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7 Things Small Startups are Doing Wrong When it Comes to Brand Building Plus How to Fix Them

As a small business owner, you face challenges that larger businesses don’t necessarily have. Tiny budgets. Not having the in-house talent to constantly produce stunning brand content and other brand aesthetics like logos, graphics, etc.

If you listen to marketing leaders such as Gary Vee, Neil Patel, and others it will become evident that branding is supposed to be one of the core activities thatevery entrepreneur focuses on.

But it’s easier said than done. Have you noticed?

Individuals such as Tai Lopez, Brendon Burchard, and Grant Cardone seem to be all over the place and they make it look so easy. There’s no denying they are enjoying great success dominating social channels. Yet you and I both know all these names I just mentioned invest a ton of cash on advertising, content creation, and teams that help them execute. So they may not be large Fortune 500 companies, but it still doesn’t mean they can relate to where you’re at.

How then can you possibly hope to build something powerful?

As a matter of fact, given the rise of social media platforms and digital technology, this is probably the first time in human history where it’s a wonderful thing to be small and self-funded. All you need is a little creativity, a big generous heart that loves helping people, and a clear, structured plan for building your brand.

Oh yeah, you probably also want to religiously avoid these seven mistakes. Let’s address each one and see what quick fix you can apply if you’re already caught in the mud.

The 7 things small startups are doing wrong and how to start fixing them:

1. Shortcutting the top of funnel branding:

Have you seen this diagram before?



Let me simplify it for you. The first segment of that diagram is where all you branding and initial awareness happens. This is where your new audience first comes into contact with your business. In our digitally economy, content marketing is what we focus on most during that initial phase. Let me be clear – marketing isn’t advertising.

Your only intention at this stage of the funnel is to build a relationship, establish trust, and make your audience aware of your brand. 20-30% of your energy and budget needs to go here. Why then are so many startups slyly masking a direct sale within the content they serve at this level?

I haven’t a clue.

It doesn’t work and never will. At least not for a startup that’s looking to be sustainable.

You see when you create content just for the sake of driving that sale you’re in essence walking up to a total stranger and asking them to marry you. I don’t know about you, but meeting a guy who talks to me for five minutes at a piano bar, amuses me with his charm and knowledge of music, only to have him hand me a blue Tiffany Box with a note that says “marry me now” would totally freak me out. As much as I love getting little blue boxes from Tiffany’s – that would be the end of our interaction.

Now, why would you even attempt to do that in business?

Here’s how to start fixing this:

Learn more about this romance that takes place with your audience as shown above in the diagram. Every segmented section is a phase that your brand and potential prospects will have to go through. The length of going through all the phases varies from business to business just as it would in personal relationships. The issue here isn’t about time – it’s about honoring the journey your potential buyer is on and meeting them where they are.

Do not find shortcuts when building digital relationships. Let the first date play out right, build that connection and trust so that when the time is right and you ask, saying yes will seem like most natural thing for your prospect.

2. Lack of Proper Investing in Search Engine Optimization

Building your brand authority online will be almost impossible if you don’t consider investing in SEO. It has a major and direct impact on your business.

Not only does it quickly build trust, it also influences the buying cycle because, as we all know, modern consumers are always doing research before making a purchase decision.

Imagine how great it is when your website is the one that shows up whenever a new potential buyer searches for a solution to their specific problem. In an article where Search Engine Journal shared various reasons why all businesses need to invest in SEO, they said that this is the new age marketing technique that is critical to a brand’s web presence.

Which begs the question – Are you effectively leveraging this?

Here’s how to start fixing this:

Rethink your SEO approach regardless of the industry you serve. If you haven’t considered the impact of organic ranking, it’s time to ponder your digital sustainability.

Either get a qualified SEO person or learn the ropes and become competent in the subject matter. Sites such as Backlinko, Search Engine Journal, and many others have tons of courses you can learn and implement.

I recommend that you map out an SEO strategy that stretches at least 12 months. Then implement and execute it as best you can. Every content plan you make will need to align with that SEO strategy. Again, if you realize that this is time consuming and confusing, get someone to help with this so you can focus on other important aspects of the business.

3. Poor content marketing strategy and content planning

Let me ask you this.

Do you have a clear content marketing strategy plan that is documented?

I hope you said yes. Because if you didn’t…how can you possibly build your brand without a consistent plan of action that will train your growing audience into active engagement?

Content Marketing Institute did a research study focused on documenting your strategy, where they discovered that people with a documented content marketing strategy generally consider themselves more effective in their use of all content marketing tactics and social media channels. That directly impacts your branding efforts and ultimately your revenue.

Here’s how to start fixing this:

Create a content marketing strategy and document it. Include a content plan for the various types, formats, and channels you’ll be using to let the world know about your business. Also don’t forget to determine the key performance indicators you’ll be measuring to figure out what works and what needs to change.

4. Dull marketing that lacks personality

One of the advantages of being small is that you have the chance to make your business stand out in a way that larger companies just can’t compete with. You can humanize your business and give it a distinct personality.

Most large businesses just aren’t able to offer that human touch and personality that you can. So why aren’t you doing more of this?

Here’s the thing.

The old outdated business paradigm was cutthroat. It was about the bottom line and doing whatever is necessary to have your products out there and manipulate innocent people into buying what you offer.

That stuff won’t work today. Business has been transformed into something more holistic and human. Today, it’s about creating relationship-driven businesses. Let the big corporate brands remain impersonal and machine-like.

You on the other hand, my friend, ought to venture out in the opposite direction. What you lack in marketing budgets and manpower, you can more than make up as you get good at leveraging your marketing to genuinely build a relationship-driven business.

Here’s how to start fixing this:

Personalize your marketing. Give your brand character, a distinct tone and style of communicating with your audience. Be friendly, approachable, and above all else, be authentic. If you really are the type of person who loves profanity and curse words, then your ideal audience will probably appreciate it too. So why not find smart ways of infusing that into the personality of your brand.

If, like me, you’re passionate, feminine, and an eternal romantic, then let your brand infuse some of that magic. Those who resonate with you are probably the ones who will become loyal fans and clients anyway. Focus on building that distinction. Keep your eye on the vision and mission, not your competition.

5. Going cheap with the blog and social media content

Listen, I know you don’t have deep pockets. That doesn’t mean that you have to compromise on quality when it comes to your content marketing. Money doesn’t need to be an obstacle in this case, unless you just don’t know how to be resourceful.

Building your brand with low quality content is such a big no-no in today’s marketplace. I’m actually glad both Facebook and Google have taken a turn in the direction of penalizing those who have been getting away with it.

As algorithms mature, you’ll see more and more that people who actually take time to create and distribute content that is meaningful will end up winning the most. That’s because cheap content is usually not a great user experience.

Here’s how to start fixing this:

Get more resourceful. Think creatively and outside your little box. If your funds are low, it’s better to apply this simple equation: Less = more

High quality will give you a better Return on Investment (ROI) long-term than shooting for quantity for the sake of publishing content online. Don’t forget that.

6. Targeting the wrong audience

This is like shooting blanks, I tell you. The fact that millions if not billions of unique individuals are actively engaging online in some way, shape, or form is wonderful, but it can only be a money drainer.

When you invest in content marketing and advertising that isn’t highly targeted and speaking only to the ideal audience you want to reach, chances of growing your business and driving revenue are really tough.

I see this a lot with small startups. Mission-driven, heart-centered entrepreneurs who are self-starters have a hard time understanding why it’s important to do some due diligence before pouring their tiny budgets into ad campaigns to sell their products.

Many of them are so broad. “I want to change people’s lives,” they say.

Well, there are a lot of people online and most of them do want some kind of transformation. That doesn’t mean they are your right client, so why waste time and money getting in front of them? Just so your content can get likes and clicks? Vanity metrics like that have very little to do with revenue at the end of the month.

Here’s how to start fixing this:

Invest some time, money, and resources understanding your audience and ideal buyer. Then find the right marketing channel to reach out to that audience, because they will naturally connect with your brand.

Figure out the conversation your ideal client is having in their mind and the pain points they really need help with that you can solve. Use free tools such as Xtensio to document the clear image of your ideal client and then use your brand to reach out to these people wherever they are.

7. No brand storytelling

Smart entrepreneurs are leveraging the power of story. We’ve seen it work with big brands for many years. Think of Nike, Coca-Cola, and Dove. These brands invest a lot in brand storytelling, and they’ve become giants as a result.

You don’t need big pockets to do this right, but you definitely need lots of creativity and the right intention.

There’s nothing worse than using storytelling as a sales gimmick to manipulate your audience. They will sense something is off if like the big bad wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, you’re pretending to be something you’re not.

Here’s how to start fixing this:

Tell your story from the heart. Use the power of story to build connections. The more you develop an emotional connection between your brand and audience using the story as the catalyst, the easier it will be to build loyalty and ultimately revenue. Chose a story brand script and framework that aligns with your vision, message, and offer. Make it the backbone of your marketing and watch your brand’s power increase.


The list I’ve shared is merely a fraction of all the branding lessons you might want to become aware of as you grow your startup. However, I feel that you now have a strong headstart, and even if you just pick a handful of these suggestions and implement them immediately, you’ll experience far greater rewards than just aimlessly focusing on getting yet another tool or software program to grow your business.

We must always remember that at the end of the day, people buy from people. Your ideal clients will gladly invest in you when you can demonstrate that your business is a business made to serve humans.

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Janette Getui
Contributor: Janette Getui is a mompreneur transformational writer and prosperity coach. She is the co-founder of Bold Beautiful Blissful U and hosts transformational prosperity retreats and masterminds. She also runs a content creation agency that supports visionaries and thought leaders. Check out Janette's articles and follow her @janettegetui

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Contributor: Janette Getui is a mompreneur transformational writer and prosperity coach. She is the co-founder of Bold Beautiful Blissful U and hosts transformational prosperity retreats and masterminds. She also runs a content creation agency that supports visionaries and thought leaders. Check out Janette's articles and follow her @janettegetui

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