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How to start a business: brand and marketing

When you start a business, you need to think about how you’re going to position yourself in the market and reach potential customers. We take a look at some of the basics of brand and marketing.

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In part four of our series on how to start a business, we examine two areas that are crucial to business success – brand and marketing. These two factors can make or break your venture, so it’s essential to understand the role they play. 

There are several topics that are relevant here. We examine how to analyse the market and target customers, as well as how to position your brand and how to market your business. You can also check out part one on planning, part two on structure, and part three on people.

Analysing the market

In some respects, we’ve already made a start on this topic in part three of our series. There, we explored how to identify your target customers using research and analytics. The customer personas that you create, along with the competitor research, will play a significant role in analysing the market. However, there are plenty of other factors to consider as well:

What is a market analysis?

A market analysis is the process of gathering information about a particular market. It usually consists of qualitative and quantitative factors, such as the size in volume and value, how customers and competitors act, and the barriers to entry. 

Ultimately, a market analysis plays a large part in overall market research. It helps businesses determine the risks and opportunities within the particular space they’re hoping to operate. To do so, companies will often look at both primary and secondary data to give an overall picture of the market.

Why do a market analysis?

The goal of your market analysis is to give you as much information as possible about the space you’re hoping to enter. If you’re launching a new product or service, you want to ensure that it has the best possible chance of success. To do so, you need to understand the conditions you’ll be operating in. A thorough market analysis can give you insights on: 

  • Who your potential customers are and what their shopping and buying habits are
  • How large your target market is in terms of volume and value
  • How much potential customers are willing to pay for your product or service
  • Who your competitors are and what their strengths and weaknesses are

Ultimately, it’s about understanding risks and opportunities. These factors are essential to understand, whether it’s to show investors the potential your business has or to plan your branding and marketing strategy.

How do you do a market analysis?

As you might expect, there is quite a lot of detail you can go into when you’re doing a market analysis; we could write an entire article on each point. However, if you’re thinking about how to start a business for the first time, we’ve briefly outlined some of the main steps to consider:

Explore demographics

When looking at the demographics and segments that you’re appealing to, there are several factors to bear in mind. One of the main considerations is whether you’re hoping to operate on a local, national, on an international scale. Depending on this decision, your demographics will be a lot different. 

Other factors worth thinking about are the potential volume and value of the market. How many potential customers do you have, and how much is the market worth? You can use primary research (such as surveys and interviews), as well as secondary data (such as market reports) to estimate these factors.

Identify your target market and market need

Your target market is the types of customers that you’ll be hoping to sell your products and services to, within your market. Here, you have to consider the different types of people that might be willing to buy from your company and what their motivations are. As we explored in part three, your customer personas can go a long way in assisting with this. 

The market need refers to the demand there is for your products or services. Understanding this market can help to show investors that there is scope for you to succeed in the market. Again, primary research can provide insight on this, as can determining what your competitors don’t do. Your unique selling point should be closely tied to the market need.

Look at the competition

Another market consideration is who you’re competing against. You need to fully understand the marketplace, all of the current players, and which are your direct competitors. Explore their strengths and weaknesses, and benchmark your product/service against theirs. 

Again, you should be able to gather plenty of data about your competitors based on publicly available records and press releases. Customer insight can also help. Combined, this should give you an idea of how you’ll perform against the competition.

Consider barriers to entry

You already know the strength of your business idea, but what’s to stop someone else immediately entering the market and taking your customers? You need to consider what these barriers are, how you’re overcoming them, and how you’re going to thrive in the market. 

Factors that can prove to be a barrier to the industry include things like investment, technology, market regulation, and location. Consider each of these carefully when you’re carrying out your market analysis.


Reaching your target customers

An essential consideration when thinking about how to start a business is reaching your target customers. Getting the word out about what you’re offering is vital, and you need to have a plan for how you’re going to do so. 

We’ll get into the specifics of branding and marketing in the next section. For now, let’s focus on some of the ways you can plan your customer targeting activity:

Focus on their needs

By this point, you should already know who your target customers are. Your customer personas should highlight a range of different types of people that you want to try and reach. But what is it that they want? You need to consider the needs that are going to prompt them to buy from your business. 

Think about what is currently preventing your customers from meeting their needs. Maybe it’s the price, accessibility, or the fact that they’re unaware of possible solutions. Then consider how those customers might view your business. How will they know what you offer? And what will convince them that you can meet your needs?

Talk with your customers

When you’re thinking about how to reach your target customers, you need to think in terms of what’s important to them, not you. You need to understand what’s important to your target audience and think about how you can talk with them in terms that matter to them. 

This point feeds into areas of branding and marketing but also needs to be planned for. How are you going to engage with your customers? What type of messaging is going to appeal to them? And how can you build the trust and credibility that is going to secure their business?

Define the right channels

Before you get on to planning your marketing activity and building your brand, you need to figure out where you can reach your target customers. There are all kinds of marketing channels you can make use of, across traditional and digital means. However, it’s pointless planning the majority of your marketing efforts for online mediums if the majority of your customers don’t often use the internet. 

Data and analytics can play a big role in helping you define the right channels to reach your target customers. There is plenty of information out there, so it’s worth exploring how your target audience shops and researches their purchases.

Branding and marketing

Once you know how and where you can reach your target customers, it’s time to think about how you’re going to brand yourself and market to them. Again, this is another make-or-break area that needs careful planning. Not only will this help you reach your customers, but will also show potential investors or lenders that you’ve prepared appropriately.


People sometimes conflate branding and marketing. However, they are two separate entities and need to be considered as such. While marketing and advertising focus on preparing your business and spreading the word about your product, branding is a more internal and defining part of your business.

What is a brand?

There are many ways to describe a brand and what it means. Essentially, your brand is your identity, as seen by your customers. It’s the promise you make to your customers about what they can expect when they choose your business above others. 

Your brand goes beyond things like your business name and logo, although those factors are certainly important. It’s your reputation and the way that your customers describe you to others. As such, there are plenty of factors you can control, but there are also some that are harder to control.

Why is it important?

Branding is what makes you memorable and stand out from a crowd. According to a 2015 global survey, nearly 60% of shoppers actively bought from brands they recognised. It also allows your customers and clients to get a firm idea of what to expect from you. 

There are several other benefits associated with branding too. It can: 

  • Drive new business. By creating a strong brand image, you can attract new customers to your business. The more established your brand is, the more value it has, and the more positive impression it gives off. 
  • Increase awareness. If people have heard of your brand or can easily recognise it, they’re more likely to keep you in mind. When it comes to making a buying decision, this recognition can go a long way to influencing it. 
  • Create trust. If customers and clients have good things to say about your brand, the more likely they are to refer new business your way. Similarly, if they have a good experience interacting with your brand, they’re more likely to be a repeat customer.
  • Support advertising. With a clear and consistent brand, you can more easily create marketing and promotional materials with a cohesive message. Whether you’re doing the marketing yourself or have an employee doing it, branding makes the process more straightforward.

How to build your brand

Building your brand is a crucial part of how to start a business. Yet it’s an ongoing process that requires forethought and attention. Essentially though, it can be broken down into three distinct areas: 

  • Strategy. You need to start by identifying how you’re different from the competitors. With your customer personas in mind, think about your purpose and promises, as well as how you’re going to solve problems for those customers. 
  • Identity. Next, you must consider how you want people to see you. This is where things like your company name, visuals, messaging, and story all come into play. The key thing here is to build a consistent message that’s recognisable no matter what format it’s in.
  • Marketing. Once your strategy and identity are in place, you can think about how you’re going to use this branding to connect with customers. You need to take into account how your brand is going to translate across a variety of marketing channels, and how you can use them to build awareness of your business.


Your marketing efforts will be what help to build brand awareness and secure new customers. As such, it’s essential to have an idea in place when you’re planning how to start a business. Marketing is an art form in itself, and understanding the basic marketing principles and practices can benefit your company going forward. In a separate article on how to create a marketing strategy, we explore the topic in further detail. For now, here are some points to bear in mind:

Marketing strategy

The first step is to figure out how you want to approach your marketing efforts. Before you can think about the specifics, you want to consider your overall goals and company vision. Again, a lot of the data and research you’ve already gathered will come in useful here. Your marketing strategy needs to take into account: 

  • Your business and what it offers 
  • How you’ll position yourself in the market 
  • Who your customers and competitors are 
  • Which tactics you’re going to use 
  • A plan for your goals and budget 

Essentially, it’s an overall view of how your marketing efforts will ideally play out. It’s often an evolving plan that takes into account your current and future situation.

Different channels

Digital marketing is often the obvious choice when you’re trying to reach customers these days. You can read more about getting started with digital marketing in a separate article. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not the only option. As we mentioned earlier, you want to choose the channels that your target customers are going to frequently use. With that in mind, here are some popular channels you can explore: 

  • Social media. Social marketing is a rapidly developing field at the moment. A huge percentage of people use some form of social media, so it can be a valuable avenue to explore. 
  • Company website. Whether you build it yourself or have someone else do it for you, your own website can go a long way to establishing your brand and selling your products and services. 
  • Email campaigns. Over 50% of the world’s population uses email. That’s a pretty significant market, so it’s worth trying to target your audience using this method. 
  • PPC advertising. Pay Per Click advertising helps you appear at the top of search engines like Google. If you have the budget, it can be a useful way of getting people to see your business. 
  • Print media. If most of your customers use things like trade magazines to find what they’re looking for, you’ll want to make sure you appear in such a publication. 
  • Content marketing. Creating valuable and engaging content is an excellent way to build customer relationships. Whether it’s articles, videos, podcasts, or other content, it can raise awareness of your brand.
  • SEO. If you’re a local business, search engine optimisation (SEO) can help you appear at the top of search results without having to pay for ads.

Goals and Budget

One of the key things in planning how to start a business is how much your marketing activity is going to cost, and what you want the return on investment to be. We cover business finances in more detail in our next article, so for now, here are the important bits: 

  • Set SMART goals. Your aims should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. This helps you and investors see what targets you should be hitting. 
  • Split it by channel. Each marketing channel will cost a different amount. You need to break down how much you plan on spending on each, and how much you expect to make from that activity.
  • Account for the unexpected. There are always going to be additional costs that you haven’t accounted for, so make sure to build that into your budget.


The final piece of the marketing puzzle is measuring how successful your actions are and how to make changes. Web analytics is an in-demand skill these days, and for good reason. It allows you to gain all kinds of insights on your customers, how they shop, and how they’re responding to your marketing efforts. 

In our article on an introduction to Google Analytics, we explore some of the ways in which you can use data to help make informed decisions about your business and marketing activity.


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