Anyone who has ever conducted research on how to build a brand will tell you there is a surplus of vague and conflicting information out there. With so many lists, step-by-step instructions, and promised secrets to successful brand building, it can be a challenge to know where to even begin—or who to trust.

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that establishing and building an effective brand is often a process of trial and error. Because your brand belongs to you and you alone, what works for one firm may not work for yours.

That said, certain recommendations apply across the board, no matter where you currently are in the process or what your goals are for the future. These eight DOs and DON’Ts can help get your brand on the right track, while also saving your firm from costly and time-consuming mistakes.

DO take the time to do your research

Effective branding requires a strong understanding of your audience, your industry, your competitors and your firm’s value proposition. The clearer the picture you have of these key influencers, the better you’ll be at building a brand that has staying power and resonates with those who matter most.

DON’T leave your employees in the dark

Brand building works best when everyone involved is informed and on board. Talk openly with your employees about your goals and plans for your brand strategy. Make sure everyone is on the same page and headed in the same direction. Since your employees are living representations of your brand, their involvement is essential to a successful portrayal of that brand.

DO consider bringing in a professional

Your brand is too important to leave to chance, so don’t be afraid to hire a full-time brand manager for your firm or bring in outside help in the form of a brand specialist. Whether you outsource or hire, think of it as an investment. A professional brand strategist will develop a holistic brand.

DON’T get too caught up in what the competition is doing

Be aware of how your competition approaches their own branding, but be sure they don’t over-influencing your decisions. Establishing your brand in response to your competition will lack authenticity. Find the balance between paying attention and staying true to yourself.

DO be consistent

Brand consistency is important for instilling confidence and maintaining expectations for your target audience. An inconsistent brand not only looks unprofessional and scattered, but it can also lead to brand confusion—which makes your brand less identifiable and understandable to your customers.

DON’T make empty promises

Your brand needs to be an accurate representation of your firm, so don’t spend time trying to be something you aren’t. Doing so will only damage your credibility and leave prospective clients more confused about what your firm does and what you stand for.

DO be patient

A strong brand isn’t something that can be built overnight. It takes time, diligence and strategy, so make sure your expectations for success are realistic. Track your progress and be patient as your brand comes to life.

DON’T expect to reach an end point

Brand building isn’t a start and stop process. Be prepared to keep your brand alive—even once you enter a maintenance phase. Also remain open to the possibility of refreshing your brand elements in the future as your firm and industry evolves.

Ultimately, effective brand building is about finding what works best to develop the reputation and visibility of your individual firm. As you enter the brand building process, use these DOs and DON’Ts to manage your expectations and intentions alongside a well-developed strategy.