Until you can answer these ten questions, you’re not ready to start working on your brand. When you work on those items too soon, you either waste money on off-target designs or get frustrated because you don’t have enough details and information to work on them. So put away the swatch book and stop trying to build your website.

Answer These 10 Questions Before You Build Your Brand

Get clear on these ten items, then get started on your branding.

1-Can you describe your business in 5 words or less?

Whenever you start to talk about your business, start with something easy to understand. Remember, this is just the starting point. Always start with something people can relate to. For example:

  • Handmade silver jewelry
  • Italian food restaurant
  • Ice cream shop
  • Copywriter
  • Business Coach
  • Productivity app
  • E-commerce site for workout apparel

2-Who are your competitors? Name at least 3.

Think about what a prospective customer is doing now instead of buying from you. They may buy an alternative product, work with another company, or use something else altogether.

3-How are you different or better than each competitor?

Sometimes, you have the exact differentiator from all of your competitors. For example, Dominos pizza is faster than all its competitors. Sometimes you have different ways of comparing yourself based on the competitor. For example, a local deli may be better quality than Subway and faster than a sit-down restaurant.

4-What makes you special?

What is unique about your approach, or does your finished product make it great? Why are customers interested in trying it, and why do they keep buying it?

5-Find five words or short phrases that describe these unique qualities
Take your answer from #4 and boil it down to an essential description. For example, you might be ‘research-driven’ or ‘compassionate’ or ‘highly accurate.’

6-How will people learn about your business?

How will you find your first, tenth, and hundredth customer? Will they use a search engine to find your website, meet you at a networking event, or see your sign as they walk by your store? Writing down what you expect will be the most common way that people will find out about your business and buy from you.

7-What are all the key brand touchpoints you need to develop?

Thinking about your answers to #6, recognize that each opportunity will be a chance for you to introduce them to your brand and your business. What will you need to make the best impression? Some ideas include:
• A website
• Business cards
• Signs
• Brochures
• Uniforms
• Social media profile images

Prioritize the most likely to be part of the sales process. A beautiful brochure can be an effective and low-cost way to market your business. Still, if you don’t have a plan for distributing brochures (such as handing them out at an event or putting them in the lobby of a local hotel), there’s no reason to create them.

8-Who is most likely to buy from you?

Getting your first customers is hard! Think about ten people who would be excited about your product or service. Then carefully look at who they are and why they want to buy from you. Look at demographic and psychographic details to describe your ideal customer.

9-What other brands do you admire?

Spend time looking at companies that are similar to yours. They don’t have to be direct competitors. Similar businesses in other parts of the country are an excellent place to look. Or, think about businesses that work with customers similarly but in a different industry. For example, if you run a consulting firm that helps CEOs with their public speaking, you might look at consulting firms that support their finances.

Create a mood board or bookmark sites that show logos, websites, packaging, or whatever appeals to you. As you look at more and more samples, you’ll start to see the themes about why you like something.

10-What is the one thing that will make you stand out or be memorable?

It’s tough for small businesses to gain awareness and customers for their business. While you are thinking about it all day long (and maybe throughout the night), your prospective customers are busy with their lives. How will you get their attention, and once you have it, how will you be memorable?

Build your brand based on your business

You’ll notice from this list that you don’t need to spend time thinking about things like colors and fonts yet. Focus on figuring out your business and how it’s different and better than anything else. Then, you can build your brand to accentuate those traits.