Unless you started your career in some version of business, marketing, or design agency role where you saw a lot of startups and how they function, you probably don’t know a whole lot about how to build a brand from the ground up. It seems really simple from the outside as we watch numerous others do it, but it’s not an easy process.

Let’s talk about why brands fail, so you can see where you should start building yours.

There are a million and one reasons why your brand may fail, but 90% of the time, those reasons all stem back to you.

Harsh? Yes. True? Absolutely.

Here’s the problem: we, as business owners, entrepreneurs, or whatever title we want to give ourselves, are human. That means we have to eat, sleep, and get out of the house once in awhile. We can’t be everywhere, know everything, and put it all in motion.

We have to pick our battles.

We have to narrow our focus to the things we know and can control.

We should always be trying to improve our skills and business, but it’s pointless to think we can learn everything we need to know about how to build a brand AND implement it in a week.

Instead, choose a small combination of strategies that you can perfect. Then, when you can do those in your sleep, add a few more.

To help you out, I’m going to run you through some of the main reasons a brand can fail, and show you some examples on how to fix them yourself.

I can’t guarantee your brand won’t fail anyway…this is business, after all. Things can be unpredictable. Freak occurrences can happen. But at least if it does fail in the end, you’ll know that you did everything you could to make it a success.

So, on to the big question:

Why do brands fail, and what does that tell us about how to build a brand?

Crazily, many brands are doomed for failure before they even launch. And it’s entirely our own faults. When we jump into a brand and don’t do our research, we end up running a biz that no one wants or needs. It’s that simple. Take the first item on the list. It’s the number one reason brands fail.

You Didn’t Talk to Your Customers

Most new business owners see something being done, think “I can do better than that,” and jump on the bandwagon to starting their own version of the product. But just because you see someone else doing something, it doesn’t mean they’re successful.

Their idea may look good on the surface, but you don’t have access to their profits report. You can’t see if it’s actually selling, if they actually have customers. So many people today follow the mantra of ‘fake it til you make it,’ there’s no way of knowing which ones are being honest and which are, well, faking it.

The only way to know that your biz and brand will be something people actually want is to talk to those people and hear it from their mouths that yes, they do in fact want it. If you haven’t had that conversation and heard that affirmation, chances are your brand will flop.

So how do you find out what they want?

The answer is so simple, and yet so complicated: you do market research.

You find out who your customers are, where they hang out, what drives them, what needs and desires they have that aren’t being met, and what they’re willing to do to meet them.

But how?

Talk to them.

Go into Facebook groups where your ideal customer hangs out, and ask questions. Open ended questions that leave them the room to tell you what they need.

Get on the phone with them. You can’t base your business off a 140 character tweeted response. That’s not enough insight to give you direction.

Chances are that when you actually talk to people, you discover surprising truths about their needs. And they aren’t the truths you assumed you would discover.

That’s the point of talking to them. They’re going to surprise you, and you’ll discover either they have no use for your biz, or they want something a little different than you thought. Either way, it saves you the time and money investment into a product or service that people won’t pay for.

Expert Tip: If you’re a serious introvert and terrified of talking to people you don’t know, hire someone to do your market research for you. It’s a better investment than anything else you’ll pay for.

Once you know that people want what you got, what’s the next reason for brand failure?

You Didn’t Make a Plan

It never ceases to amaze me when I ask customers what their plans are for how to build a brand, and they give me minimal answers. They say, ‘Well, I plan to blog,’ or ‘I’m going to start an Instagram account.’ My response is, ‘And?’

And nothing. They don’t have any plans beyond that. They don’t even really have plans for what they’re going to put on their blog or post to social media.

This is not a strategy for success.

You need to plan your content out weeks, even months, in advance.

You need to know what you hope to gain from your posts, and have a plan for meeting your goals.

Do you want to get traffic to your website? Get more email subscribers? Sell your products? Simply educate or entertain?

The strategies for each of these goals are vastly different, and while they can overlap in places, they way you approach it can drive results one way or the other.

Take the 80/20 rule for content promotion: 80 percent of what you share should be for your reader’s benefit, and only 20 percent should be you pushing your brand.

If you want traffic, you’ll spend that 20 percent promoting your best blog posts. If it’s sales you’re after, you’re going to push your services. Email subscribers? Your opt-ins and email perks.

Can you see how it works? If you’re constantly switching back and forth from one goal to the next, your results will be inconsistent and you won’t get what you need to further your brand.

Now that you have a plan in place, what’s the next culprit for failure?

You Didn’t Track Your Goals

When you made your plan, you should have put goals in place to measure your rate of success. And strategies on how you intend to reach those goals as well.

If you haven’t set any, create some now. Right now, while you’re thinking about it. Not this weekend, when you’ll inevitably forget, but now.

Create goals surrounding:
  • new ideal customers
  • repeat ideal customers
  • new leads
  • social engagement
  • social followers
  • general website traffic
  • post traffic
  • product views
  • product sales
  • email list growth
  • email clicks

Plus anything else that applies to your business & brand. The important aspects of your goals are that they’re measurable, meaning they have a set metric to meet and they have a specific timeframe to meet them. Otherwise, they’re not goals, they’re just desires.

The problem is most people set, and then forget, their goals.

It’s understandable. You’re busy. Your to-do list is never-ending.

But if you don’t take time to track your goals, you’ll be 6 months into running your biz with no clue on how your strategies are paying off. Then suddenly, you look back at your goals and realize you’re so far away that you might as well be running a different biz than you set out to.

And what if you realize you’re not meeting your goals?

When you fail to meet your goals, it’s an indication that your brand or methods for promotion aren’t doing their job. It’s an early sign of failure.

You can absolutely still bounce back, so don’t go into panic mode yet. It just means you need to try something new. Try different promotion tactics. Try pushing your message more frequently, or at different times. Promote your brand & biz on new platforms.

If you can’t learn to adjust, and stick to doing the same thing you’ve been doing without results, your brand will absolutely fail. You don’t want that. I don’t want that for you.

So be a real business owner and learn to be flexible. Come at things from a different direction, and put major effort into correcting your strategy. It’s key in learning how to build a brand.

After we have our goals set and on track for success, there’s one more thing to consider.

You Aren’t Proving You’re Different

People who come across your brand & biz want to know how you’re different than all the other brands out there promising the same results. They want to know how you’re better.

Have you identified that? Have you made it absolutely crystal clear in all your communications to your client?

If not, you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you don’t know, can’t think to yourself right now and pinpoint exactly how you’re different than every other brand in your niche, you’re not going to succeed.

It’s human nature to want what’s different, to want what’s better. You have to explain and prove to your customers that you’re that brand.

To do it, start by making a list of all your brand’s features and benefits. Then compare them to the features and benefits of your competition.

Features are physical aspects of your products; the actual tangible end-results of your service. Things like: a bonus e-book, 30 social media templates, or—in the case of business coaching—a 10-step process for improving your sales technique.

Benefits are the intangible qualities of your product, whether functional or emotional. Things like: increased understanding, less stress in creating social media posts, or more confidence in your sales strategy.

So what features and benefits do you provide? Do you offer better value? Better quality? Better customer relationships?

Do you spend more time with them? Do they have more access to you?

Will you go the extra mile to make sure what they get is everything they need? Will you provide them with strategies that take the stress out of their day-to-day?

Whatever it is, make it clear to them. Plaster it throughout your website, share testimonials proving it on social media. Don’t simply mention it once, make it obvious that you’re the better choice.

Now you know how to build a brand from the first step!

While these things are simply the tip of the iceberg in the question of success or failure, they’re some of the biggies. Hopefully you can work on them for your own brand to make success more likely for you.

Cheers to your biz success!