Where should budding entrepreneurs and start-up business owners begin as they build their brands? When we ask them, the answers we get most often are “business name,” “logo,” “physical location,” “website” and “advertising.”All of these things are necessary when building a brand; however, without the proper groundwork, they will not work for your brand. They may actually work against it.

So how can you, a new or aspiring business owner, ensure that your brand will be resting on a solid foundation? Take these steps before anything else:

Find your heart. What is your reason for starting a business? What is your WHY? Making money is never a good reason; you will lose motivation quickly. Instead, you must be passionate about solving a particular problem, and using what you love to do and what is unique about you to accomplish it. It is that passion to help—that passion to do what you love—that will keep you fired up and inspired to push forward.

Name your values. What is important to you? What do you look for in other personal and professional relationships? What qualities are demonstrated consistently by people and brands you respect? Before you move forward, you must list your core values, in order of importance, so that they may be represented in everything your brand does, from logo creation to content publication. These values, when demonstrated in a “show-don’t-tell” fashion, will attract the kinds of people who not only share and respect those values, but with whom you’ll want to work.

• Describe your ideal customer. Every consumer wants to do business with the brand that speaks directly to their needs, in a language they can understand and appreciate. In order to make your ideal clients feel as though you’re speaking directly to them, you must first know who they are, how they feel and what they want. Do your homework in this area, and you will establish a native brand language: one that every team member and brand affiliate will use to attract ideal clients to your brand.

• Name pivotal emotions. Sales are less about products and services than they are about the emotions that drive people to them. If you’ve ever wondered why a not-so-great product sells better than a more competitively priced, higher-quality product, you may get your answer by looking into the emotions evoked by the better-performing brand. As you get to know your ideal customer, find out what emotions spur them to action (i.e. click, contact, purchase). They may come to your brand to feel a particular positive emotion; or they may turn to your brand because it relieves a negative emotion. Not matter the role your brand fills, focus on stirring up that emotion in everything your brand does.

• Identify your USP (Unique Selling Proposition). What will set your brand apart from the rest? What will save it from being lost in the slush pile and suffering the same lethal fate as half of new businesses? Your USP will tell your target audience how you’re different (in the problem you solve or in the way you solve it) in everything type of communication, from visual to verbal to video. Ask friends and family members to help you define what makes you different, and then find ways to express that uniqueness in everything your brand does—because no one, not even your closest competitor, can duplicate you.

You have a distinct advantage in building a brand. The majority of new business owners do not have access to this information, and are therefore building their brands on weak foundations. You have the opportunity to use what you’ve learnt to do this the right way—to build a brand that is solid, from the ground up; a brand that will not only have the structure and organisation to promote consistency, but the strength to be flexible and responsive to trends and fluctuations in the market.

by Sammy Blindell, co-founder, How to Build a Brand