To consumers and industries at large, startups are often like shiny new toys.

They look nice and polished. We get excited about them as soon as they pop up on the scene.

But as soon as someone new comes around, we tend to lose interest.

The short-sighted, fast-moving pace of the startup world obviously works against most new companies looking to make a splash. This is especially true for those in the SaaS space where competition is fierce and so many products are similar on the surface.

This signals a need to stand out in terms of your branding and marketing.

The problem? Everyone else is trying to do the same.

That’s why you need to emphasize relationships and personalization every step of the way as you come to form your industry reputation.

To help you make that happen, here are five steps to building a standout startup from a branding perspective. These tips represent the foundation of a startup that is not only respectable, but memorable in the eyes of those who matter most to your business.

Nail Your In-Person Networking

Conferences and events are making a comeback as of late. This can be attributed to TED events, encouraging formal and informal tech meet-ups where people can get together and exchange ideas.

Having a presence in your local community is a smart move not just for networking, but also visibility. Building relationships in a must-do for modern businesses and that doesn’t solely mean among your customers. Even if you’re shaking hands with competitors, making your presence known is always a plus.

The more compelling you can make yourself during such events, the better. That might mean handing out awesome marketing materials or hosting a talk at event yourself. Either way, test the waters with some smaller meet-ups and look into awesome Vistaprint deals on business cards so you have something to hand to fellow attendees.

Charity and Philanthropy

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Startups are oftentimes obsessed with making money, but don’t neglect the need to give back.

Volunteering and participating in charity events does double duty of painting you in a positive light and again creating valuable local visibility. Propping up a cause obviously shouldn’t be all about optics, though: pick and choose philanthropic ventures that speak to your experiences both personally and professionally.

The power of philanthropy is easy to overlook when you’re laser-focused on profits and that ever-so-vague concept of “growth.” However, giving back is crucial to making your business stand out in a meaningful, positive light.

Tell Your Brand’s Unique Story

News flash: not everything you do needs to be totally centered around your product.

In fact, people-centric content and marketing are booming right now as consumers crave authenticity over sales pitches.

While you should obviously still sell something and focus on the benefits of your product, in-your-face, sales-driven posts can grow tiresome to followers. This rings especially true if you’re just starting out.

Instead, get people to invest in your brand through social storytelling strategies such as going behind-the-scenes of your office or profiling your individual employees. Put emphasis on the problem-solving “why” of your product and the people behind it whenever you possibly can.

Shout Out Other Industry Players

No startup can afford to be an island.

Although you shouldn’t necessarily give your competitors props, you should look for opportunities to tag, shout-out and hype up those in your industry who you support. This might be other software companies your business uses or influencers who publish content relevant to your own readership.

Either way, blog post mentions and social tags can do the trick. Participate in industry conversations and be consistent about it: you might be surprised at the positive attention you get in a short period of time. As a side note, just make sure not to needlessly pick fights or say anything outlandish for the sake of being seen: it’s not a good look for your brand.

Make Your Branding Creatives Count

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Building your startup’s brand is a major piece of the puzzle from a creative standpoint. Much like logos of Facebook or Twitter have become ubiquitous, startups today want that same effect with their branding.

Rather than take a DIY approach, look into creative agencies and designers with track records of building memorable brands. The initial investment is totally worth it and will prevent you from looking like every business on the block. Likewise, you’ll have everything you need for all of your future and branding campaigns on deck.

If you’re in a field with crowded competition, it’s only natural to feel like making a splash in your industry is an uphill battle. Even so, there are actionable steps you can take to make a lasting impression on customers and fellow industry players alike. As you’re building your reputation from the bottom up, just make sure you keep these principles in the back of your mind.

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