As a new business, you are in the fortunate position of having a blank canvas to create the image of how you want your company seen. No baggage, no pre-existing connotations as to who you are and what your brand stands for. During this early window, you are able to define yourself instead of having others define you. Use your “newness” to your advantage. New businesses have an intrinsic attraction and generate interest simply because customers look for something different and potentially better.

However, first impressions are often lasting impressions. Those first few months out of the gate are critical to your company’s short- and long-term trajectory. Successful brand imaging goes beyond designing a cool logo and putting together a website. Careful consideration must be given to the market landscape, your buyer personas, and your overall business strategy. All too often startups treat marketing based on how they perceive themselves, but strong marketing strategies focus on customer perception: How they perceive your competition, how they perceive you, and, ultimately, how they distinguish you as the company that provides superior products or services.

What does a startup need to think about? Every business has its own unique environment in which it operates that dictate different questions. However a few broad questions to think about: How can you best position yourself? How do you present your particular niche that you want associated with your business? What picture do you want to paint for your company? Where should you target your marketing efforts and allocate marketing resources to maximize their return? How can you leverage social media to your advantage? What are low cost or free marketing channels to build brand awareness? How can you incentivize those early customers and turn them into a sales force to spread the word?

Starting a new business is both exciting and daunting. With your potential competitors already vying for customer attention, you need to stake out your turf and establish your identity quickly. For a new business entering today’s market, starting out right reduces your ramp-up time to grow your customer base and to achieve profitability. The goal of a  successful startup is to grab a strong core customer base from the outset and then build outward, leveraging your success to take your business to the next level.