One of the first things entrepreneurs should develop for their startup is a functional brand. It is the representation of what your customers should feel upon seeing your brand, and what determinations they should expect from your company. The good news is there are evergreen and relevant tips that you can use, no matter what decade or industry you are in. The Brand Should Be Based on the Audience One of the biggest mistakes you can make as an entrepreneur is to base your brand on your preferences. The brand is not for you. You know what the business is about. The brand is meant to communicate ideas to your target market. Thus, you should base the brand on what works for your intended customers. For example, if your target market doesn't generally listen to podcasts, you shouldn't make a podcast. If your market tends to be on the more serious side, your brand should match that attitude. Keep the market in mind, and you should drive your brand in the right direction. Focus on Consistency Consistency is important in any brand-building effort, as one of your goals is to train the consumer about what to expect from your company. When the average person knows what to expect from your brand, you will not only generate better leads – you will also inspire loyalty more easily. The problem you face is ensuring that consistency is applied. If you do not have a brand bible yet, make one and make sure everyone sticks to it. Create a Plan While making a plan seems obvious, you would be surprised to discover that numerous businesses do not really have a strategy or plan for their brand. They make a logo, they pick colors, and they call it a day. Failure is not guaranteed for those companies, but they do court it more because they do not have goals, tactics, or even any real idea what they want to represent and inspire in the audience. Find out what you want your brand to do, then figure out the steps needed to accomplish those goals. Keep Your Employees in the Loop Startups tend to have a flat structure for two reasons. First, there are not enough people to justify a traditional company Building a Better Brand Universal branding tips for entrepreneurs hierarchy. Second, a flat structure works better when people end up fulfilling multiple roles, due to a lack of personnel. The latter reason is why you need to keep people in the loop – everyone needs to know what is going on, as you never know who will need to handle a marketing campaign or customer. If they do not know what your brand is trying to establish, they may inadvertently ruin your efforts in a single poorly- considered advertisement. Consider Hiring a Brand Specialist If no one on your team has the right know-how to craft a winning brand, you may have to bite the bullet and hire a professional to help you accomplish that goal. Brands are not something you can create or adjust on the fly. You cannot build a brand while simultaneously learning how to do so. What you build will be flawed, and more importantly, difficult to change once it is out there. Any little shift in your color scheme or tone can drastically impact what customers think about when they see your company, and can cause confusion if they see the old and new versions of your brand in the wrong order. Get to Know Your Audience As the brand is primarily targeted toward your target market, it is in your best interest to do the groundwork and research it as thoroughly as possible. No detail is too small, as you never know what can inspire you to target your brand more effectively. You should also cover other entities that are targeting your audience, such as your competitors. How your competition approaches your target market will also inform your decisions and make you better at building an effective brand. Never Stop Improving the Brand A brand is not something you fire and forget. After the initial rush of development, you may put it on "maintenance mode," where you only refer to it when planning other aspects of your startup. However, the brand itself should never truly be stagnant. Your target market will change and shift, and so must your brand to match it. Keep track of your market. Every now and then, compare how it is changing to your current brand. If your brand still lines up, then great – you have nothing to do. However, if you find that you no longer elicit the same reactions from your customers, it might be time for a bit of a tweak, or even an overhaul.