Building a brand for your company is one of the most important things you can do as a marketer.

A brand allows you to differentiate yourself from industry competitors with a unique image, a memorable voice, and an identity that resonates with your target customers. But establishing and launching your own brand from scratch can be difficult—particularly when you're a startup with limited resources.

It can be tempting to rush through the process of market entry and start selling products as quickly as possible, but the way you introduce your company to your customers could have a huge impact on your potential for future sales. After all, you really do have only one chance to make a first impression.

Adopting a forward-thinking mindset, establishing a strategy, and fully prepping your rollout will help take your launch into the success stratosphere. All it takes is a commitment to five simple steps.

Step 1: Start as early as possible

Founding father Benjamin Franklin told us that when we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail.

There's a lot more to launching a brand than simply showing off a new logo or telling people that you're open for business. The quicker you get started, the sooner you'll be able to identify potential problems before they damage your company's reputation.

For instance, we all remember the fateful spring morning when Instagram rolled out its brand new logo, sparking a public outcry and leaving the business wondering where it went wrong.

Instagram is just one example of a spectacular failure to launch, but its experience provides insight into the importance of giving your team plenty of time to make sure that your strategy makes sense before rolling it out to the masses. Just a few extra weeks devoted to consumer research would have been enough to save Instagram months of damage control.

Step 2: Know your audience ecosystem

Your brand is your reputation, your identity, and your soul as a business. The most successful brands are those that resonate with their customers on a deeper level, sharing unified values, beliefs, and goals.

The more you know about your audience ecosystem, the more you can design a brand that both generates buzz during your launch and continues to establish long-standing relationships for the life of your company.

So, how do you plan a rollout around your target market?

  • Bring back the user persona. Your buyer persona will always be an important resource in your brand strategy. Data-driven insight into your perfect customer will teach you how to speak the language of your audience, where to find them, and how to improve engagement.
  • Create channel consistency. Your personas should tell you where your customers spend most of their time—your blog, your social media pages, or somewhere else. And create the same seamless experience on every touchpoint, maintaining consistent tone of voice, imagery, and timescale. Don't show off your new logo on Instagram in April and then announce it on your website in August!
  • Get your audience involved. Finally, don't just tell your customers about your new brand: Ask them what they think about your logo, how they like your name, and whether they've had any problems using your new website. Engaging your audience from the beginning is a great way to start building a community for your business.

Step 3: Make your launch just one chapter in your story

Successful brands create an affinity with their audience that gradually transforms one-off customers into loyal consumer advocates. As today's customers search for new ways to develop stronger relationships with their favorite brands, the easiest way to set yourself up for success is to position your launch as an important chapter of a larger company narrative.

If you're introducing a new company, what caused you to approach this specific marketplace? If you're rebranding, what trends in your industry pushed you to adopt a new image? When Airbnb launched its new identity in 2014, it inspired its customers with a story about how the new logo was all about "belonging."

Make sure your employees know your story inside and out before you share it with the world. After all, your employees are your most important ambassadors and the frontline storytellers responsible for sharing your message. If they're not sure about the new chapter in your tale, or what it means to them, then that could lead to holes in your new identity.

Step 4: Have a timeline for your launch

Timing is important in business. Write a blog at the wrong time, and you could risk incurring the wrath of an unhappy consumer base. Create a product too late, and you could miss your chance to transform the market.

When you're launching a brand, timing is all about making sure that you share the right information with the right people at the best times.

Establishing a rollout schedule might seem simple enough, but it becomes far more complex when you consider the number of touchpoints you use to connect with your audience every day—signage, marketing collateral, social media channels, email signatures, and so much more.

Making sure you dot the i's and cross the t's at the perfect time will help you unveil a clear and consistent brand to the world, instead of a brand that seems still "under construction."

Avoid leaking information about the brand before its official launch date, too. Brand media taken out of context could prompt negative conversations about your company before it has even had a chance to introduce itself.

Step 5: Stay the course

A well-executed launch is just the start of your brand strategy.

The rollout is your first step into your new identity, and the path ahead involves endless options for engaging, sharing, and communicating with your customers in ways that allow your message to spread to new people and partners. Although your launch sets the stage for marketing campaigns, content creation, and social growth, it's up to you to invest in all of that.

To improve your chances of success, put a system in place from day one that you can use to collect feedback and important metrics about how your brand is perceived. For instance, try measuring social media engagement, sending out surveys, and speaking to customers to get more information about what they like and dislike about the brand. That will help you avoid any confusion around your reputation.

Never rest on your laurels after a launch. A brand isn't just a name, a logo, or a website—it's a dynamic, versatile entity that requires constant nurturing to survive.

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image of Stewart Hodgson

Stewart Hodgson is a co-founder of Fabrik Brands, a brand strategy and digital design agency based in London.

LinkedIn: Stewart Hodgson