“Hey Alexis, I really value your feedback, would you mind giving your view on which of these logo designs would be best for my startup?”
This is a common request I get from friends, customers, and members of my Parentpreneur Accelerator Community.
I am flattered that these entrepreneurs value my opinion… however I don’t have an eye for design or a good eye for colours (my wife will back me up on this, based on the experience of designing our new bedroom!).
Of course, this isn’t what I’m being really asked for…
The entrepreneur wants to know which logo I think will get them more business, and ultimately make them more successful.
Unfortunately it isn’t my opinion that matters. The only opinion that matters on what their brand should look like is the one held by their existing ideal customers.
Naturally, I tell them so.
“But I don’t have any customers!” replies the entrepreneur, frustrated that I don’t just pick their favourite.
Here lies the problem. They are creating their branding assets too early!
Your brand and all the assets that go with it (name, logo, colours etc) should help you to communicate the key components of your business. This may include what your business stands for, who it helps, what results it gets for customers, how it achieves these, why it’s different to competitors, and how it feels to work with you.
You won’t know these things until you have real customers paying you real money.
For example, one of the Parentpreneurs on my Startup Accelerator started off with a vision of creating a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs for all their legal needs. The Parentpreneur had a clear idea how they’d be branded, including their business name, the names for their core products, and what the related book’s cover would look like.
Through my Accelerator program, they learned there was no demand for what they planned to sell. Instead, they were able to identify a very specific area in which a very specific group of entrepreneurs would value help. Fortunately, this specific group are willing to pay handsomely for the Parentpreneur to solve their problems in this specific area, and so now the Parentpreneur has found a potentially successful business.
If they had developed all their branding first, it would have been a complete waste of time and money.
Instead, here are the two times in which you should you consider designing your brand.
- When you get feedback from existing customers that they feel reluctant to work with you or refer you because of your lack of branding
- When you are preparing to grow outside of your initial group of paying customers, by spending a lot of time and/or money to promote your business (through Paid Advertising / PR / Events / Joint Ventures etc.)
Note that in both cases you should have existing customers that are already paying you money!
In the meantime, use a ‘working title’… honestly, your very first customers won’t care. They care about working with a real person who will help them solve a real problem they have.
Your working title can be anything, as long as it takes you less time to come up with it than it does to read this article! Try “[Your Name] Enterprises” or “[Your Initials] Support”.
In the 17 years I’ve been setting up startups, I’ve used a lot of working titles, including:
“AK Support”, “AKast”, and “Missing Link”.
In the early days of the Parentpreneur Accelerator I used “Making Greatness”. I only had a logo because a friend’s son needed to do a project for University that he could use in job applications. I would have been fine just to use the name as the logo initially.
Of course, once I had my first 10 paying customers, had made them really happy, and was preparing to promote the business more widely, I then spent time (and money) on:
- Defining what I thought the brand should communicate based on my experience of working with my ideal customers (what they value, what’s different about my business, what words they use to describe it)
- Sharing this with my customers and getting their feedback
- Shortlisting names, and picking one based on what was available (domain / trademarks etc)
- Briefing designers on what I wanted (i.e. what I wanted to communicate, and what assets I needed to do this with)
- Sharing the best designs with my customers and getting their feedback
- Using customer feedback to re-brief the designers (changing colours, shapes, etc)
- Re-sharing the final designs and agreeing the exact design
As a result, I now have a brand identity that represents what the business stands for, communicates this to my ideal customers, and as a side-benefit, my early customers feel an even stronger connection with my business!
So, if you haven’t got your first customers yet, don’t waste your time and money on branding right now.
Instead focus on finding your ideal customer, identifying the problem they want to solve, pitching how you’ll solve it, and building a profitable business machine. You can work on designing the brand later… when you’ll have the time and money available to do so!
This article is one in a series called #100WastedWeeks in which I aim to help you cut your huge To-Do list right down to the things that really matter for you right now.
Please comment below to let me know what you think, and what ‘must do’ tasks are currently on your list.