How to Start a Business – Not Just Build a Brand

By Maryann Lombardi

Your brand is essential to building a successful small business. Your brand helps people recognize, connect with, understand, and trust your business – and trust you in the process. But unless you are a Kardashian or the Rock, your business isn’t your brand.

Your business is the products or services you provide, it is the commerce that changes hands between you and your client. Your brand is an essential part of that commerce, but it is in service of your business – it isn’t the business itself.

It is easy for many business owners to get caught up in building a brand instead of building a business. It’s fun. It’s flashy. It gets all the attention. But the data is clear, more women are starting small businesses now than ever, but they aren’t staying in business. 20% of startups fail in the first year, and 50% fail by year five.

If you want your business entity to last. If you want your new business to change your life, to provide you with the wealth and independence you have been craving. If you want it to allow you to quit that toxic workplace, to use your skills to build your dream instead of someone else’s. Then you need to build a business, not just a brand.

Great! But how do I do that?

The usual advice to small business owners is to start by defining your business model and business structure, making a business plan, and getting a business license. This is wrong. These are important, but they are not where you start.

A successful new business is built on a foundation of three things: your why, an offer, and your target market/client. Everything else wraps around those three things. Your messaging and marketing efforts, your sales strategy, and of course your brand identity – all exist to support your why, your offer, and your target customer/client.

What is your why?

It is essential to know why you want to own a business in the first place. Is it because thousands of people on Instagram are doing it? Is it because your Facebook frenemy started one and is living their best life? Or is it because you want to?

Starting a business isn’t complicated but it is challenging. It is work that can be boring and brilliant, thrilling and scary, and one of the most amazing, empowering things you will ever do. But you need to know why you wanna do it.

Your why is your guiding force. It is the thing that keeps you moving forward when shit gets complicated. Finding your why requires some good old-fashioned self-reflection. It requires getting deep and asking yourself what you really want. When was the last time you sat down and took the time to ask yourself, “What do I want?”

Your offer is different from your services

Once you know why you want to start a business, you need to start selling something to somebody. You need an offer.

Your services are not the same as your offer. Your services are what you do for your client, which you will outline through a service statement. Your service statement is your promise to your potential customers/clients – The offer is the package they will buy to fulfill that promise.

Too often entrepreneurs think the service statement and the offer are the same things, which ends up being a costly mistake.

So What’s the Offer Then?

The offer is the irresistible package your ideal customers/clients purchase with the belief that it will solve their problem. Your offer makes crystal clear to your target customers/clients how you deliver on your service statement and what it’s going to cost them. Your offer should be a no-brainer to that client. It should be something to which they say, “Hell yes – that looks great to me. I need that.” It should be packed with value and cost a premium.

Your offer will need a:

● NAME – nothing flashy or overly creative – just clear.

● DETAILS – the specific things your clients get when choosing that offer.

● VALUE – the cost and value of all the things you are providing in your offer.

A successful business is one that is profitable and sustainable. The profitability of your business comes from this irresistible offer, it is the gateway to your success. Often the challenges early entrepreneurs have in lead generation and sales come down to two things:

● The lack of clarity, attractiveness, and value of that offer or

● An offer that is not aligned with the right client

Your client is the third key

Your relationship with your clients is the third key element to building a strong foundation for your business. Your ability to know them, serve them, and care for them, is essential.

Too often new entrepreneurs focus mostly on serving their clients and need to pay equal attention to knowing and caring for them.

When you know your client, you can serve them in the way they want and need to be served. This doesn’t mean that you bow down to the whim of the client, quite the opposite. It means that you get to know:

● who they are

● why they are in pain

● what they have tried to get out of pain

● what it cost them to try it

● why the things they have tried in the past did or did not work.

This process of getting to know your client, helps you shape your offer and narrow down the community you are serving. A community that can pay you for the offer you are building. Remember, you are not building an offer for everyone, you are building it for someone. Someone specific, someone you have gotten to know.

Business owners can make the costly mistake of trying to serve everyone, out of fear, or lack of experience. They think if they serve everyone, there are more clients to draw from. But the opposite is true. When you try to speak to everyone, no one feels seen or heard. No one feels like you know their pain, that you care about them specifically. This makes it really hard to start a business and make sales.

But wait, what about my Brand?

Equipped with your why, your offer, and your ideal client identified – you are in the best possible position to build your brand.

Your brand is the identity of your business. It helps you make an emotional connection with your potential clients. It tells your story, builds trust, and attracts and nurtures a community that aligns with your business’s vision. So, go forth and build a business and a brand you love – one that serves you, your client, and the life you choose to live.

** For help writing your service statement and offer, CLICK HERE to download my E-book + Worksheet Three Steps to Writing your Irresistible Business Offer. It includes instructions and examples of successful offers you can draw from. Feel free to reach out and share your offer with me via email or in the DM’s. I’m happy to give you some feedback. Offer creation is my jam!


Maryann Lombardi is a Business Launch Coach. She helps women and non-binary individuals build wealth and independence by turning their expertise or personal experience into a profitable online business. Find out more info on her Website and connect with her on Linkedin, Instagram, and Facebook

Related post: Build Something Greater Than Just a Brand

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