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Ready to Start a Business? Think About Brand Strategy Before You Start Spending. Your brand strategy needs to be at the forefront of your planning.

By Adam Horlock Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ready to start your business? Many who start a business launch in the industry they have been working in already have some familiarity. Due to this, many assume they know what they need, especially regarding overhead, such as office space, equipment, employees, and other factors. However, this is a flawed approach, as many do not start and budget for any brand identity or strategy, as the assumption is made that "if you build it, they will come." This assumption can result in a costly pivot after launch or, worse, higher and unnecessary overhead costs that could delay or prevent business growth. How does an entrepreneur ensure that this does not happen?

Related: If You're Not Approaching Your Brand This Way, You're Losing Customers

Start with a strategy first

While the idea is just a concept, before the first conversation with a bank, landlord, investor, or other parties, start with a brand strategy. Identify what type of brand your business will be and an initial concept of the customer base. In addition, begin developing goals for the first six months, year, five years, and more. What do "wins' look like in those time frames? What is truly necessary to spend now, and what can wait? With sound strategy, many startups can use incoming revenue after opening to help fund additional expenses if required, rather than purchasing everything at once before launch. With sound strategy first, an entrepreneur can spend both less and better and realize better results.

Related: 3 Tips for Mastering Storytelling as a Small Business Owner

Work with a team of experts to ensure your brand identity

While many marketing agencies claim to assist new startups and existing businesses with their brand identity and clarity, entrepreneurs should be cautious of such claims. Some agencies are more interested in a monthly retainer or pushing companies to purchase services and deliverables that may be unnecessary for business growth but instead helps the agency in an area where they may not have enough work. While an entrepreneur should always do their due diligence, this is one of the critical areas required. Ask for references, and check those references. Ask other businesses how the agency has helped and what impact the recommended strategies had on their business.

Define the "me only" differentiator

One of the first steps in working with an agency is to define the "me only" differentiator. Not a "me too" or a "me better" difference, but something offered in a way that the customer base wants it and cannot source, or perceives they cannot source elsewhere. Getting the help of brand strategy professionals with experience navigating this process is critical, especially before launch. Determine competitors, the value or perceived value those competitors bring to the market, and then determine what differentiating factors separate all in the market.

Related: How to Craft a Compelling Brand Story That Drives Sales

Consistently evaluate and pivot when required

After launch or opening, evaluate the brand strategy. What is working and what is not? Are there other opportunities for the business that are not currently realized? In choosing and working with an agency, make sure it is an agency that can produce on strategy both before launch and after. It is not enough for an agency to create videos or social media content, ensure that the agency can build a strategy that promotes continued growth and expansion.

Adam Horlock

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Chief Operating Officer, Edit Media Consulting

Adam Horlock is the Chief Operating Officer for Edit Media Consulting. His agency offers PR, social media and business consulting services to brands nationally. He has made numerous media appearances and continues to be a resource for entrepreneurs nationwide.

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