12 Ways Every Entrepreneur Should Protect His or Her Brand

The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Stick to Your Core Values

“Your core values are the DNA of your company, it is the foundation of what you are and should not change, ever. Walmart? Cheap. Starbucks? Third place. Google? Smart. That’s how employees and customers know and perceive you. You hire, fire, sell, expand, explore new business lines and shut down old ones based on these, and that’s the brand you have to protect dearly.”

Andre Chandra, I Print N Mail

2. Be Consistent

“The concept of consistency is at the core of identity, which is what your brand is. This concept is perhaps the most important for maintaining your brand image. Whether it’s messaging, the use of colors, logo, etc., you need to make sure these are used consistently in all of your marketing materials. It’s wise to put together at least a basic brand guidelines deck for your team to have on hand. ”

Andy Karuza, FenSens

3. Register Everywhere

“When you’re launching a brand, it’s important to safeguard it like you’re a celebrity. Think forward to a time when your brand will be super successful and could inspire knockoffs and con people. Register for every social network with @[yourbrand], whether you plan to use it or not, so no one else can. Register every possible misspelling of your URL. I own at least 20 for both my businesses.”

Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

4. Set Up Google Alerts

“Unfortunately, it’s common for someone to copy or try to piggyback off a successful brand or idea. It is so important that you set up Google Alerts to make sure that this doesn’t happen. I regularly check to make sure that no one is out copying my brand. If you don’t catch these infringements, they can do serious and possibly irreversible damage to your business.”

Phil Laboon, Eyeflow Internet Marketing

5. Invest in a Preliminary Legal Check

“Invest in a preliminary legal check before you start to use the brand name to make sure it is not likely to cause customer confusion, which could result in trademark litigation. It is wise to make sure you are not stepping on anyone’s IP toes before you spend marketing time and money developing a brand name, not afterward.”

Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

6. Google Thyself

“Make it a quarterly best practice to Google yourself. Look for any inconsistencies in your marketing descriptions and update any old or outdated information on profiles. It’s also important to make sure you don’t have any dead links anywhere that your name is associated with articles. Swapping out old photos is another best practice for keeping your brand fresh.”

Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

7. Register Your Brand Internationally

“When you finalize your brand, it’s natural to get the website and register with the U.S. PTO (trademark office). If you have any ambitions of scaling internationally, make sure to register in China, where the law is “first to file,” and probably Europe secondarily. These processes cost money, but once you’re confident in your business, these are worthwhile investments.”

Aaron Schwartz, ModifyWatches

8. Trademark Your Business Name

“Make sure to go through the proper legal channels to trademark your business name. Getting a trademark is generally faster than trying to get a patent and is a lot cheaper to do, too. There’s simply no excuse not to protect yourself. Starting with a unique name can also be helpful, as you are unlikely to run into any issues with your business name being too similar to others.”

Ismael Wrixen, FE International

9. Monitor What People Are Saying Online

“Regularly check all social media profiles and channels to see how your brand is being used to ensure it’s not being abused with negative information. Provide a formal policy for employees on how to represent themselves in social circles if they are clearly connected to the brand when communicating with others. There are online tools that help you efficiently stay on top of what people are saying.”

Peter Daisyme, Due.com

10. Invest in Those Who Are Willing to Invest in You

“Assembling the right team of employees is essential to the success and resilience of a business. New entrepreneurs make the mistake of being loyal to an individual’s personality instead of what they are contributing to the progression of the business. Invest in people who have the expertise, drive and vision to ultimately be profitable for your company.”

Rakia Reynolds, Skai Blue Media

11. Use Your Trademark

“One misunderstood facto about trademarks is that you must use them in commerce. It’s not enough to just file a trademark without using it. Be sure to actively use your name, slogans and other trademarked assets on your website and print marketing. We learned this the hard way in a previous company. With trademarks, either use it or lose it.”

Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Video Doorbell

12. Create a Brand Handbook

“The best brands are great because every part of the company understands what they are all about. To keep your brand image cohesive, develop a brand handbook that is well-designed and easy-to-understand. Explain what your brand is about, the language you use, brand colors and assets, and your goals and mission. Ask everyone involved with your business to read the brand handbook.”

Jared BrownHubstaff