Congratulations! You’ve made the exciting decision to start your own business.

Building your business and creating the brand that represents your business can sometimes feel like a chicken-and-egg scenario. What comes first?

Here are 10 critical items to start thinking about for your brand when you launch your business:

1. Figure out your business name

Determining the name of your company or product is a critical first step because many of the following steps can’t happen until this is sorted out.

An ideal name is:

  • short
  • easy to spell and pronounce
  • brings to mind what you do
  • is suggestive of your core brand traits (has the same feeling you want for your brand)
  • has a related domain name available
  • will not be confused with competitors or other companies

It would be best if you acted quickly to choose the right name because so much of your brand development can’t be completed without it. But don’t rush the process! Having the right brand name makes everything more manageable with your branding and marketing, and a poor brand name can hold you back.

2. Register your domain name

Hopefully, you have already spent some time seeing if a domain name is available that matches your preferred business name. It can be hard to find a good domain name, and you may have to choose a different suffix than ‘.com’ if you want to match your trade name.

Tip: If you’re having trouble finding a domain name, consider adding your location or type of business to the domain.

3. Secure all your ‘handles’ on social media

Like website domain names, social media account names or handles can be hard to secure.

If social media will play an essential role in your marketing strategy, you should have already checked availability on the platforms you plan to use. Even if you’re not sure about a media channel, secure your relevant account name for now.

4. Consider trademarking your name

Getting a trademark on your name gives you some legal protection through the US Patent and Trade office. You can complete this process yourself or work with an attorney to research and file the paperwork.

Even if you don’t plan to trademark your name, it’s a good idea to know if you could be infringing on someone else’s trademark. If you choose a name trademarked by a large corporation, you will likely be hearing from them, and you may have to change your name.

5. Start practicing your UVP or elevator speech

Being able to tell the story of your business quickly will be critical to all of your marketing programs and for networking and sales. People will be excited to hear about your new business, and you should learn to quickly explain what your business is about, who you help, and what you do. This can be written as a one-sentence Unique Value Proposition or a longer elevator speech.

6. Check out your competition

Take time to review your competition in detail. Depending on the type of business you are creating, you may have many competitors or hardly any.

Understand how you are different:

  • Is there a specific feature that’s different?
  • Are you in a different geographic location?
  • Is your pricing model or service model different?

Review their visual identity and tone of voice:

  • What is their name?
  • What does their logo look like?
  • What colors and fonts do they use?
  • What types of photography or other imagery do they feature?
  • What’s their tone of voice: casual, serious, formal, etc?

7. Start creating your visual look & feel

Your visual brand should start with a general approach to colors, fonts, and the feeling you want to portray.

Spend time looking at other brands for inspiration. These should be your competitors (see above) and other companies. Good places to look are at their websites or also packaged goods.

As a new business owner, you’re likely very excited to get a logo for your company. A logo makes it all feel real! But you’ll notice that your logo is not the first thing you should be concerned about when you first build your brand.

Before you start on your logo, you should be clear about:

  • What makes your company unique. What are your key differentiators from the competition?
  • What type of feeling do you want people to experience with your brand?
  • A concept or idea for your logo
  • A general look and feel that you want to express visually

You may not have a big budget for a logo design when you first start your business, so you may want to consider a wordmark style logo. Wordmark logos also called type-only or word-only logos, feature the business’s name without a graphic symbol. They can be a good choice because they focus on increasing name recognition and are usually more economical to develop. Many successful companies—such as FedEx, Tiffany, and Google—use this type of logo.

9. Develop a tone of voice

How you talk or write becomes an integral part of your brand, and you should think consciously about your tone of voice.

If you work with customers in person, for example, if you have a restaurant or a professional services company, your customer service is critical to your brand experience. If you have an online business, the writing on your website will set the tone. If social media will be an essential part of your marketing, then what you write about and the style of your writing matter.

10. Create your website

Every business needs a website. It can start as a simple one-page website. But get it live with at least your contact information as soon as possible.

  • If you have a location-based business like a store or restaurant, list your location and hours.
  • For service based businesses include a bulleted list or paragraph explaining what you do and the services you offer.

Plan to continually update your website as your brand evolves and then gets finalized over the first year in business. You will likely add more content to your site and refine your messaging and visual style.

Get started!

Many business owners are building their brand as they build their business. It takes a while to get all of these elements developed and refined. Expect the whole process to take two to six months to complete. Branding Compass can help you shorten that time frame by giving you a step-by-step approach to follow.