Lessons on Building a Brand: One Year with Embarc Collective
As a Tampa Bay native, this region holds a special place in my heart and is home to my most cherished memories. From attending college at my parents' alma mater to building a business and career here, I'm definitely what you'd call Tampa Grown. After college, despite having opportunities available to me around the country, I did not want to leave Tampa Bay. First, I'm not a fan of the cold weather of any variety (we have the best weather here, don't @ me) but more so, I felt that this region was on the cusp of something amazing — you could almost feel it in the air. At the time I wasn't sure of what Tampa Bay's potential could be or how I would play a part in its growth, but it was one of those intuitive feelings where you knew it was going to happen, it just required pushing forward.
On November 12, 2018, I officially joined the Embarc Collective team as the Communications Manager and by the second day, I launched The Weekly Collective. One of the best first week experiences for sure, but you can imagine the pressure that weighs in once you decide to release a branded publication.
Transitioning from owning a business and wholly dedicating my work to the mission and values of Embarc Collective is something I didn't expect to encounter in my career path. However, it was one of the best decisions I've made. Prior to joining the Embarc Collective team, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to start a business in Tampa Bay and learn first-hand the challenges that exist in this region for entrepreneurs building bold, scalable, thriving ventures. A few months before joining (or knowing about) the Embarc Collective team, I came to a realization that while many amazing organizations exist in Tampa Bay to support entrepreneurs, there was a growing need to connect these pieces together.
After my first meeting with Lakshmi Shenoy and learning about Embarc Collective's mission to support talent in Tampa Bay from high school and beyond, I knew this was the organization for me. My ties to Tampa Bay run deep. This place is my home, my opportunity playground, my community — it only made sense to give back to a region that helped me grow so much. The best way I knew to do this was build a brand focused and empowered entirely by the community that provides it purpose.
Building a community around your product or service requires a strong and consistent brand. Much like people, brands are unique entities with their own story, values and messages. In this past year at Embarc Collective, I learned a lot about building a brand inspired and fueled by a community of passionate entrepreneurs. Brand building isn't easy, but here are a few lessons I've learned along the way that make it a little bit easier:
Brand Guidelines are a Must
Brand guidelines do more than help you sustain brand. It is the second most important document, aside from your company filing, to building your business. Brand guidelines not only guide the stylistic aspects of your identity but clarify your company's values and messages. These are key when building brand beyond advertising or marketing communications. Leverage brand guidelines to help communicate culture with your team. Clearly outlining your messages and values gets your team on the same page when it comes to decisions about product design, innovation or communications.
Brand consistency is like attendance. By staying consistent with content, it shows customers your brand is present, active and ready to engage. It's important, especially in early stage development, to define what consistency looks like for your company. Maybe it's one blog post a month, a monthly newsletter or posting on social media twice a week. Determining what ways you'll communicate brand content and when is essential to growing your brand steadily.
Consistency doesn't have to be complicated. Building true consistency starts small. Don't overwhelm yourself trying to launch at the current rate of your competitors (who may have started years before you) as you build consistency. A simple, consistent marketing effort will outweigh a complicated, inconsistent marketing effort every time.
Your customers should always be the focus of your brand. Your content and communication should be rooted in providing value to your brand fans. If they don't find it valuable, who will? Providing value doesn't always mean rehashing your value prop. You can provide value to your customers by truly serving as a resource to help solve their needs through content. Provide the 101 resources to help ready your users to adopt your 201 product. Providing value through every communication channel that aligns with your customers is what helps one brand stand out from the next.
Champion the Voices of Your Community
You don't have to build a brand alone. Your customers, especially the ones that love you, are willing to sing your praise from the rooftops. Provide them with opportunities to do just that. Champion the voices of your community by providing a platform where they feel included. This can be through interviews, hashtags or social media competitions. Get your users involved, they are your most passionate brand ambassadors.
These four tips have been extremely helpful in building Embarc Collective's brand. As any good startup, we're learning every day — so thanks for joining us as we embark. If you've subscribed, shared or praised The Weekly Collective, thank you! Our brand wouldn't be complete without you. ❤️
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