A big challenge for tech startups is that often your product or technology is so new, it’s like you’re trying to communicate in a language that nobody understands. This makes finding your target market much harder.
If you’re a small startup, chances are you don’t have the budget or the time to build a million-dollar brand. As an entrepreneur, being clear on your own market, and being precise on who you are targeting, is going to help your startup’s brand and its success.
“Your brand is what people say about you after you leave the room.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Your brand connects to a person’s character. Understanding what your target market values in a product or service will optimize your brand and maximize reaching your target audience. In technology, there are innovators, early adopters, and laggards. The first step is to target the innovators, who look to be the first to integrate a technology in their lives.
As an entrepreneur, “think of your brand in the way you think about a person. A brand has its own identity, voice, values, story, beliefs, and attitude” – Brand Expert, Larry MacEachern
These five steps will help you to define your brand position and your story.
1. Tell your story
A startup’s brand is a reflection of the founders’ ethos, values, and beliefs. Your startup is your baby. It becomes an extension of you. Defining the essence of your brand, and the unique benefit, sets you apart from your competitors. It’s easier to start a conversation when somebody says “I get ______” from a service or product. This enables other conversations, stories and other attributes that take your brand to a deeper level.
“Reframe it in a way that it’s not just another service, product – or just another innovative technology”, Larry MacEachern teaches.
2. Develop a clear brand position statement
According to Larry MacEachern, a brand position statement template that startups can use to clearly define their brand is:
To _____target audience definition____ ____X__ is the brand of ____category____ that _____benefit______ better than any other brand, because only __brand X___ ___supporting attributes and benefits____.
While developing this brand position statement, ask yourself “who is your target market?” This should be a straightforward question. What are their interests? How do they make their decisions? Who or what influences them, and why? The more specific you can be, the better.
“Authenticity means different things to different age groups. Corporate social responsibility, for example, is deemed important among millennials, with 48 percent of this cohort admitting to supporting brands ‘that are active in supporting social causes’.” – Larry MacEachern
What unique value do you provide them?
What value do you provide your customers that no one else can provide? What service offering are you most confident in?
And the most important part of your brand position statement is, why should they believe you?
How can you back this statement up? Making your target market believe you is the trickiest part, but it’s the key to branding and, ultimately, success. Make a list of reasons to believe, and fill these in the last blank in your brand positioning statement.
3. Brand Strength
‘Brand strength’, simply put, is the strength of the brand and the strength of consumer’s demand for a brand, relative to its competitors. The most obvious place to understand the strength of a brand is through the consumer’s mind.
David Aaker’s Top 10 Brand Precepts describes each brand as a box in a consumer’s brain, which is stored with bits of information and associations of the brand. .
The information and association can be controlled by startups, by using the three categories described in David’s Aaker’s Top 10 Brand Precepts: 1) awareness, 2) association and beliefs and 3) attitudes.
Awareness is derived by whether a “box” for your brand is there at all, or whether it is easy to find.
Association and belief are then embedded into the box that’s been created in the consumer’s mind by awareness – what is associated with your brand? Associations have many dimensions.
Lastly, attitude, the most important category of the three, is how the consumer feels about your brand. Is it positive, negative, or indifferent? The connection through the three categories with your target market will establish your brand and your product in the consumer’s mind.
4. Get beyond functional benefits
Startups have the tendency to focus on features, attributes, and functional benefits. While these aspects have previously been mentioned as important, because of the assumptions as to why customers are buying, there are other considerations that drive purchase decisions.
Put nicely, customers are not logical. Functional benefits rarely provide for sustainable differentiation among competitors. Creating an emotional and self-expressive benefit will build your brand and create a relationship with your target market.
“A person can be tech savvy with the latest Apple product, energetic with a Redbull, and feel safe in a Volvo.” – David Aaker
Consider your brand personality. What emotions do you want your product to invoke?
5. Lastly, and most importantly – Treat your brand as an asset
“Arguably the two most important assets of any organisation never find their way onto the balance sheet. People and brands are intangible and, we suspect, unintelligible to those that are responsible for crunching the numbers.” Warren Mearns, Brand Strategist (Marque)
Branding and marketing is a business strategy. Through your business strategy, your brand is reflected. A good brand reflects the engagement and the loyalty level of the customer base. For early stage startups, branding needs to be developed alongside the business strategy. Both need a target market and a clear brand statement.
Through these five steps, tech startups should be able to identify their target market, strategically communicate with their target audience about what is different about their product or service, and put themselves on a path to retaining loyal customers.
While many startups don’t have a million dollars to spend on advertisements, branding, and other marketing materials, these simple steps can help to create a million-dollar brand and gain a competitive edge.
Also published on Medium.