Communication is often considered the foundation of any successful business. While phone, messaging, and fax services are important aspects of communication, startups also need to connect with consumers.
According to an OPEN Forum report by industry consultant Denise Yohn, one of the best ways to interact with customers is by creating a recognizable brand.
"By 'brand,' I don't mean your logo or a catchy tagline," Yohn said, "Your brand is the unique bundle of attributes and values that define the product or service you deliver to customers."
Brands can include anything from an exclusive technology offered through a business or rare customer service qualities. Standing out from the crowd is one of the only ways that startups can differentiate themselves from rival firms, and since many consumers are hesitant to spend money today, organizations should make an effort to establish a relationship with clients to build trust, Yohn asserted.
In his book, "Building Strong Brands," University of California at Berkeley professor of marketing strategy, David Aaker reinforces that a strong brand must have a solid mix of three key benefits: Functional, Emotional, and Self-Expressive.
- Functional: a benefit based on a product attribute that provides functional utility to the customer (ie. Nordstrom delivers customer service).
- Emotional: a benefit that gives the customer a positive feeling (ie. Safe in a Volvo)
- Self-Expressive: a benefit that enables a person with a way to communicate his or her self-image.
According to a recent study by Nielsen, the majority of consumers trust companies that have earned the confidence of friends and family over businesses that use tacky advertising campaigns, which suggests that building a relationship with clients is one of the best ways to grow.
Building a strong brand requires time, focus and persistence, but over time, the effort -- and the equity built up -- in good branding can reap rewards for many years, and reduce the need for marketing micro-management in the long run.