5 Practical Tips for Startups to Develop a Solid Brand Reputation

2/6/14Follow @metricstream

Every company wants to build a strong brand. However, for startups in today’s crowded marketplace, it can be quite challenging to get a brand noticed and recognized. I believe it’s always a good idea to study the best brands in the world, and see how they do things. So here are a few key tips on brand building based on what the top global brands do:

Be clear and consistent about your mission and value proposition

A mission and value proposition lets people know what your startup is about, where it is heading, how it intends to get there, and what makes it different. In other words, it helps you define your brand to investors, prospective employees, and customers. It also acts as a guidepost, reminding employees of what they are here to do and why.

Try to develop a mission and value proposition that is simple, short, and impactful. It should also resonate with people by addressing an issue they care about. Take a cue from Twitter’s mission: “To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers .” Or Google’s: “To organize the world’s information, and make it universally accessible and useful .”

Also, remember that your mission and value proposition don’t have to be carved in stone. As your company evolves, so will they.

Focus on your strengths, become an authority in those areas

There’s a reason why Richard Branson has almost four million followers on Twitter. Or why Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In remained at the top of bestseller book lists for months. Each of these business leaders is considered an authority on a subject—be it risk-taking, innovation, entrepreneurship, or leadership. People trust their opinions, and want to know what they have to say.

If you want to build an inspiring brand, position your startup as a thought leader whose opinions and recommendations people can count on. Customers are more likely to buy products and services from companies that they consider authorities in a particular subject or area.

At MetricStream, we hired GRC practitioners, risk managers, compliance officers, and audit executives to work in various parts of the organization—from product management, to sales, to solution delivery. These individuals represent MetricStream at events, webinars, and in articles, strengthening our reputation as an industry expert and thought leader.

So if you’re great at data management innovation, find a way to talk about it. Set up blogs, and use them regularly to express your opinion on the subject. Attend seminars, network with industry experts, and read up extensively on the latest trends in the field. When people realize that you know what you’re talking about, they will pay attention to your products and services.

Empower your employees to be brand ambassadors

Employees can be your most powerful brand assets. Every day, they are on the front lines, interacting with customers, suppliers, competitors, and industry experts, as well as family members and friends. If they are engaged, motivated, and happy, they will be more productive, eager to serve customers well, and vocal about their passion for their job.

Case in point: Southwest Airlines. The company has one of the most loyal and productive workforces around. It shows in the form of happy, friendly employees who have a lot of fun, and who are given the liberty to make their own decisions. So it’s no surprise that they go the extra mile to keep customers happy.

To make your employees your best brand ambassadors, ensure that they know what your brand stands for. Trust them to make decisions, even if they have to bend the rules sometimes. Invest in their personal growth and goals. And recognize and celebrate their achievements, however small.

Strengthen delivery and customer experience

You may have a great product or service. But that won’t matter unless you have a good delivery strategy. Delivery is where the rubber hits the road…where a customer’s expectations are met, exceeded, or missed.

To ensure good delivery, strengthen all your customer experience touch points, ranging from sales and marketing communications, to packaging, shipping, and customer care/ support. Customers will form opinions about your brand based on their collective experiences across these touch points.

Amazon is one company that’s gotten it right by creating exceptional customer experiences—be it fast shipping through Amazon Prime; automated systems that proactively refund customers for a poor experience; or the AWS Trusted Advisor, which notifies customers where they can save money. All of these practices have helped make Amazon the e-commerce behemoth it is today.

Integrate social media into your business strategy

Social media plays a huge role in brand building. For a bootstrapped startup, the added benefit of social media is being able to market a brand at a fraction of the usual costs. Social media also has immense reach. If your product and service are good, the news spreads quickly.

The trick to effective social media communication is to keep customers engaged with dynamic and interesting content. Videos on channels such as YouTube offer some of the highest levels of customer engagement. So do real-life stories of customer/employee experiences told via blogs.

Whatever your strategy is, remember that social media is about facilitating an ongoing dialog with customers. Consistently engage them, and address the issues that are important to them. That’s when social media will really take your brand to new heights.

A strong brand attracts and retains customers, as well as employees. They, in turn, become advocates on your behalf, recommending your brand to family and friends. When that happens, your startup will move up from being just another face in the crowd, to become a truly successful and profitable entity.

Shellye Archambeau is CEO of MetricStream, a Palo Alto, CA-based company offering governance, risk, compliance, and quality management solutions to enterprises in the pharmaceutical, medical device, high tech manufacturing, energy, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, food and beverage, and automotive industries. Follow @metricstream

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