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Startups: Build Buzz For Your Brand

Ernestina Hall Friday, 21 November 2014.

Starting a business is one of the most rewarding things you can ever do, but it's also one of the hardest. At Virgin StartUp we give entrepreneurs the funding they need to launch the businesses of their dreams. This means we're part of hundreds of people's start-up stories right from the off. We have seen first-hand the highs and lows that come with pressing go on a business idea.

shutterstock 210974305Many entrepreneurs we meet are obsessed with making sure their product or service is spot on before starting. While the tinkering in the pursuit of perfection is important, it's not the key to launching with impact. To get customers through the door on day one, you need to be speaking to them before you're even ready to accept cash.

You ideally even want them already queued up, waiting to snap up your products like a gaggle of Apple fan boys on yet another iPhone launch date. The only way to build a community like that around your business is to offer something useful and different for your target audience. That's not selling to them, but finding out what their pain points are and the solving them.

One of the mentors on Virgin StartUp is Alex Ikonn, he grew his business, Luxy Hair with his wife, Mimi Ikonn, by filming her giving hair styling tutorials on YouTube. They weren't explicitly using it to sell or advertise, they were just teaching their target audience how to style their hair. The Luxy Hair YouTube channel now has over 2million subscribers, which naturally progressed from watching the videos to buying the products.

Another way to create a buzz around your product is by defining the purpose of your business and putting that at the front of your brand. At Virgin that's something we use as a golden rule. It's the same for start-ups; if you can create a mission or a cause around your business then it gives people a reason to buy into it. It's important that focus is authentic so it can also help guide your own decisions and support your motivation to succeed.

One entrepreneur to be funded through Virgin StartUp is Nathaniel Peat, co-founder of Gennex. His business is built on deep social foundations. It produces solar powered technology that charges mobile phones and powers lanterns or home-lighting systems. On top of this, they run education programs in developing countries teaching people how to maintain and produce solar products. The initiative aims to provide those in poorer countries the tools to break the cycle of unemployment and poverty.

Social media is a great way to spread your message and add value to your target audience. Involve your target audience in decisions, but be purposeful with how you ask them to interact and make sure you have the capacity to respond and actually use the insight you gain. Posting updates to your Facebook or Twitter page about what you're working on and asking followers for their opinions can be really valuable. Use this as a way not only to shape your offering, but as a tool to excite people about your idea. If a community feels involved from the start, as if they helped mould the final outcome, then they are more likely to feel engaged with your business and your product.

That is exactly what Lindsey Ahmet, Founder of The Designer Bear Boutique, did. She has built an army of fans and builds her products depending on comments she gets through Facebook. It's worked for her and she's now quit her job and gone full-time to meet demand for her business.

What's clear throughout all of this, is that right now is the best time there has ever been to start a business. All of the tips mentioned in this article were not available ten years ago and you don't need a bucket-load of investment either - they're all free to use!

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Ernestina Hall

Ernestina Hall

Ernestina Hall is Head of Strategy & Communications at Virgin StartUp, looking after activities to engage start-ups and entrepreneurs across the UK. She was previously Head of Brand for Good at Virgin Media, responsible for creating and communicating the company's social impact, including managing charity partnerships and delivering brand properties with purpose.

Ernestina studied Economics and Politics at Sheffield University and originally started her career in TV production, working on a number of programmes for ITV and digital channels, before starting a seven year stint at the BBC, where she led a varied of corporate communication and audience participation projects.

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