This article originally appeared on Inc.com as part of BusinessBlocks CEO Justin Kulla’s weekly Inc. Magazine column. See the original post here.
Many entrepreneurs might point to passion as the one thing that helped them launch their business, but in today’s competitive marketplace — it takes a lot more than that to survive the ups and downs of running a business. Entrepreneurship requires a lot of passion, imagination and grit to create a brand that is invaluable to your customers. After all, good branding increases the value of your company and improves customer loyalty.
Here are five tips to help you get a strong start on building your brand.
Find the right name for your business.
When I first started my company, naming was one of the toughest things I had to figure out. Not to mention, buying a domain can be challenging because we’ve nearly exhausted the supply of good trademarks, according to a Harvard Law Review study.
I wanted the name to be evocative, memorable, multidimensional and even be alliterative to some degree. I experimented with a bunch of names in the beginning to see how people reacted, and after months of “user testing,” I chose BusinessBlocks. I knew it was the one when it sparked a smile on people’s faces. It felt simple and somewhat obvious of the type of business it was: an online education company designed for small businesses.
Create a strong visual brand identity.
Not only is it important to come up with the right name for your business, but you need a compelling look and feel. If you’ve never heard of color theory, it’s the science and art of color. It has to do with how colors mix, match or clash, how color communicates various meanings as well as the method in which a color can be replicated.
Of course, if you don’t have the luxury to spending a ton of money on branding, there are companies, like 99designs, that can help at a reasonable cost. Remember: this doesn’t just apply to your brand, it’s essential to keep your products just as aesthetically appealing.
Listen to your customer.
For a company to nurture a devoted following, it needs to be constantly evolving based upon customer tastes and buying trends. You want your brand to speak for you when you’re not there. When my childhood friend, Bonnie, first started her own stationary business, Bonnie Marcus Collection, nearly 16 years ago, people were still going to traditional, brick-and-mortar stores to purchase cards and invitations. Today, she mostly sells online because of the shift in purchasing behavior.
Move from transactional to relational.
Making an emotional connection to consumers is key to long-term loyalty. If you love your customers, they will love you back. It’s all about connecting with consumers in a meaningful and heartfelt way, whether it’s creatively telling your brand story online or offering superb customer service in store.
If you’re selling to retailers, get out from behind the computer and participate in trade shows. If you’re selling to consumers, then attend and display at consumer-related shows (wedding shows, bar/bar mitzvah shows, food shows).
Don’t let public relations be an afterthought.
You may be somewhat reluctant to go out and spread the word, but it’s key to building up credibility and promoting your brand. Start by defining your target market, line up the publications your audience is reading, and fashion the story you want to tell. Public relations is just one part of marketing. It’s an excellent way to update your potential and existing customers about recent changes to your business or products and services as well as building strong relationships with media partners.