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All of the research, hard work, time, talent and money invested in starting a new business should never be taken lightly. It’s too bad many early-stage businesses and start-ups fall short when it comes to brand-building.

It’s never too early to ensure that your new venture is packaged just right for the market. That means having the right name, tagline, identity and website from the outset.

The bankruptcy courts are full of great ideas that were undermined by ineffective branding and promotion. Build it and they will come? No, they won’t. Not unless you make them really want to. Or, better yet, need to.

Unfortunately, cash-strapped start-ups tend to view an investment in brand building as an “expense” or “luxury.” They decide to put it off until they become profitable, when, in reality, it’s a prerequisite to profitability. So, instead of hiring a professional, they “home-spin” it. And it usually misses the mark.

Another problem is that many businesses mistake their logo for their brand. A logo is the brand mark. A great brand transcends the products or services behind it to reflect a greater sense of purpose while connecting emotionally with the audience to create a unique frame of mind.

In short, your brand is your promise. And you need to own it.

Many businesses spend too much time talking about themselves and their product features when they should really be talking about their audience and how they can benefit from what they have to offer. While this might seem elementary to some, entrepreneurs are often too close to their products to realize the emotional connection they need to make with their audience. They may fall short of the high-level vantage point that enables them to uncover who they really are and what their greater purpose is. That “brand’s-eye view” of their business can gain them a clearer understanding of the competitive landscape and provide a platform on which to differentiate themselves and demonstrate why it matters to their audience. And, it can help them define their target market and reveal the emotional buttons they need to push.

There’s a wealth of evidence that shows how a great brand builds customer loyalty and brings non-tangible value to a business. So, making sure it sends the right message to the right audience is vital. And, understanding that the broader audience extends beyond prospects — to potential investors, local media and even career-seekers — helps build brand equity.

Furthermore, enabling the brand promise to resonate throughout an entire organization requires a calculated effort. It needs to be adopted by company staff, reflected through all communications and creatively and strategically executed. Everyone must live it and breathe it.

Every great idea deserves a great start. Like the old Head & Shoulders ads stated, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” So, it’s essential that start-ups take their best shot and brand it right from the beginning.

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