a startup. Instead, before you start or continue any brand building, find out about your target audience.
I mean, really, get to know these people. Not in a creepy way, of course. For starters, Google Analytics and Google Search Console are two great tools to use when learning about your target audience. And they’re both free.
All you need to do is insert a few lines of code, and you’re all set to start learning about:
- How many search impressions and clicks your brand’s website receives
- Where people are finding your startup online
- The behaviors, backgrounds, and interests of your traffic.
So, what does learning about a target audience have to do with branding? Plenty!
The more you know about your audience, the better you can fine-tune your content to reach them. As a startup branding agency, we’ve understandably heard some push-back from a few clients about this strategy.
Narrowing your focus to a specific audience ramps up engagement. And more engagement is always a great goal to achieve with a branding strategy.
2. Start strong on social media
Social media is a great way to have your startup gain some brand personality. Unfortunately, some companies register their brand accounts and then leave them behind after a few weeks or months.
Can we guarantee that your startup will have a following on all social media accounts it creates? Probably not. But getting your startup’s brand on these accounts lets you quickly learn what social media platforms are worth focusing on.
Recently, one of our clients was having trouble with their current branding strategies. After getting serious about having this startup brand on social media, Content Marketing Life helped it gain a following of about 150,000 Instagram followers within a few months.
Had this business never tried a marketing strategy involving all popular social media channels, it wouldn’t have ended up with so many followers in a few short months.
How we did it: Content Marketing Life created weekly blog content for this particular client. These posts were showing up on page one of Google’s results for many keywords – but they didn’t drive a ton of traffic.
After tinkering around the internet, we noticed this startup didn’t have many active social media accounts. Within a month or so, the followers started rolling in for this company.
3. Develop a unique voice for your startup
Where you post is an essential part of your startup’s brand strategy. But what’s just as important is what your startup posts. Specifically, does your startup have a brand voice?
This strategy ties in with this article’s first point about knowing your audience. Are there accounts or websites a large group of your customers follow and engage with? Consider using a similar tone in your copy and see what happens.
In time and with a little work, your startup will develop its own brand voice. For an example of a brand that knows how to nail its tone of voice, check out this recent email from shoe company Brooks Running.
Source: Brooks Running
Immediately, Brooks Running takes an authoritative and helpful approach with its readers. Instead of hammering its audience to buy the shoes this company makes, Brooks Running speaks (or writes) like one friend talking to another one.
That’s not to say that your marketing materials and content have to take a strictly helpful approach. The tone of voice your startup chooses depends on the industry it operates in. Keep posting content, and the analytics will tell you what’s working and what isn’t.
4. Find what makes your startup brand stand out
A great example of making your brand stand out comes from Spotify. Believe it or not, in the mid-2000s, Spotify was once a startup based out of Sweden. Getting back to the point, Spotify is a music streaming service.
So, how do you give a service offering music streaming its own voice? Seems kind of difficult, right? The minds behind Spotify were having the same problem.
One of the ways Spotify nailed focusing on standing out was through its Wrapped playlists. These playlists, typically released around the end of the year, are full of songs a user listened to in the past year.
Source: Spotify’s Twitter account
The Wrapped playlists give Spotify a unique brand identity by differentiating itself from other music streaming services.
This isn’t to say you should directly copy Spotify’s branding materials or ideas. Think about the one or several features the world needs to know about what your startup offers. That’s how you position your brand.
5. Start creating videos regularly
If your startup wants to create a strong brand, it’s time to get behind the (smartphone) camera. Yes, the smartphone camera sitting in your pocket or purse is all you need to start making videos.
According to HubSpot, 44% of marketers use their iPhone as their main video recorder. As an Android person, this smartphone can also take great videos (where are my Android fans at?)
Regardless of what your record videos on, they’re definitely worth making. In 2022 alone, over 3.3 billion people streamed or downloaded videos online.
Every company and its sister businesses are trying to get you to read their content. So, why not give your current text-only brand strategy a pivot by making videos?
You don’t have to overthink this part of the brand-building process. If your company already has a content marketing strategy in place, your startup has a lot of available video topics. Turning blog posts into short videos (we’re talking two to three minutes, max) is known as repurposing content.
Making videos also helps give your brand a visual identity. Instead of reading through a long blog post, your audience can get the info they need from one of your startup’s videos.
6. Tell the world your brand’s story
Depending on how often you’ve heard the word “story” in meetings or written in emails, the thought of telling your brand’s story either has you chomping at the bit or rolling your eyes.
We promise – telling your brand’s story is a powerful brand-building tool. Think about the elements of a classic story. First, there’s the hero (that’s your startup). Then, most good stories have some type of challenge. The challenge in your story might be a problem your startup aims to solve.
You don’t need your brand story to be the size of a literal book. Tell it in a way that you would talk to your best friend.
7. Lose the jargon, and talk like a person.
Another powerful tool in your brand-building arsenal is making a deep, personal connection with your audience.
Is robotic the first impression you want to make on your readers? Probably not. So, take time with word choice. A great tip is to have someone unrelated to your business look it over. Not an employee. Not a business partner. Pick someone who couldn’t be further away from your company and what it does.
The goal of this exercise is to see whether or not this person can read and understand what you wrote. If you hear “what does that mean?” frequently or your content gets a lot of puzzled looks, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and simplify what you wrote.
When everyone can understand what your brand has to say, it helps create a positive emotional response for the audience. These are the connections that turn potential customers into lifelong brand fans.
Let Content Marketing Life Revamp Your Startup’s Marketing Strategy
We’re sure you don’t need us telling you that startups are facing many challenges right now. It almost seems like each month, projections and forecasts change.
If your startup needs to save time and boost efficiency, let Content Marketing Life get your company’s content ready for an American audience. Our business works with English-speaking startups throughout Israel, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and Canada to fine-tune its content for an audience in the United States.
Content Marketing Life’s founder has over a decade of experience helping startups create and grow their companies with effective and optimized content. We’re ready to do the same for your international startup.
Thanks for checking out Content Marketing Life’s look at branding strategies for startups. Beginning and maintaining a startup branding strategy takes time and effort. But the increased revenue and audience that comes from proper brand positioning are well worth it.
Alex Eagleton is a copywriter and digital marketer passionate about helping companies connect with customers. Throughout the past decade, he’s worked with companies including Referral Rock, Connecteam, and Ramsey Solutions. He’s a versatile writer who understands how to align with companies, truly matching their voices and tones.
When he’s not writing, he enjoys spending time with his dogs, reading, and playing guitar.
You can reach him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.