Today, more than ever, competition in business is tough. It is becoming harder and harder to separate yourself out from the crowd. The “sea of sameness” makes it harder for potential clients to figure out which company or individual to choose. This is where brands come in. Brands are described in many ways, but the one that rings true for me is, “a brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. (Seth Godin)
Too many businesses rush to market without thinking through their brand from a strategic point of view. It is only when they get to see the logo design or website design that they realize that something is amiss. Creating a strong brand takes time and work. Unless you are the next twitter, instagram or facebook most businesses need to put in the effort to figure out how to stand out.
So how do you do it? The first thing you need to figure out is your brand positioning. This is your 30 second statement of why customers should choose you. There are several “formulas” out there, but the one that I find gets the best results is a positioning that meets the following criteria. When you find a positioning that ticks all of the boxes – you have found the sweet spot.
- Relevant to your audience. You need to work out who your audience is. Talk to them, understand the problem you are trying to solve and what is most meaningful thing about your product to them. For example you may think that your new accounting software is the best on the market because it works 3x faster than the competition. This sounds good, but what if your audience’s biggest concern is accuracy – not speed?
- Based on a “corporate truth”. Where I see many companies getting into trouble is often around company values. Companies, (although not on purpose) are not exactly honest in their assessment of what they have or have not got. Don’t say you will never work with clients who don’t have the same values as you when your staff can list three clients that you took on purely for the money! Find something in your DNA that your clients and staff can buy into as they will be your ambassadors.
- Different from the competition. First, find your competition, read their websites, see what they are saying about themselves and try their products. Then see what you have, what you can say, how you can look and what you can offer that pulls you apart from everyone else.
There is an exercise that I do with clients where they have to list what they think is unique about their company or product. Then we split into teams, and one team is the defendant and one the prosecutor. The goal being that the defendant has to provide solid proof points to support the things that they believe are unique. The prosecutors have to prove that they are not unique. What usually happens is that the unique list gets dwindled down pretty quickly. But what you are left with are some real points of difference from which you can start to craft a positioning.
Once you have found something that you feel meets the criteria, it’s time to craft your positioning statement. But’ that’s a topic for another time.
Is any of the above easy? No. And it shouldn’t be. Brands can be powerful and take your business to the next level so take the time – it will be worth it.
Guest-contributor Julie Shelby is a PowHERhouse Women We Celebrate and a marketing and branding expert who lives in the Vancouver area with her twins and husband.
Photo credits: Jane Smither, PowHERhouse West Coast Photographer.