Look for rapport
There is nothing more important than finding a collaborator who is on the same wavelength as you. Sure, rapport develops over time. But with a bit of intuition, you can spot who really speaks your language from the start.
A transactional attitude towards business relationships will never measure up against a true partnership. Make sure your goals align and you’re invested in each other’s success.
Where are you on your journey?
Your priorities will be different at each stage of the start-up journey. The earlier you are in the process, the faster you are able to make decisions. It might only be you and your co-founder whose expectations need to be managed. As you grow, the number of stakeholders will inevitably increase which in turn adds complexity to branding your business.
Seed stage start-up
Give the idea a form and convince investors
At the beginning of the seed stage, there is no brand yet. The emphasis should be on bringing your vision to life through design and writing. The best approach is a short but efficient branding project that delivers the essential items for a small-scale launch. You'll be able to pitch your idea to investors more easily if you have a professional look and clear message.
You need an individual or a small team who are transparent about what you’ll get, including deadlines and tangible deliverables. Agree to a fixed budget upfront. And offer to contribute as much of your time as possible to keep the costs down. Our brand sprints are tailored for this challenge.
Early stage start-up
Prepare your brand for growing sales
Your business is still small, so nothing is set in stone yet. Many things can change and you should be able to pivot your start-up at speed. You need a strong brand that can adapt to your business’ needs and enable growth.
If you’re seeking a new branding partner at this stage, something must not be quite right with your current brand. The branding agency you approach for support has to offer an in-depth review of your existing brand. It’s not right to offer answers to your issues without proper analysis. There needs to be a research phase, which examines your brand, target audience and competitors. The process should also engage your team.
I have an article where I go into more detail about the branding process.
Growth stage start-up
Maintain your brand as your business expands
The emphasis at this point should be more on evolution than revolution. You need a partner who can help keep your brand relevant in a competitive landscape. They should be able to assist you with the long-term, big picture vision for your brand. And to ensure your brand provides a consistently high quality experience at every touchpoint of your organisation. They’ll also pass on knowledge to your team, including detailed brand guidelines and templates.
Growing together from the start avoids the disruption of changing your branding partner throughout your journey. It’s better to work with someone who understands the ins-and-outs of your business, and knows where your story began. So consider this long-term perspective even when you are just a fledgling, newborn start-up.
A good example for this type of work would be our partnership with YR. We have been helping them since 2012. They started very small, but now work with the biggest brands in fashion and retail, like Ralph Lauren and Levi’s.
Unless you're a hyperlocal business, you should consider building a global brand right from the start. It doesn’t matter if you are focusing your operations in one country. Give scope to your brand to grow and attract a diverse range of people. The same applies to your branding partner. Pick one who understands how to create a universally appealing identity.
Think about the cost
It’s important that you find the right offering for your budget, but don’t make your decision purely based on costs. The partnership with your branding agency is like any other human relationship. It should be built on trust and respect. And it needs to be nurtured to reap the rewards of branding.
Read my article about how much should start-ups spend on their branding.
Looking for more tips?
I wrote an article a while ago on how to choose the right branding partner. It’s from a different perspective and not necessarily aimed at start-ups. I go into more detail on experience, agency size and location. Make sure to check it out if the above isn’t enough to get you started.
Branding advice: Choosing the right branding partner.
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