In the fast-paced world of startups, it can be easy to prioritize immediate challenges over long-term strategies. However, successful founders and executives recognize that your brand is not just a logo or a tagline; it’s the essence of your startup. 

Your brand is a narrative that unfolds with each interaction, and builds over time to make an impression. In addition to your brand’s influence on your marketing strategy, employer branding also plays a large role in your ability to hire talent. By investing in branding early, startups can often lay the foundation for a brand that stands the test of time. 

In this article, leaders in the Powderkeg community share their experience with investing in branding early and how it can pay off further down the road.

Brand Recognition Drives Word-of-Mouth 

Your early successes in a startup are almost always tied somehow to “word of mouth” awareness, and you will rely on your networks to grow your business initially. Early on, you have to establish your brand and what it stands for so you can drive this throughout your network. If your immediate colleagues understand who you are and what you do, and can easily pass that on to others you will be more successful.

Rob Beeler, CTO & Co-Founder at Trava

Stay Focused on Your Why

Stay true to your “why” when making decisions for your company. It’s easy to get wrapped up in tactics and trends that promise results, but purpose shines through. Your brand, especially in young companies, is a direct reflection of the people who work there. Make sure you’re representing yourself the way you intend.

Megan Noel, Director of Marketing at Trava

Build Understanding and Set Expectations

Your brand is essentially the expectation that people have for you. Building a brand means that the people in your market understand what you do well enough to have those expectations for you over a competitor or alternate option. When it comes down to it, knowing what to expect means they won’t need to research and compare when it comes time to buy. Your brand also becomes a critical part of recruiting and, as a result, growth.

Mike Bal, Sr. Director of Product at The Engineered Innovation Group

Develop Clearer Stories, Which Sell Better Than Any Pitch

Validate with your existing customers often. It is easy to think that the most crucial focus is acquisition, and you can get consumed trying to figure it out. It’s a trap. Stories sell better than any pitch or perfectly coordinated warm intro. You can get your stories and perfect your market fit along the way. To get your stories, try structuring your conversation this way. You (all about them), We (our shared experiences) and Me (their loyalty to your brand). The order matters.

Tim Conder, Co-Founder & CEO at CXology

Establish An Identity and Clarify Your Message

Investing in brand building allows a business to establish an identity within an industry and across its consumers from day one. Maintaining a consistent look and feel is more important now than ever with the constant changes on the Internet and social media platforms. Additionally, remember that “branding” is more than color and style. It includes messaging that is critical to help your team navigate business decisions while keeping true to your product/service and what your business values.

Paul Dreier, CEO at Novilytic

Share Consistently to Stay Top of Mind

Be everywhere. I started The Engineered Innovation Group (EIG) with that philosophy, and almost two years into our journey, that strategy is paying significant dividends. The key is to create consistency: start by sharing your values, then build into your value proposition and surface success stories. From social media to podcasts and speaking appearances, many of these brand building opportunities are “free” (unless you count your time!).

Jake Miller, CEO at The Engineered Innovation Group

Build Trust and Differentiate Yourself

For tech founders, investing in long-term brand building from the start is crucial. A strong brand fosters trust, differentiation, and emotional connections with customers. While immediate growth and profitability are tempting targets, a well-established brand ensures sustainability and loyalty in a competitive market. Early brand building creates a foundation, setting the tone for company values, culture, and reputation. A brand can be a startup’s most enduring asset.

Emily Finkelstein, Founder & CEO at VentureXpert Advisors

Treat Your Brand as a Sales Rep

Imagine your brand as an additional sales rep. It is constantly out in the marketplace, mingling with your target market’s decision-makers, keeping your brand in their minds so that when they’re ready to make a purchase, they don’t forget about you. 

You don’t want to lose sales just because potential buyers couldn’t remember your company’s name. We started a weekly newsletter to build our brand early on, and it’s had the best ROI of any marketing initiative we’ve launched to date.

Justin Silverman, Founder and CEO, Merchynt

Remember First Impressions Matter in Brand-Building

First impressions matter. As a new startup, it may seem like a waste of precious resources to commit a sizable budget to branding, but it’s an important element of long-term success. How you establish your brand in consumers’ eyes isn’t just about large ad campaigns. 

Everything from your company name to your social media presence is an integral part of brand-building. Developing this early will help you create a consistent narrative about your business that will follow it.

Kelsey Bishop, CEO and Founder, Candor

Build Through Mission and Visibility

Start with your mission. We committed months to our mission: “What are we doing here, and why?” is the anchor point for all of our subsequent brand development.

Our brand was built through visibility, through influencer and affiliate marketing, using the most influential people we could find. But if they didn’t align, we filtered them out no matter how big the audience. 

Our community support groups for our prospective buyers turned buyers into brand advocates and have driven a huge boost in our ongoing brand value. The interactions there are invaluable.

Equally important was our commitment to nurturing our customers.

Our brand strategy didn’t just accelerate our growth; it built a resilient brand that withstands the naysayers and outlasts trends. A mission is having a vision for the impact; branding is the more subtle method for finding your tribe that connects with this mission.

Remember, long-term brand equity truly scales your business and cements your legacy in the tech world.

Forrest Smith, CEO, Co-Founder, Kineon

Engage the Audience for Effective Brand Building

Focus on audience engagement for effective, long-term brand building. In the early days of Steambase, my platform for Steam game analytics, engaging with the audience was crucial. I interacted with gamers through forums, social media, and feedback tools, which helped shape Steambase according to their needs and preferences.

This approach aligns with my favorite quote: “Build something users want.” It’s not just about presenting data; it’s about creating a product that resonates with your audience. Such engagement laid a solid foundation for Steambase, turning users into brand advocates and contributing significantly to its growth. Cultivating these relationships from the start turns users into lifelong supporters of your brand.

Lucas Wyland, Founder, Steambase

Back Up Creativity with a Long-Term Strategy

As a seasoned branding expert who has helped hundreds of clients optimize their brand strategy to great success, the one piece of advice I would give to tech founders is that creativity works better if it’s backed up by a long-term strategy. 

For example, our agency specializes in naming brands, products, and services. We often see startups opt for creative naming without considering, or having the expertise to consider, how it impacts the branding strategy in the long term. This often comes back to bite them, which is exactly why investing in long-term branding is important if you believe in long-term success.

David Gaglione, Founding Partner, PS212


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