How small start ups make big gains in a short time
We've all witnessed it – the seemingly overnight success of some start ups that begs the question “what am I doing wrong here?” Is it the idea? The timing? The commitment? Why do some companies transform into breakout brands, while others struggle along? In my 25 plus years of working with entrepreneurs and start ups, I noticed three similarities between the companies that skyrocket vs. the ones that sputter out. Here are three ingredients that will fortify your brand for immediate growth.
1. Be Memorable
All things being equal, the tie goes to the company that stands out in the consumers’ mind. Does anyone remember HDDVD? It’s a tough one to wrap your brain and tongue around, compared to the winner of that format battle… BluRay. And it’s not the only example. Hydrox made cookies years before their competitor came in with a more well-rounded name – Oreo.
When naming a company or product, especially an innovative one that can define the category, create something gooey, sticky and memorable. Yahoo, Google, Amazon and Apple are all examples of creating colorful and memorable brand names that stand out.
A great brand name won’t make a business succeed, but a poor brand name can make one fail.
Here’s a tip. Try using your potential brand name in a sentence, as in “Can you FedEx me that package?” “Can you Google that word?” Memorable brands with verb potential have a higher chance for success. Is it easier to schedule a Go To Meeting meeting? Or schedule a WebEx? A great brand name won’t make a business succeed, but a poor brand name can make one fail. Consumers can’t remember what they can’t recall, so give your company brand a boost with a name that stays top of mind.
• Is your brand name/image unique?
• Is your brand “sticky” and easy-to-recall?
• Do you have a “hook” or catchy tag line that makes a point?
• Do you have a “brand story” or platform beyond the name itself?
• Does your brand create an interested “Huh? Tell me more!” or a “What? I don’t get it?”
2. Be Scalable
I’ve met hundreds of entrepreneurs with great ideas that worked well and sold well, only to see them burn out. The problem wasn’t drive, determination or even necessarily the cash. It was the failure to create a scalable model of the business. In the excitement of seeing an idea come to life, it’s easy to overlook the bigger question of “what if this works?”
Is your success something that can be documented, formulated and scaled so that others can do the heavy lifting? If not, you might create a brand with a lot of buzz, but also a lot of work – work that will keep you up nights wondering how to get it all done.
Great brands are built on consistency. At every point, make a note of what you do that works, your “secret formula,” and make it repeatable. Think of your business as if you plan to franchise it someday. Could someone new come in and do what you do? If not, you are really developing more of a personal brand that depends on your continual efforts to grow. If you are the face of your own franchise, then you will have to continually work harder. Michael Gerber has a great book on this principle, The E-Myth Revisited. I recommend it to all my new start ups.
• Identify what you are doing when you are at your best (your “brand recipe)
• Build repeatable systems and not just personal expertise
• Constantly replace yourself by hiring in your weakest area
• Expand your audience by growing virtually and/or geographically
3. Be “Shareable”
A common complaint I hear from good business owners is that their company is the world’s “best kept secret.” While meant as a bragging point, it’s really an indicator that something is broken. Viral ideas, by nature, tend to spread. So if you truly have a standout business, then make it easy for others to find, recommend and share.
Start by building your customer base, your “tribe” as Seth Godin calls it. These are sometimes referred to as your “brand evangelists.” They are the ones that love you and your services. They will promote you, recommend you at every turn and preach your gospel. Be sure to recognize and reward these ardent fans, either in mentions or with special “inside” perks such as coupons, discounts, and early samples of new products. Build this base by doing the following…
• Create an opt-in email list and place it on your home page. (We use MailChimp)
• Incentivize viewers to sign up by offering a discount, service or white paper
• Build a customized company Facebook and Twitter page to engage customers
• For B2B companies, be sure to have a company page and presence on LinkedIn
• Blog about new tips, ideas and strategies that will help serve your clients
• Convert these blog posts into articles for distribution on the article marketing sites
• Create short “how to” videos and place on YouTube in your own channel
• Add the various Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media icons to your site for easy sharing
• Cross link all your articles, videos and blog posts to keep customers engaged and on your site.
By keeping your company memorable, scalable and share-able, you can leverage and build your brand image so that the brand does the heavy lifting vs. you doing all the work . (Can I have an “amen!”) Unique and compelling brands, ones that can be quickly ramped up and expanded, stand the best chance for quick success.
Review the brand checklists in this article to ensure you have the ingredients for high growth branding. And be sure to share your own comments, experiences and recommendations for break-though branding success.
About the author: With over twenty five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought after branding expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.
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