I love working with startups and scaleups. It's such an exciting time in the founder(s) life (in the interest of fairness and full disclosure, I will also add daunting and exhausting).
The trouble is, it's easy to get carried away with thoughts of world domination, as well as being swayed by one or two powerful voices who throw up ideas about who you're missing out on.
Always bring it back to basics
The trick (and this is a recurring theme) is to stay focussed. Yes, be aware of your environment and potential opportunities, but always bring it back to the core of your business...
The customer need and your product or service that fulfils this.
How well do you know your customer?
It's all down to knowing exactly who your customer is. Can you easily envisage this person in your mind? Do they shop independent or department stores? Are they MAC or Bare Minerals? Do they have children? Where do they lunch? How many times a week do they exercise? Are they a straight-talker or want a more gentile approach?
You get the picture. You need to KNOW this person, where they are, what they read, what they buy and what motivates them.
MY TIP: Creating a Marketing Target Persona profile is the perfect exercise for getting to know your customer. It should be a thorough exercise with research, not a five minute blast of what you think you know.
So now you know your customer - how do they see you?
Once you know your customer and determined that they have a demand for your product or service, you then have to think about how they will feel about your brand and compare you to your competitors.
To understand your place in the market, I strong recommend you visually map it out. What are the things that your customer values / basis decisions on and what differentiates brand within the market? e.g. cost, customer service, luxury, beneficial to health, organic, ethics.
MY TIP: See your product / service and brand through your customer's eyes, not your own. Consider whether there is a gap between where you are positioned now and where you would like to be to reach your ideal customer - map out exactly how you will get there.
Connect your positioning to every bit of branding and be consistent
Once you have a strong understanding of your customer and where they see you within the market, ensure your branding matches. If you're talking to those who value ethical companies with natural, organic ingredients in their food products at a premium price point, it probably doesn't make sense to lead communications with bold, bolshy claims splashed across a brightly coloured busy background, as it would be to talk about provenance of core ingredients against a clean and green simple backdrop.
Just a note here, that whilst you want branding which your customer can easily recognise and 'categorise' you into in order to 'connect' with your brand, you also need to stand out from your competitors with similar branding. It's a branding balancing act!
MY TIP: Write down the three (the challenge is to keep it to three) things which, if your customer was to visit your site or come across you in a shop, you would want them to take away and tell their friends e.g. "I came across a brand in the gym today called Stacey's Superballs. They make organic avocado energy balls with zero-waste packaging."
Make sure you know your customer really well, keep researching and talking to them, and stay 'true' to your product / service.