As a software company leader, you’re investing a great deal of time and effort into developing your products, raising capital, and finding the right team. But are you also devoting the same effort to brand building?
Kiley Newbold, VP of Growth at Carrot, an inbound online lead generation system for real estate professionals, explains, “Most people think of logos, colors, and slogans when they think of brand. Your brand goes a lot deeper than that. Your brand is who you are at your core. It’s how you treat your customers, the quality of your product, the delivery of your service. Your brand is reflected in how you do (or don’t) communicate with employees, partners, and customers.”
He adds that whether you know it or not, you are building your brand. “You can’t not build a brand — either you build one intentionally and actively, or one builds passively that you are stuck with.”
Take Control of Your Brand
If you want to engage in deliberate brand building rather than leaving your company’s reputation to chance, Newbold says you can begin with something your team can rally around. “At Carrot, it was our mission. For us, software is really just a vehicle to achieving that mission. We truly want to help other entrepreneurs gain back valuable time for the things that matter most. We’ve been burned out before. So solving that pain is a passionate mission for us. That was the starting point, and it helped shape and guide our decisions,” he says.
“The name Carrot and all the cool orange stuff actually came a couple of years later,” Newbold comments.
Brand to Your Partners
Leveraging partnerships can be an effective way to increase awareness of your brand. Newbold advises, however, “Don’t just think about branding to your partners’ customers, think about branding toward them too,” he says. “We send (a lot of) orange stuff to our partners. Some of it is branded, and some of it is just real stuff that they will use that happens to be orange. We want them thinking about us all the time.”
He describes branding to partners as absolutely critical. “These are your allies. Look to develop multiple touchpoints with your partners (not just point of sale). Find ways that you can integrate into their onboarding process or other places in the customer journey — this allows you to embed vetting and verification to cement of your legitimacy.”
Know What Your Industry Is Saying About You
Newbold adds that monitoring brand reputation is vital. “In the beginning, the founding team should be talking to customers and prospects on a regular basis. Although some of this work might get offloaded at scale, it must remain a key focus of the executive team,” he says. Newbold adds that it’s important to monitor conversations online, in publications, social media and reviews. “And don’t just monitor, engage. This comes back to brand for us — part of our mission is to add humanity back to business. That humanity starts at the front lines. If people are talking about us, we want to be there to talk with them,” he explains.
Speak Louder Than With Words
Newbold’s advice to startups for the best brand-building strategy is to make and keep promises consistently. “I can’t remember who first said that, but it’s true,” he says. “There are a lot of marketing and PR campaigns you can deploy to get people to notice your brand, but if their experience with your brand is poor that awareness can backfire.”