Wesley Chang

October 11, 2016

Running a Hardware Startup: Getting Started with Brand Development

Brand Development Diagram

Almost all hardware startups are focused on getting more sales, and growing their company. Rather than trying to get more sales and close new clients, try answering this question, “how do I get more customers?”

Brand development is often overlooked when it comes to hardware, especially since most founders are product people.

So how can someone–who’s primary focus is to make more sales–approach brand development.

Well for starters, you need to understand that brand development is not just about how a logo or website looks, or even your company’s slogan.

It’s about experience.

Well mostly.

But here’s the rundown.

Better Brand, Better Experience, More Customers

Understand your customer.

If you built your hardware startup with lean hardware in mind, and kept up with the feedback loop, then you’re already halfway there.

Lean hardware allows you to gather incredibly valuable information about your target market, and it gives you the opportunity speak to them directly about your product and how you can improve it.

Learning how your customers are interacting with your product means you can find ways to provide a better experience for them.

People remember how a product helps them a lot more than how a product feels or looks.

The editor of Tech.co, Ronald Barba–where he’s written countless articles on entrepreneurship, startups, and technology and accumulated hundreds to thousands of shares–wrote in the article “To Succeed, Hardware Startups Must Put a Bigger Effort on Branding,

“In the world of devices, your product is not exactly the same as your competitor’s product. At a minimum, you likely have a few different features and a different design. But when customers are deciding what to buy, they are purchasing a product to meet a need or fulfill a want. If either your device or your competitor’s device will satisfy their objectives for approximately the same price, brand becomes a powerful differentiator.”

World of Devices

In other words, if your product first satisfies the need or desire of a consumer, then branding becomes a major factor which will determine whether or not it’s recommended to friends and family.

But friends and family is on a smaller scale.

We want hundreds and thousands of more customers, right?

Don’t Be Cheap

Sorry to be frank, but nobody likes cheap products. In fact, the only one that benefits from a cheap product is the company.

But customers don’t care about how much a company is saving, how much effort they put into building it, or how much money they spent trying to get it on the shelves.

All they care about is if it’s going to help them the way they need it to, or if it’s going to be worth the money.

Too lay down some more bad news, most makers are too quick to build the “latest new thing,” but what they need to be doing is focusing on the features their product has to be great at.

Marc Barros–an entrepreneur, co-founder of Moment and former CEO of Contour, a hands-free camera company that makes action video easier to record and share–wrote a 16 part guide that will help you understand how to build a great product and successfully bring it to market.

In one of the later parts of the guide, “How to Build a Hardware Start: Poor Quality Will Kill You,” Marc said, “Nail the basic features and you will have a solid product. Miss them and customers will punish you.”

Cheap Broken Product

Not only should you be focusing on the features that’ll make your product great for your target market, but you should also be ensuring that quality is kept at 100%, because like I said, no one likes a cheap product.

Think about how incredibly easy it  would be for you to simply say, “Oh, I bought this new smart home monitor but it didn’t come when any instructions, and the wall mounting plate wasn’t even the right size.”

That was something just off the top of my head, but you get the point.

It’s a whole lot easier to share a bad experience about a product than it is to share a fantastic one and brand development is all about creating a recognizable brand that’ll allow your company to gain more trust and increase its market share.

Brand Development in a Nutshell

When buying a high end product in tech, or the next generation device, or even something that’s expected to completely change your life, people look forward to the experience. People look forward to trying something out.

That’s why it’s crucial that you provide an exceptional experience to go along with an exceptional product.

A quality product and a quality experience go hand in hand.

It builds trust, it builds relationships, and it allows your target market to grow.

Yes, it’s hard to build something that’s 100% perfect, that’s why you shouldn’t.

Instead, follow the lean hardware methodology.

Even after your hardware is on the shelves, you can still iterate over the feedback loop and keep pushing out a new product that better solves a problem.

The truth is, hardware startups don’t focus on this enough. They’re so concentrated on making the physical device that they forget the device is for the people and it’s meant to be a solution.

This is something that needs to be addressed in a world of advance technology devices because at minimum, you likely have a product similar to your competitors with only a couple of different features.

Unfortunately, startups don’t have an infinite amount of time, so leverage the time you have in order to make room for more brand development.

But as a general rule, the bigger your brand gets, the bigger your mistakes become.

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