Common branding mistakes start-ups make

Living 3D brand identity designed by Grafika Studio

Living 3D brand identity designed by Grafika Studio

Every new business needs a new brand. It’s one of the first things that we put on our list of to-do’s when we just get started. But many new businesses get branded too soon.

Branding your business requires having a clear idea of who you are, what you want to be and how you are different to many others in your industry.  

Your brand is something that you want to get right from the beginning, as branding mistakes can cost a lot of money to your business down the track.

Take some time to set the foundations of your business model and avoid these common mistakes that many start-ups typically make (and I include myself here)


Mistake #1 | Not knowing who your ideal client is

Although you could potentially help anyone in your market, your business will be a better fit for some people rather than others.

Your brand must be relevant to your potential clients and create an emotional connection with them. Knowing who they are and what aspirations, challenges and needs they have can help you create a brand that will easily connect with your market, grab their attention and create a positive perception of your business in their minds.

Attracting the wrong type of clients can lead to client’s complaints, frustrations, bad publicity and online negative reviews that can seriously damage your brand image.

In this other post I also shared some tips and hints to find your ideal niche.


Mistake #2 | Lack of focus

Many start-ups think if they niche down their service offer they may lose business opportunities. Try to sell anything to anyone and you will end up selling nothing to no one.

You cannot be an expert on everything. You should only offer those services that you know best and for a type of client that you have worked before.

A focus or specialisation will give you the confidence to explain to your potential clients what qualifies you to help them with their problem better that many others in your industry, and how many people you have already helped with a similar problem.

This focus will also bring clarity to your brand, establishing a clear differentiation between who you are and how you can help your clients best.


Mistake #3 | Imitating other businesses

Looking at what others do and try to do the same is natural when you just get started. We want to demonstrate that we can be as good as them. However, in business being ‘as good as’ is not enough, you have to be better or be different.

Researching your competition is a necessary step to start a new business and build a new brand. But don’t compromise your authenticity by building a brand identity that follows trends or imitates others.

The market is full of professionals like you – or products like yours -, and it’s very difficult to get noticed. People want to know how they should choose your over everyone else.


Mistake #4 | Failing to find a differentiation

Your differentiation will give people a legitimate reason to choose you over other similar businesses in your industry.

There are no two identical businesses, so you must explore and find what makes you unique and different. Understanding your own distinctness is the first step to build a memorable brand that stands out the crowd.

As I explained in this other post on Lessons Learnt From My First Year In Business finding my own differentiation was one of the hardest things for me.


Mistake #5 | Not having a clear mission and vision

Branding is the art of aligning who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be. Your mission defines who you are and what you do. Your vision determines who you want to be in the future.

A meaningful brand is not a brand that just looks pretty; it’s a brand with a strong personality and a clear purpose. Without personality, your brand is superficial, without purpose, you're bound to get lost along the way.

Having a clear brand vision and mission will help you identify where your business is headed, as well as what you need to prioritise to get there and what you have to say no to.

Mistake #6 |  Thinking your brand is just a logo

The worse thing about this belief is that many startups don’t see justified to spend more than a few dollars in their brand. They think all they need is just a logo - and that a clipart logo will do the job -, but a brand is much more than that.

Everything that your clients see from you speaks volumes about how much you care about your business and how much you've invested in it. That includes yourself, how you look and how you act. You're an extension of your brand.

In this other post on personal branding I shared 10 easy steps to craft your personal brand.

Mistake #7 | Not choosing the right professional to build your brands

Many clients come to me with a logo that a friend has designed for them, and I can usually tell straight away when it's been the case. If your logo looks amateurish, then so will your business.

Many of these logos don’t follow basic design principles, such a proportion and balance, are very difficult to scale down - as they have too many details – and don’t properly reflex the business essence.

Your brand must communicate confidence and professionalism, and inspire trust. A well-designed brand is the result of many hours of research and work, plus a lot of rounds of revision and feedback by the client.

I shared my own process for designing an effective logo in this other post.


Mistake #8 | Not investing in branding

Having a well-design brand is not the end of the road in your brand journey. You also need to brand your communications. Business cards, email signatures, website, social media platforms, etc, anything will give you an opportunity to make a positive impression in your potential and actual clients, and create an excellent perception of your business.

Make sure all your brand elements are well coordinated across every channel and your message is clear and consistent. Invest in professional photos, quality printing and a professional designer to make your brand true reflection of your business quality standards.

Ready to brand your business?

Before developing a new brand I always take my clients through a brand discovery process to ensure both, my client and I have a clear idea of the business vision, mission and direction, their target market and their distinctiveness. This is a necessary step to build a memorable brand to represent their businesses for years to come.

The process is slower than what many clients initially thought it would be, but the time and money invested in building a professional brand is well-worth to avoid more expensive problems in future.

20 things to do before starting a business

Something is changing in the professional world today. Many professionals are quitting their corporate jobs to work for themselves.

Technology has made possible to run a business from anywhere and reach clients everywhere. Parents can now look after their business while they spend time with their kids. Young professionals can travel the world and take their jobs with them.

New business can be started with a minimum investment, few resources and no inventory. Setting-up a business is now easier than ever, but it also requires a lot of planning.

In today's post I'll take you through 20 important things to do before starting a new business. If you're thinking about quitting your 9-5 job and starting your own business this post will help you get ready for the transition.

1 | Choose a business name + entity

Coming up with a great name can be difficult, finding a name that is not taken even harder. To find my own business name I used this Name Brainstorm Worksheet, by Fuze Branding, with 4 simple steps for naming your business.

As soon as you find the name, register your business name and your domain before someone else takes it! If you are based in Australia, you can download my Business Registration Checklist (for Australian businesses).

2 | Find your ideal niche

Trying to sell anything to anyone can result in selling to NO ONE. Finding a niche will give you an opportunity to offer a more refined solution for particular problem or satisfying the needs of a specific group of people, where the competition is lower. In this other post I take you through the process for finding your ideal niche.

3 | Decide on your product or service offering

There are thousands of products and services available to consumers today. To enter the marketplace with a new product or service, you must be able to offer something that's different or better in some way than what's already being offered by your competitors. Don't try to sell anything, only sell your best product or your best skill.

4 | Study your competition

There are other professionals who are probably helping your ideal client to resolve the same kind of problems that you are. Know who your competitors are and how they are already helping your ideal client, and come up with other different and better solutions for the same client.

5 | Find your differentiation

In today's over-saturated world, it’s very difficult to get noticed. The only way to stand out in your market is by finding a differentiation. Find what values and benefits you can deliver that no one else can.

6 | Establish a clear brand direction

Purpose is what differentiate a superficially pretty brand from a meaningful brand with strong personality and clear direction. Define your brand direction by putting together your vision and mission statements, as well as your core values.

7 | Design an effective logo

Your logo is the heart and soul of your brand. It identifies your business in its simplest form. In spite of its simplicity, a logo is always full of meaning. An effective logo design needs to be simple, memorable, timeless, versatile and appropriate. In this other post I share my process for designing a effective logo.

8 | Build a professional visual identity

Your brand can be styled by adding other visual components like typefaces, colour, patterns, etc. These components are assembled within a set of guidelines - a style guide - to determine how to apply them in different mediums. You can download my template to create a professional visual style guide here.

9 | Brand your business

Every piece of communication that your clients see speaks volumes about the way in which you do business. Make a list of documents that you will need put in front of your clients and create branded templates, email signatures and printed business stationary to show how much you care about your business.

10 | Invest in high quality images

Images are the most powerful way to deliver your message and the number one thing that can kill your business image if they are not right. So hiring a professional photographer to get high quality photos of your products, your work and yourself will be the best business investment you can do.

11 | Decide your pricing

Pricing is a sensitive aspect of any business that can significantly impact in people’s perceptions. Before starting your business you need to determine how much your products, time or expertise worth. Make a price list and have a quote template if you sell services. You can download my quote template here.

12 | Choose payment system and set conditions

Invoicing clients and getting paid on time are challenging aspect of any business. Before starting your business, decide your pricing structure, payment methods, return policies - if you will sell products - etc. In this other post I shared some strategies to build steady income as a freelancer.

To invoice clients you can use free invoicing software like Wave and Paypal.

13 | Start a cashflow statement

As soon as you start your business you need to keep a record of the money flowing in and out to know how much much you made after expenses. If you're unsure about how to keep track of your finances, you can get my Finance Planner for small businesses, available at my Etsy shop.

14 | Get your contract ready

If you're selling professional services, a contract is extremely important to ensure a satisfactory professional relationship between you and your client. This document clarifies the terms of service and sets expectations and limitations. You can get a Standard Form of Agreement for Design Services from AIGA.

15 | Establish a communication workflow

A good communication process can set the basis for a successful - or disastrous - project or client relationship. Having a good communication process in place will save you time and headaches and deliver a great client experience. To learn how to streamline your business communications also read this other post.

16 | Launch your website

Your website is the base of your communications and needs to go live before creating any other brand element, as you will want to include the website address in your stationary and other marketing materials. To ensure you get your website right from the beginning read this other post, with things that you should do before getting a new website.

17 | Create social media profiles

Social Media can be powerful and cost-effective tool to promote your business. However, keeping your profile active requires time, dedication and resources. Before taking your business to social media, determine first which platform is best for your business.  You can learn more in this other post on Which Social Media Should I Choose To Promote My Business?

18 | Start a mailing list

Your email list is the most effective way to connect with your audience after visiting your website. Building an email list can take time and a lot of work. Connect your website with an email system, such a Mailchimp, and start collecting email addresses as soon as your new website goes live. Learn more about how to build your email list in this other post.

19 | Promote your business

Let everyone know that you are about to start a new business. Then you can develop a 12-month marketing plan for your business that combines some online and offline actions To help you create a comprehensive marketing plan you can get my Small Business Marketing Planner at my Etsy shop.

20 | Find your first client

You won't officially in business until you don't have your first client. Your first referrals and clients may come from people close to you, so ask your family and friends to help you promote your services or shop. If you can't find any client start doing some charity work to build your portfolio or simply help people with small jobs. Most of us started that way.

If you dream about having your own business but don't feel confident enough, join my Creative Business eCourse. I'll show you all the secrets to build a creative business from scratch and set yourself for a huge success!

My 6 module program has been designed to fast track your creative business and help you achieve an elusive work-life balance.