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In a land of startups, how will you stand out?

Startups and entrepreneurs. Two words you’ve likely eyeballed several times this week already, if not today. How about Founders, Owners and Managing Directors? I bet you know several of them personally, right?



Starting a new business clearly isn’t foreign to Aussies. According to a Government report released in 2015, startups (firms of <2yrs) created 1.44 million jobs in our economy between 2006 and 2011. Healthy numbers for sure, though the same report also revealed that ‘all other firms’ (aged two years plus), shed more than 400,000 full time jobs over the same period. The takeaway? While Australia has one of the highest rates of entrepreneurship amongst developed economies, only a very small number of startups manage to scale with success.


Since then, things have only ramped up. Just last month, figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), revealed the number of actively trading businesses in Australia has increased for the fourth year in a row. In June 2017, more than 2.24 million Aussie businesses were actively trading (an increase of 3.1% from June 2016), with the bulk of growth coming from non-employing businesses. SO - things are getting cluttered – especially for the sole traders and small biz wizards among us!


Stop. Hammer time

Apple, Aesop, Audi, they’ve all got it. They sparkle, they glow and make you want to follow. And it’s not just about sublime hard drives, sensual body wash or blood pumping wheels … it’s in their greater DNA. What’s that, you say? Gather round!


While the reasons behind new business failure can be limitless and dizzying (cash flow, lack of technical expertise, faulty production, distribution disasters, PR nightmares), taking the time to consider the commonalities of successful brands (be they personal brands, or those of businesses) can be hugely enlightening, and far more uplifting!


Differentiate or die

When it comes to the secrets of brand success, the ‘art of innovation’ is one well worth mastering. Whether you’re a lone ranger (hello PTs, nutrition consultants, osteopaths & yoga instructors) or in the midst of scaling Australia’s next tech startup, standing out from the crowd is critical to success. Not only will ‘cutting through the clutter’ mean reaching more customers for the here and NOW, but in turn, be critical to attracting future employees, investors and stakeholders for the pivotal years ahead.


When it comes to flexing YOUR brand muscle, here are four fundamentals worth keeping in mind:


1. Understand your VALUE proposition, then leverage it!

Your value proposition is a clear and succinct declaration of WHAT you do, the specific FEATURES and BENEFITS of this product, and WHY your target audience should choose it over the opposition (unique selling proposition). In crafting this, be sure to use plain and simple language your audience will understand. Quite simply, think about the PROBLEM you’ve identified in the market, and how you’re promising to solve it!


2. Sacrifice.

Marketing consultant John Moore says we have to learn sacrifice: "A winning business understands that to gain a customer it must first be willing to lose a customer." You must be willing to pick out whom it is you want to appeal to -- sacrificing others who don't fit the mould.

I first chanced upon this insight several years back, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve replayed it to clients since – particularly the ones caught in the all too common web of being ‘all things to all people’. Give up trying to please the masses – it will only dilute your potential to please a far more powerful, loyal, and ‘qualified’ few.


3. Sharpen your focus to broaden your appeal.

Think about the brands you love most. I mentioned a few of mine earlier – Apple, Aesop, Audi … I’m also a big fan of Lululemon, Nike, Roger Federer and Kayla Itsines. What do they all have in common? Their razor sharp focus. Whether it’s their product, marketing-communications, social media, tone of voice or customer service proposition, these brands are so clear and consistent, they feel nothing but an easy pleasure to consume. Paint a polished and seemingly simple picture for your customers, and they’ll be far more inclined to gobble it up. Because none of us need added clutter in our lives!


4. Same same, but different.

If you struggle a little with articulating your value proposition (i.e. what makes you particularly different or unique), don’t stress, I hear you. After all, how genuinely ‘unique’ can Australia’s 3,300+ gyms and fitness centres be? Consistent, simple and strong messaging is key to generating brand loyalty, but it’s the creative, considered nuances that really get noticed. Don’t be afraid to step outside the lines and flex a little brand ‘flavour’ along the way. People inherently love connecting with people, take often ‘same same’ industry standards, and spin them YOUR way. Your product might be ‘same same’, but the way you deliver it can be different. It might be your tone of voice, your style of photography, your choice in music, the way you welcome or reward clients. Brand character offers an element of ‘human’ authenticity, and human connections (not products) win hearts.


Want more business tips and tricks?


Belinda Wall is the Founder of Brand Amplified, and Personal Branding specialist for CareerCEO – a training program focused on communication, confidence & career progression.