How do I... increase brand awareness?
When Sulove Bothra struggled to find an internship while studying for a master's degree in development studies at University of London, he identified a gap in the market for a service that matches interns with SMEs. In the US, he explains, internships are seen as pathways to potential positions,
if not great references, so universities "make sure they get as many students internships and jobs as quickly as possible". In the UK, he found, the service was under-funded, "so I took up the search for an internship myself".
He landed a placement and subsequently a permanent role at fund management firm Stargate Capital in 2008, but he couldn't shake the idea that he could build a business around connecting students and businesses, ensuring a good fit in terms of quality and culture on both sides, and taking a commission from any successful match. He founded InternStar last year "without a business plan but with a good enough idea".
Bothra has been building relationships with universities while mining his own network in the financial services sector to find out the potential needs of companies. "I am still at Stargate but hope to have the luxury of going full-time at InternStar soon," he says. "It's no longer something I can do five to nine."
Having benefited from the services of a PR agency, Bothra is now looking to increase awareness of his brand. Not content to be a "quiet achiever", he says: "If I could ask a question, it is 'how do you go from proving the concept to becoming a truly wow brand'?" We ask three experts...
What the experts sayNick Basford, marketing director, UPS UK and Ireland
Even at this early stage in the development of your business, how you present your brand needs to stay closely connected to the evolution of your service model. UPS started out with two teenage entrepreneurs, a $100 loan and a good idea, proving that you can build a trusted, recognised brand from modest but strong foundations.
Placing your service differentiators at the heart of your brand will help give you the wow factor you seek, but it is important to focus on brand longevity, too. Consistency in your mission from day one will pay off in the long term.
Consider the different audiences at which your service is aimed. You must pitch to each in their own language while keeping your ideas coherent and clear. Ultimately, every brand is built on trust, so be sure to deliver a credible message that reflects what your customers can expect to receive from your service. This is the best way to earn positive word-of-mouth and a reputation for reliability.
Simon Middleton, founder, Brand Strategy Guru
Great brands have authenticity, distinctiveness and something truly compelling. You need to ask whether InternStar has these characteristics and, if not, work out how to develop the offering so that it does.
Authenticity is about being true to yourself. Whatever you claim, that's what you must offer. To do otherwise results in customer disappointment and brand collapse. Some brands get away with a lack of authenticity for a while, but great brands are the ones that are actually good at something.
Distinctiveness means being markedly different from the other guys. Sometimes this can come from the style in which something is delivered, rather than the thing itself. The cardinal rule is never to imitate. Be truly different, or don't bother.
Finally, be compelling. InternStar must make a connection emotionally, intellectually or sensually. This is the "wow". Sometimes it comes through outstanding customer experience, other times from narrative and occasionally through style. All truly great brands have this quality.
Patrick Smith, founder,
Truly wow brands are those that people love. The first thing that you have to do is focus on creating a great product.
In terms of communications, you need to outline why people should love you and then tell them in a way that they will love.
You don't say who your audience is-students, corporates or even universities-but you remember to target a message to your likely customers. For students, look online and to social media. Look where they look for internships, but also where they moan about not finding one, and then engage.
For corporates and universities, traditional media relations will be more important. But for all audiences, highlight the specific benefits you will provide.
is published in association with UPS