Building a brand from scratch is a daunting challenge. For any of us who have started a company or worked in a startup environment, this is no secret. Startups are often challenging much bigger, well-entrenched competition, meaning long hours, creativity, and a massive budget are needed to steal market share and successfully grow.
Long hours and creativity can be achieved no matter your circumstances, but not every new brand is able to rely on a massive marketing budget. In the case where resources are scarce, which is not unusual for new brands, how can you work to build your brand effectively? Two brands that are doing an exceptional job in this regard are branded.me and Earhoox. branded.me is a personal-branding platform that makes it easy to build a personal website in minutes. Earhoox makes a product that fits around traditional earbuds to make them more comfortable for consumers. Based on their success, here are three ways to grow your brand organically:
1. Focus on product, not messaging.
Organic growth requires a strong product or service that people will speak about positively. Instead of focusing on catchy ways to promote your brand, focus on product development so that your offering provides real, unique value to consumers. Applying a perfectionist’s mentality to this process will yield a product or service you can be proud of, which in turn will lead to users talking about it. Spending money is often easier than spending time, but the results will reflect how much effort is put into your product.
branded.me has realized exceptional results from this approach. After their launch earlier this year, they had 100,000 users sign up in the first two months, and over 200,000 users by the end of the third month. According to their CEO, Nick Macario, their strategy was very simple -- create a product that is easy to use for anyone of any skill level. “We went through a lot of complex iterations that simplified the product for the user,” he told me.
From there, the organization worked to get press for their launch, focused on the potential career benefit to the user as well as ease of use.
Earhoox applied the same rigor to their product development. According to their founder, Helmut Wyzisk, they prototyped significantly before bringing the product to market. “It started by analyzing a lot of ears, to the point where it was beginning to be the first thing I'd see when I saw a stranger on the street. I think they say the human ear is as unique as a fingerprint, and we got a good lesson in that. We invested in a large steel mold with multiple cavities and tested different designs in each. There was no way we could ensure with full confidence it would be loved, but with a little sweat and some luck we've been embraced by the market.”
2. Cultivate brand evangelists.
To grow organically, brands have to cultivate a group of consumers willing to push the product/service to their respective communities. Brand evangelists spread the word about the product to a wider audience and their voices tend to be more powerful and credible than the voice of a brand itself. According to Nielsen, 68 percent of consumers trust consumer opinions online, compared with only 48 percent who trust advertisements on search engines or social media platforms.
Earhoox has achieved this goal by valuing their customers beyond the point of sale. “People aren't just looking to buy Earhoox, they're looking for an enjoyable, and dare I say fun, experience,” Helmut told me. “It doesn't really end with them purchasing the product. In fact, that's when it begins. We're in this to provide a problem-solving product, but also to engage and build relationships with our customers. It only takes a few prompt email replies, or a couple of tweets back and forth, to turn a regular customer into someone who can't wait to spread the word about our brand.”
Earhoox values two-way communication between the brand and consumers. Helmut points to the example of product colors as a way they’ve empowered consumers to drive the brand’s direction. “Each time we want to release a new color, we publish a poll on our website and allow anyone to vote. We produce the winning color and, as a way of saying thank you, we send a coupon for a free pair to everyone who voted for that color.”
3. Make sharing easy for consumers.
While not all consumers of your brand will become true evangelists, if your product is strong you can still mobilize them to share with their communities. How? Well, you have to remove all friction in the sharing process. Make it as easy as possible for the consumer to share on their social networks. This can be done through social sharing widgets on the website, pre-populated tweets and social postings so that users are prompted with language that best positions the brand while creating less work for them.
branded.me is fully integrated with LinkedIn, Google, and other platforms. When a user creates and publishes a site, they are prompted with the option to invite friends to receive a free month of the premium subscription. Many people are naturally happy to share good products, but offering incentives them makes it that much more enticing. According to CEO Nick Macario, “It always starts with the product. Building a good product and then good referral-based solutions to make it easy for happy users to share is important. That’s the core of our organic-growth model.”
Earhoox has leveraged their product itself to enable sharing for consumers. Their fans were taking to Facebook and Instagram to share love for the product, so the brand developed a referral platform that rewarded consumers for sharing their new favorite product.
“We setup a simple landing page, inspired by Tim Ferris's 4-Hour Work Week blog, that rewards fans with BOGO coupons or free Earhoox when their friends sign up to learn more about Earhoox,” Macario said. Within two weeks from launching this program, they had gathered nearly 300,000 new subscribers and landed over 1 million hits to their website.