Launching a new brand or business means letting go of fear and uncertainty and pushing forward to meet your goals. However, I’m also adamant that the approach of, “I’ll just launch and figure it out later” isn’t the best tactic either. Instead, you need to build a strong foundation for your business from finances to branding. This will avoid problems with branding before they ever arise.
Let’s talk about one of my least favorite moments in my business. One of my lowest, really. I made some significant mistakes in my branding that cost a fortune to fix and slowed my business growth. I tell you this, so you know how to avoid these mistakes and start your business right. The good news is it’s possible to make a strong brand strategy decision that grows with you, so you won’t have to make messy, expensive transitions like I did.
5 common branding mistakes — and how to avoid them
Start with the Branding Basics
Most people focus on graphics and visual imagery when they think of launching a new brand. Although those are essential, you need a great name for your business to start your branding journey. Without the right name, you can’t move forward building a logo and a presence around your business.
Unfortunately, I picked a name too closely aligned with a MUCH larger marketing agency across the country and encountered branding problems. I used the free USPTO trademark tool to do a check and didn’t think they were closely related. The other company and trademark law thought otherwise, and I was stuck dealing with the consequences. My previous business name had a word in it that was the same name as another agency. And no, it wasn’t the same name – but it was close enough for them to see it as a trademark infringement and send me a cease and desist letter.
Could I have waited for them to take me to court? Sure, but I guarantee my business would no longer be around. I didn’t have the financial resources to go up against a big agency with a big law firm’s backing. Cue an expensive rebrand that cost me thousands and caused plenty of headaches.
Hire an Expert When it Counts
If I could do it all over again (and I would go in a heartbeat), I would hire an attorney to do a proper trademark search for me before launching a new brand. Take it from someone who went down this rabbit hole before, don’t do your own cursory search of the USPTO’s database and call it a day when nothing obvious jumps out to you.
Hiring an attorney can feel intimidating but isn’t that different from hiring an accountant or graphic designer. Sometimes investing in your business means getting the legal help you need. It’s OK to cut costs in certain areas early on, like doing your own admin, but things like legal, accounting, and bookkeeping are not the place to do it.
Unless you are a trademark lawyer, you’re likely to overlook any obvious conflicts in the USPTO database and may encounter branding problems down the line. You’re also likely to fall in love with a business name before you’ve figured out if you can legally claim it. A lawyer will see things differently and advise you if they think any of the words on your naming shortlist of business names are viable given your niche.
Why It Matters
I ended up needing to hire an attorney anyway to help me clean up my mess. He responded to the letter saying we would change our name and asking them for time to make this happen. From there, I brainstormed a list of names I could live with, and I ran that past my lawyer. He researched my list and let me know which ones had good chances for approval before applying for the trademark. It was approved, but that was just the start.
I had already spent a lot of money designing my business around my brand. Renaming my company meant I had to rebrand everything – I’m talking about a new website, new logo, new everything. It was an excruciating process and took a considerable investment of time and money to complete. It ended up costing me well over $10,000 when it was all said and done (not to mention the opportunity costs!). But I learned a valuable lesson: Hire an expert where it counts.
Consider the Obstacles
Maybe you picked out a perfect name that aligns with your business and is trademark-free. Or you really thought through all the branding considerations around what your competitors are doing.
There are still other obstacles to consider before launching your brand. Is the domain available? You may not need a domain that matches your business name 100%, but it should be close. Choosing a domain name that’s not available as a .com or another popular extension type may also confuse clients and could result in missed opportunities or emails that don’t reach you.
You should also avoid the prospect of needing to rebrand in the future. For example, are you using a cutesy name that only serves to confuse potential clients? A name that has nothing to do with your business, is so clever it doesn’t make any sense, or is hard to remember aren’t good choices. You could end up with a business name that doesn’t scale or flex with your business, and this will only derail your success and mean you’ll need to rebrand anyway.
Create a Business Emergency Fund
You’ve probably already heard the rule of thumb to keep three to six months of cash reserves in an emergency fund in case of a job loss or other issue. You also need enough equity in your business to handle problems when they arise. You may not need to rebrand your entire business from scratch, but something will come up. It always does.
A business emergency fund can also help keep you motivated when launching a new brand. When your business feels vulnerable and like it’s holding on by a thread, it’s easy to want to throw in the towel. Don’t sock away cash just to have it, but invest enough back in the business so you can meet your cash flow needs (not to mention pay your taxes!).
Stay Focused on Your Goal
Your goal in starting a business isn’t to become a slave to your branding. It’s to take deliberate action to create your location independent business and start earning money. So, while I definitely think your brand is important, fiddling with it all day is a waste of time. Don’t indulge in indecision. You need to nail down the basics to build a strong foundation and move on. Otherwise, you’re staying stuck in the mindset that everything needs to be perfect instead of launching.
Trust me, if you wait until things are just right, you’ll never launch.
Branding is important, but it’s not everything
I came into my business with experience rebranding a program at my previous job at Google, which is widely recognized as one of the most powerful brands out there. You could say that branding was (and is) super important to me and that I’ve been trained to believe there’s almost nothing more powerful than a strong brand.
And it’s true — a powerful brand will take you far. Still, branding isn’t everything, especially when you’re just starting out. I probably spent two months in the early days of my business getting my website and branding up off the ground. When I was forced to rebrand, I had to just get it done because I was already running a profitable business.
And, well… I had shit to do. It simply wasn’t ideal. I couldn’t give launching a new brand the TLC it deserved. But I also learned that the branding didn’t actually make that much of a difference in terms of my ability to develop new business early on. I was my most powerful asset in business – *I* was my secret sauce – and no favicon or font, no matter how cool, was going to change that.
Don’t spend time agonizing over your name, logo, website, design assets, and second-guessing your efforts. Yes, you need to build a strong brand and do it correctly, but you also need to take action and stop hiding behind the decision-making process. Yes, branding counts, and you don’t want to have ugly or uninspired branding.
But you know what counts WAY more? The results you get for your clients. And not wasting months or thousands of dollars on branding before you even have clients or a profitable business.
Don’t Hide Behind Your Branding
My story does not mean your branding has to be perfect. It just means you need to go about it thoughtfully to avoid wasting time and resources. Developing branding is within reach and doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s also an easy way to procrastinate. Don’t hide behind your branding to avoid launching or as a means to keep yourself safe from facing the world and announcing your services. Sometimes good enough is good enough!
Once your business is profitable, you can spend more time and money on up-leveling areas like visual branding. It will also give you more breathing room to actually enjoy the process instead of letting it completely overwhelm you.
When I decided I wanted to launch Create Anywhere, I spent time with my attorney choosing the right name, filing the trademark. Then I worked on the brand book, website, and other creatives with my designer and my creative team. I came into this business prepared to succeed.
Plus, Create Anywhere has been, for me, a labor of love, so I could take my time. I already have a profitable marketing business that can support this new, second business as it gets its wings. And I’m enjoying the process every single day. I get to actually focus on launching a new brand with intention and the way I want. I’ve taken control of the process and building those foundational things (read: my bank account, my team, and my family) are already taken care of.