Branding 101 basics for launching a startup or small business with a bang

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The coronavirus has challenged us all to think differently and for many, work differently. Maybe you’re thinking about starting your own business. Perhaps you’ve done the work, have your business plan and need help with the launch. As you ponder options, I’d like to help with my branding 101 basics list to launch a startup or small business.

My list is based on my two years operating Seachange Branding. As a startup myself, I’ve learned a few things along the way. In addition, I also spent 20+ years in the nonprofit sector, which gives me a great perspective on strategy, ROI and lean margins. In my follow-up post, we’ll graduate to Branding 201 tips to grow your business.

Each step builds on the previous step so the work is smart and efficient. I’m including recommendations for free or budget-friendly online resources to help you along the way. Of course, I’m always available for strategy consults scaled to meet your needs. Teaser alert: Free offer below!

Always, audience first

The number one tip in my branding 101 basics: Begin with your target audience. Most likely, you have a general idea of who you want to attract as your ideal customer. However, what do you know about them? You obviously want to capture demographic info such as gender, age, education and personality traits. But then, go deeper. Know who you want to serve and why they’re your ideal customer.

For example, what challenges do they face? How do they source information to solve their problems? How do they measure success? Capture this deeper level by creating a customer or buyer persona(s). For my clients, I use a Hubspot tool I continuously revise to meet individual client needs.

Compete and validate

Once you have your buyer persona, what will you do to attract your ideal customer? How will you define what you do and what makes you different from the competition? We’re going deeper here too by turning inward and answering two questions:

  • Who are you?
  • More importantly, why are you? Why are you doing what you’re doing?

I love getting at a client’s core values and motivations to craft their business positioning and brand story. Positioning is your defined space in your competitive arena. Your brand story provides the support points to validate your positioning. Together, they constitute your branding 101 basics for your elevator speech, as well content for your website, social media, emails and videos.

Build your brand empire

Now – and only now – should you focus on your name and logo. Yep, that’s right! And it’s step three of my branding 101 basics. Most clients come to me and say, “I need a name, logo, website and social media.” Can you help me? And I say, we can do this, however, let’s back up and reboot. Who you serve (buyer persona) and why you do what you do (positioning and story) informs your identity. You must have a foundation in order to build your brand empire!

Once you’ve landed on a name, you can source an affordable and qualified graphic designer on a variety of online sites including freelancer, 99designs and Upwork. Or ask me. I have an incredible network of talented designers.

Create online hangtime

a right hand holds a cell phone and the left hand types on a laptop

Photo by on Unsplash

Next up is your website. Ideally, your site should demonstrate how you solve customer problems and distinguish yourself from the competition.

You have approximately 30-60 seconds to intrigue viewers on your homepage. As a result, your brand positioning and story are key! Authenticity, truth, a clear call-to-action and a solid value offer provide intrigue and viewer hang time. It also decreases your bounce rate in Google Analytics, which we’ll talk about in the next post on growth.

When it comes to building your website, options abound. Personally, I’m a fan of WordPress. You can also use Squarespace or Wix. If you plan to offer ecommerce, consider Shopify. These platforms are user-friendly so you can build your own website. If you need a designer, again, use the sites shared above or contact me for a referral.

Share your voice

a high shot view shows unidentified persons in black standing in blocks drawn on the pavement with numbers as a way to demonstrate the web as part of branding 101 basics

Photo by on Unsplash

The final step in my branding 101 basics is creating a content strategy. This is your gameplan for coordinating how you’ll share thought leadership online with prospects and customers.

During the launch phase, content should focus on solutions and insight vs asking for a direct sale. I know crazy, right? As a startup or small business, it’s important to establish trust and build your customer pipeline. If you utilize a thoughtful content strategy, they’ll come. I give you my cooldeb promise!

A key tool for managing your content strategy is an editorial calendar. A calendar leads with your target audience and connects your desired call-to-action to communication channels such as email and social media. It aligns your content focus with desired timing and should include how you’ll measure success from general awareness to an actual product or service purchase.

Left foot, right foot

Ideally, my branding 101 basics will help you in two ways. One, understanding the order of your branding priorites when it comes to develping or launching your business. As a startup or small business, your plate(s) are full and spinning. So breathe and take one step at a time. Remember, work smart and be efficient.

Two, I’m offering a complimentary 30-minute consult call for the month of September. I simply want to help startups and small business survive and thrive. We can talk potential business ideas and how to get started. If you’re established and the coronavirus is affecting growth, let’s review your social media, email program and how you capture ROI. Hit me up here and together, let’s get some bangin’ branding going!


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Karen Green · at

Great launch map for a new business or one that needs to re-branded. The devil is in the details, which Deb is an expert at. You pick the journey, and she can help you navigate the choppy waters of branding.

cooldeb · at

Thank you Karen. I appreciate the vote of confidence and look forward to exploring possible joint projects!

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