Young Upstarts

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All-Too-Common Brand Building Mistakes Made by New Entrepreneurs

There are many reasons why the millennial generation is naturally suited to an entrepreneurial career. They’re digital natives with an innate understanding not only of digital devices but of search engines, websites and social media. They’ve lived their whole adult lives with a smartphone in their pockets and know what makes a consumer reach for a mobile device in those micro-moments where brands are able to engage with them meaningfully. They have grown up in an era where technology and business have become virtually inextricable and pretty much every business is a tech business. They’ve entered the world of work in an era of wage repression where employers deliberately allow their wages to stagnate to inflate their own profit margins.

In this environment, the opportunities of the digital free market make infinitely more sense than shackling themselves to a corporate employer. 

Furthermore, from a young age they’ve been targeted by brands. Brands of all shapes and sizes have been trying to engage them since before they could talk. They have grown up around so many slick marketing devices that they’ve developed an instinctive understanding of what works and what doesn’t. 

Yet, even this new generation of digitally savvy entrepreneurs can make mistakes when establishing the brands of their nascent businesses. Branding is like any other aspect of business. Your enthusiasm and vigor can be your downfall if they cause you to rush in half cocked. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of these all-too common mistakes made by ambitious but impetuous new entrepreneurs when building their brands.

Adopting a myopic approach to the concept of branding.

First things first, we need to approach what we mean when we talk about the concept of branding. Because your brand building is more than just designing a pretty logo and coming up with some media-friendly taglines that neatly encapsulate your mission statement.

Everything your company does is branding. 

The layout of your physical store (if you have one) is branding. The amount of litter in your car park is branding. Your website is branding (more on that shortly). Your customer complaints policy is branding. The way you train your employees to answer the phone is branding. 

Say what you will about Jeff Bezos, he’s responsible for one of the most spot-on quotes about branding ever; “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. And unless you consider all of the above and more, you can’t possibly know what people are going to say about you!

Under-investing in website creation.

Before you start looking into website marketing strategies and making a big impression on social media, it’s vital that you put time and effort into the creation of your website itself. Your website is effectively the hub of your brand, and while it may not necessarily be a prospect’s first taste of your brand, it’s where they’ll go to learn everything they need to know about you. And if your website looks amateurish, that’s going to give the wrong first impression about your brand, your products and your services. 

You know what they say about first impressions. And even if you could get a second chance to make one, with so many competing brands trying to engage the same prospects, do you really think they’d have the time or the inclination to give it to you?

That’s why it’s so vital to invest in a website that not only looks good but handles well with good UX, whether it’s experienced through a desktop PC or a mobile device. As appealing as sites like Wix or Squarespace may be with their easy to use customizable themes, they can make your website scream “amateur” in ways that will inevitably hurt your nascent brand’s chances of being taken seriously. 

Since late 2016 mobile use has overtaken desktop use as our preferred way to experience the internet, so it’s imperative to take that into consideration. Choose a reliable web designer who knows how to build a website “mobile first” to ensure priority indexing and better SEO right out the gate.

Failing to consider your competitors.

Most new entrepreneurs have a single-minded focus on their businesses. And while this is very well intentioned, it can actually come at the expense of building a brand that resonates with your target market. Your business doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and your brand won’t necessarily benefit from ignoring others in your chosen field. 

Competitor analysis is an important part of business. Keeping an eye on the competition can help you to identify vulnerabilities in their branding and marketing strategies (not to mention their products and services) upon which you can capitalize. Of course, that doesn’t mean rebranding every 6 months just for the sake of keeping up with the Joneses. However, if you see an instance where their branding resonates more strongly with audiences than yours, it behoves you to identify why, so that you can adjust your strategy accordingly. 

Making and breaking promises.

Your brand should make a promise to your customers. It should represent a set of values and standards that you consistently uphold. Research shows that customers want the same things from brands as they do from their friends. And one of the greatest of these is reliability. That means investing in training your employees to offer outstanding customer service. It means delivering when you say you’re going to. And it means having a system in place so that your customers have a means to hold you accountable when you get it wrong. This is why a reliable customer complaints procedure is an absolutely essential part of your brand building. 

Establishing your brand on the wrong social platforms.

When you’re building a brand, a social media presence is a no-brainer. But don’t make the mistake of adopting a “spray and pray” approach to social media, establishing a presence on every platform and hoping that enough prospects pay attention to you to make the exercise worthwhile. 

This can lead to a lot of wasted time, effort and resources spent getting your message across to consumers who will likely have little to no interest in what you have to say. Take the time to carry out market research. Find out which social platforms give your target audience the most meaningful experience and go from there. For example, if you’re targeting a younger audience, Facebook may not be the best place to reach them. They’re more likely to gravitate towards more visual platforms like Instagram, Pinterest or Snapchat. 

Even if you can’t advertise directly on a platform (take Vero, for example) you may still benefit from a presence on there to engage meaningfully with your audience to help them form a genuine sense of connection to your brand and the people behind it. 

Churning out poor quality content for a quick SEO fix.

Content marketing is an indispensable part of any brand building strategy. Posting regular content in the form of blog posts, infographics, tutorials, videos, podcasts and other high-value content gives your prospective customers something that we all want… something for nothing. And the more you post, the more value your brand represents in the eyes of your target audience. As long as your content is of value to audiences (i.e. entertains them, educates them and helps them solve problems that they encounter regularly) you’re likely to keep people coming back to your website, signing up for your email newsletter, following you on social channels and subscribing to your posts.

All of this is good news for your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It helps to establish you as a credible and worthy source in the eyes of search engine crawlers. When you add more content, encourage users to move around through your website and encourage them to spend longer on your pages, these can all cause your content to climb up the rankings in Search Engine Results Pages.

But this kind of White Hat SEO cannot be rushed. 

Some impetuous entrepreneurs have used less than scrupulous tactics in the hopes of getting a quick SEO boost that invariably come at the expense of their content’s quality. They have stuffed their websites with poor quality content little knowing that they’re creating more problems for themselves both in terms of SEO and making an impression on their target audience. 

Poor quality content means:

  • Overusing or “stuffing” keywords
  • Using keyword heavy titles that don’t match the on-page content
  • Duplicate content across multiple pages 
  • “Spun” content that’s copied and pasted from other people’s websites with only minor changes to wording.
  • Links to irrelevant sources
  • Hidden text and links where the text is the same color as the background rendering it invisible to human readers

All of this will not only prevent your content from gaining the traction it deserves with readers, it will also cause search engines to look upon you less than favorably. 

Steer clear of these unfortunately common branding mistakes and you’ll have every chance of forging a meaningful sense of engagement with your target audience… no matter who they are. 

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Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.

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