Building a strong brand is quite possibly the most quintessential piece of starting a new business. Your brand is far more than a logo, typography, and color scheme. It is your business’s personality and value, the purest form of your existence. A good brand leads everything a business does. Think of yourself as a brand. What makes you, you? What stops you from doing something? Why are you unique? These are all questions that should be answered with a brand.
I’m guilty of jumping into the market without really honing into who Tipsy was and what I wanted. The brand changed four times within the first year. Each time I thought I fully understood the business something would change. I learned a lot building the brand and finding who we were, and for the most part, it was a really fun experience. The hardest part came after we found ourselves. Now we needed people to recognize us, learn who we were and what we stood for, and to build our clientele.
Building brand awareness had to be one of the most stressful, scary, fun, exciting, and fulfilling processes ever. Now, I’m not saying we’re done. You can’t really ever be finished with building brand awareness, but we’ve made some great strides and I think sharing what I learned could help a ton of people out there. For what it’s worth, here are our five rules to gaining brand awareness.
Keeping things small and intimate in the beginning is key. Firstly, it’s less stressful. When you can speak one-on-one with someone about the company and its brand, you can discuss it in-depth, answer questions, and learn from those answers. We answered a lot of questions about ourselves that we really didn’t know the answers to. Doing that though helped us find those answers and develop ourselves even more.
Secondly, building a brand isn’t cheap. The bigger you go, the more money you spend. Doing small advertisements online or in print, low-level sponsoring, and coming up with your own ways to get yourself out there will save you money. We wasted a ton of money, in the beginning, trying to build our brand only to change the concept two months later.
Don’t Shoot Down Any Ideas
Think outside of the box. When you’re a new business, going to professional mixers might not be the best idea. We did it and realized that either no one took us seriously or our big competitors were there dominating the event. Find things that will make your brand shine. For example, we found an opportunity to sponsor a fundraiser for less than $100, and we were the only sponsor. We got our name in huge letters all over the event and even had a speaking opportunity during it. Plus, we got to talk with the Mayor of Albany, Kathy Sheehan, about our business.
Give Stuff Away
This one is huge! We primarily built our brand off donating our services to businesses, non-profits, schools, and fundraisers. Yes, it costs you time, but for the most part, it doesn’t cost that much money. The return on investment though is huge. Our recent website donation to Orange Street Cats was shared on Facebook over 150 times and reached nearly 25K people. You get brand awareness, they get a new product, and you have another item to add to your portfolio. It’s a win-win.
Don’t Be Afraid of Making Connections
Everything is an opportunity to get your business out there! I talk about Tipsy Social with everyone. If I’m out to dinner, I’ll mention it to the server or bartender. When I meet new friends, I’ll talk about what I do and encourage them to check us out on social media. Making these connections gives a face to the brand and also shows how much you believe in it. I sent a thank you letter to Treatie Beatie Cake Shop after they made a cake for my engagement party. I mentioned that if they ever needed anything they could contact us. A week later we were designing product brochures for them. A small connection turned into a client, and that client turned into a brand advocate.
Have Fun with It!
Don’t let stress and fear beat you. I made sure that we did things that were fun, but also gave us the opportunity to grow our fan base. Small things like going to Nine Pin for a cider tasting or buying tickets to a fundraiser like A Taste of Albany. These were all great experiences and an awesome way to meet new people and talk about Tipsy Social. Building a brand doesn’t have to be boring. The best part? It gets you out there and gives you the ability to talk about your passion. Your enthusiasm about your work is what gets people interested and excited.