When you're building a startup, you're generally excited about your great idea, so excited that you want to share it - often before it's ready and often before you've built your brand. While the attitude is brilliant motivation and likely to help propel you through the startup process, it's also the prime time for lazy copycats to take your accidentally wholly publicised and unbranded idea, repackage it and sell it as their own.
We've assembled four quick tips to help your protect your startup in the early days when you're most vulnerable:
1.) Build hype without giving it away
Build a contacts list so that when you're ready to launch, you have an established customer base to directly market to. This can be done by using a landing page on your website where people can sign up to be the first to hear about your product or service, build hype about the brand without releasing the details of what it is or what your product or service is, just find your target demographic and market directly to them.
2.) Once you're ready to launch, hit the ground hard and fast
Plan your PR ahead of time- whether it's through social media, print, guerilla, press releases or a combination of all, get a marketing strategy ready, schedule posts, prepare releases and make sure you hit the market with a bang. Not only does it help you launch to an excited public but it also deters copycats.
3.) Protect your brand
It's important in the early stages to plan your Intellectual Property Strategy. The early days are where you're most vulnerable to copycats, before your brand is fully developed, before your customer base knows your brand, knows what it represents. Be proactive - Business.govt.nz ad IPONZ.govt.nz have teamed up to provide a veritable font of IP knowledge on the Business.govt.nz site with easy to follow infographics and how-tos to help you work out what needs to be protected and when. Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents are your friend when you're just starting out.
4.) Put a face to your brand
Customers (and suppliers) want to know who they're dealing with. Especially so if you're a small business. Whether you're a brick and mortar brand or an online presence, if your customer base is familiar with who you are- the face behind the brand, they're not only more likely to identify with your brand but also more likely to defend it when the second rate replicas come out of the woodwork.