You are starting a new firm from scratch. Or perhaps you are launching a new product or service with its own distinct identity. What exactly does it take to get your brand new brand right?

It's a good question and not a small challenge. With so many options available, it's sometimes hard to know where to begin. You face the tyranny of a blank sheet of paper.

The natural inclination is to start making decisions about the brand name, the logo or the look and feel of the website. Stop. Step back and focus on these five steps first.

1. Document Your Strategy for Growth

If you're familiar with our past research and our newly published book, Spiraling Up: How to Develop a High Growth, High Value Professional Services Firm, then you already know that your strategy for growth has a profound effect on the success of your firm. Firms that specialize and focus on delivering a service with unusually high value grow up to 9X faster and are 50% more profitable. The trick is to provide a tightly targeted service that solves an important problem for your clients.

2. Understand Your Target Audience

A carefully researched, well-understood target client audience is also associated with greater success. If you know who you are trying to reach you will be in a much better position to craft a compelling brand. While this may seem obvious, it is very common to develop your brand before you settle on a target client. It's no wonder that so many professional services brands feel generic and unfocused… because they are!

3. Develop a Clear and Easy-to-Understand Differentiator

A great differentiator is probably not going to be your great people, excellent service or technical excellence. Why? Because that's what every other firm is saying. If you don't believe it, just ask your clients, or do a web search. What differentiators do work? Specializing in a particular client segment or a unique service offering often works. A totally different business model is another alternative. Whatever the differentiator, you must be able to prove it. If you can demonstrate that it is true and that it matters to potential clients you are well on your way. In fact, high growth firms are three times more likely to have a strong, easy-to-understand differentiator than are average firms.

4. Articulate Your Position in the Marketplace

While your market positioning is often intimately related to your strategy and differentiator, it is very useful to capture it as a carefully worded positioning statement. This 3-4 sentence paragraph describes who your firm is, who you serve and the key benefit that you deliver. This serves as the DNA for all your branding and marketing efforts. It is the paragraph that you can keep coming back to as you develop your brand.

5. Develop Your Messaging Architecture

Messaging architecture is a document that specifies each of your key audiences. These audiences may include your target clients (see #2 above) as well as gatekeepers, potential employees and the like. For each audience identify your key messages, the objections and barriers to overcome and what evidence you can reference to help your audience accept your message. The usefulness of this document is pretty apparent as you are developing your marketing toolkit.

Now, imagine that you have completed and documented these five steps. At that point you have the basis for developing and launching a very powerful and compelling new brand. Omit any one of them and your brand new brand will suffer.