First Steps for a Start-Up Business: Part 1
So you have a great idea for a new business, but you aren’t sure where to start. Beginning a new business venture can understandably be very daunting but the first few steps are actually fairly straight forward. However, many entrepreneurs rush this vital stage as they are so eager to get going. Don’t make this mistake. There are some very basic building blocks that will shape the success (or potential failure) of your company. One of which will be your corporate identity; a consistent visual communication of your business’s core values.
But before jumping straight into building your corporate identity, think carefully about the points below, as they will be the starting point for all aspects of your business activity for years to come. A successful business and consistent identity has to be built on strong foundations.
Business Name & Slogan
If you are a start-up, you have more than likely already thought up a name for your new business. But before you get too carried away, think carefully about your business name and the long term consequences it could have. Your business name needs to be easily remembered, however it doesn’t need to spell out exactly what you do. This is where the slogan comes in handy; if your company name is a little vague, the slogan will help tell potential customers what you do. However, a slogan isn’t essential – you can use your promotional activities to effectively communicate your area of expertise.
Your business name should use simple words that aren’t too hard to spell or remember, e.g. we have encountered some start-up businesses who have named themselves after a word spelt backwards. An idea like this may seem individual and clever at the time, but in the end it will mean nothing to a reader and will probably be very hard to remember how to spell, let alone pronounce. When thinking up a business name, think ahead to your logo and branding; even if your business name is something vague and unconnected to your industry, it could however be very easy to create a brand around with your icon and colours e.g. Apple, Twitter, Firefox, Blackberry, Snowflake Creative.
Consider the length of your business name, if there are quite a few words, or a collection of names, it could be shortened to an acronym allowing it to roll off the tongue a little easier. Famous examples include HSBC (Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation), and H&M (Hennes & Mauritz).
Your business concept will be the driving idea behind your new start-up, and the element that you hope will make you stand out from others in your intended market – your USP (Unique Selling Point). Without a USP why would a customer choose you over another, more established company they are already familiar with? Your business should have a competitive edge that ensures that customers choose you and stay loyal in the future. Your corporate identity should grab people’s attention and reflect your business’s philosophy and hint at your USP e.g. if your USP is that you only use natural and organic ingredients – this can easily be shown in your logo through use of colour, icon design and font choice. Therefore it is important to be certain what your core values and USP is before moving onto your corporate identity.
Think carefully about who your target customers/clients are; your corporate identity will go a long way in helping your company appeal to the right people. This may seem obvious, but some people make simple mistakes in their choice of colour and font, by not doing the research to understand what appeals to their target market. What end of the market are you aiming at? If you are aiming at the high end of the market with your pricing and business plan, this will definitely need to be reflected in your logo and other promotional materials. High-end brands often use very simple and un-fussy typefaces with uncomplicated design elements in their logos and visual communication. Be sure to check out what your competitors are doing – if they are successful they must be doing something right.
So much of your corporate identity will come down to brand perception – how you want people to judge your company based on your visual identity and business activity. If you are aiming at other businesses, and want to be perceived as professional and corporate, you may choose to use simple fonts and toned-down colours. Whereas if your business is aimed at children, your corporate identity can be a lot more adventurous with bright colours, interesting fonts and use of icons and patterns – as this is what will appeal to children.
Before making any decisions, do your research. Both before and after starting the design process – ask around and get opinions on colours, font type, level of design/simplicity etc. and find out what is most popular with your target market.
All of these basic elements of your business and brand need to be decided on at the very beginning, before you start thinking about your corporate identity. These core values will form the fundamental ideas behind everything the business does, everything it owns and produces. The consistency of these ideas are what will drive the company and show what stands for.
The corporate identity is what will reflect these values, but unless these values are realistic and can be acted upon, your business may not succeed. Therefore it is vital to strengthen the initial concepts before moving on any further with your start-up venture.